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Healthy Dogs

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Puppy Food -- Types, Feeding Schedule, and Nutrition

From homemade puppy food to store brands, WebMD helps you choose the best food for your puppy’s nutritional needs.

Does my large-breed puppy need a special food?

Large breeds such as Great Danes, Labrador retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers are more likely to develop skeletal and joint problems, including hip dysplasia. Although these conditions are primarily triggered by inherited factors, overfeeding can worsen the situation.

Large-breed puppy foods are designed for controlled growth and may be lower in calcium and phosphorus than other puppy foods. Excess levels of calcium and phosphorus can contribute to skeletal problems. Large-breed puppy food also may contain more fiber to add bulk to the diet without calories.

Large-breed dogs are more likely to develop chronic joint or skeletal problems when they get older if they are overfed, according to several studies. In one study that followed Labrador retrievers for 14 years, dogs fed a balanced diet with 25% less food than their littermates were less likely to develop hip joint arthritis. Dogs on the calorie-restricted diet also showed signs of arthritis at an average age of 12 years rather than six.

Buffington tells WebMD that keeping your large-breed puppy at a body condition score of two out of five will help ward off the excess weight that can cause orthopedic problems in later life.

What about organic puppy food?

There is no official definition for organic pet food yet, although you may see some pet foods labeled this way. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, which regulates the use of an “organic” label, is weighing a November 2008 recommendation from its standards board and is expected to issue rules soon.

What kind of puppy treats should I give?

Many pet owners like to reward their dogs with treats, but it’s best to limit them. Because puppies need so many nutrients to grow, it’s important to give them food that provides complete and balanced nutrition. A puppy should get most of his calories from puppy food rather than from treats, which typically don’t provide complete nutrition.

Aim for no more than 5% of calories from treats, say nutrition experts at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Choose treats that are the right size for your puppy. A Yorkshire terrier, for instance, doesn’t need an extra-large dog biscuit. And avoid table scraps, which teach your puppy at a young age to beg for treats at the table and can cause digestive upset and pancreatitis, a serious illness.

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