Puppy Nutrition: A Vet Tech’s Guide

Published on June 12, 2019 by arothstein

Puppy eating, puppy nutrition

Interested in becoming a vet tech? One of the main responsibilities of a vet tech is to educate new pet owners on proper puppy nutrition. Puppies develop and grow very quickly and have twice the nutritional needs of the average adult dog. Puppies need proper nutrition for their bones, joints, and muscles to develop, and for their immune system to be resistant to disease. A well-balanced puppy food contains all the necessary nutrients to keep a puppy healthy and to develop normally.

A quality food provides all the vitamins and minerals a puppy needs to be healthy as well as containing 30% protein and a high-fat content to provide them with the necessary energy they need. Adult dogs don’t need that much fat in their diet since they don’t burn off fat as easily as a puppy and it can cause them to gain weight too quickly.

It’s vital that the energy requirements are met but not exceeded in puppy foods because higher than normal levels of energy producing nutrients could result in accelerated skeletal growth. If a puppy is gaining too much weight too quickly it could result in Osteopenia which is more common in larger breed dogs.

Osteopenia is a loss of bone density. The condition makes dogs more prone to fractures. Although Osteopenia is usually a symptom of an underlying medical problem, it’s often possible to improve the density of the bones.

The Body Condition Score for Puppies

Pet parents and breeders should monitor their new puppy’s weight closely using a body condition score system which is based on a scale of one to five or one to nine, according to the Drake Center for Veterinary Care. The puppy should be weighed on a regular basis and the owner should consult with the vet tech or veterinarian who cares for their puppy.

Different Puppies Have Different Needs

Owners should consider that puppies are like young children and all have different energy levels. Puppies with high energy levels will need more food; while puppies with lower levels of energy require smaller feedings. Consulting with a licensed vet tech can be helpful in determining how much food your new puppy needs.

Two Body Condition Score scales are used by vet techs to determine a puppy’s proper weight. The first scale goes from 1-5, and the second from 1-9. Some veterinarians prefer the 1-5 scale because it has fewer categories. However, a lot of veterinarians rely on the 1-9 scale because it detects more subtle weight changes.

This is how the one to five scale determines a dog’s weight:
  1. Very Thin
  2. Underweight
  3. Ideal Weight
  4. Overweight
  5. Obese
The one to nine scale is as follows:
  1. Emaciated
  2. Very Thin
  3. Thin
  4. Underweight
  5. Ideal weight
  6. Overweight
  7. Heavy
  8. Obese
  9. Severely Obese

How Scores are Determined

Determining the score means looking at your puppy and feeling around the ribs, from the neck to the tail, and the rump to the pelvic bone. You should be able to feel the rib cage without pressing and there should be a minimal amount of fat.

The Body Condition Score should be determined each time your puppy is weighed. Weight and BCS should always be recorded at the same time and an accurate record should be kept of your puppy’s progress. Keep in mind that a score of 4/5 or 7/9 calculates to 30 percent body fat which is overweight for humans.

How Are Nutritional Requirements for Puppies Determined?

Young animals are especially sensitive to toxins, unhealthy ingredients in the food they’re given, and the effects of vitamin deficiencies, puppies are no exception. Pet parents must pay close attention to what they feed their dogs, especially during the puppy stage. You should discuss what the best food is for your puppy with a vet tech.

The American Association of Feed Control Officers (AAFCO) has established guidelines for the minimum nutritional requirements for adult dogs and puppies. Puppies need food that’s denser in calories than adult dogs. For example, an average serving of food for an adult dog may have 375 kilo calories per cup, while a serving for a puppy may have 445 kilo calories.

The Nutrition Puppies Need

Puppies need more minerals, fats, protein, and amino acids that are found in foods formulated for puppies than adult dogs. If a puppy is fed a food for adult dogs, they could develop nutritional deficiencies and health problems. Pet parents should know that some nutrients aren’t regulated by the AAFCO that are still essential for growing puppies. One of the best examples is some types of Omega-3 fatty acids which promote:

Puppy Nutrition for Large Breeds

Pet parents of puppies that are large breed have additional concerns since abnormally rapid growth can be a factor in an adult dog developing orthopedic disease like hip dysplasia.

Furthermore, foods formulated for large breed puppies should have a lower caloric and fat composition than foods for small and medium breed puppies. A high calcium to phosphorous level can cause large breed to develop orthopedic problems as adults.

Energy Levels in Puppies

The energy levels that puppies have correspond to their behavior at different ages. Here’s what to expect with your puppy from birth until two years of age.

Puppies Birth-10 Weeks

Puppies are babies, are curious about everything around them, and have tons of energy. A lot of a puppy’s time is spent in play as well as running, pawing, chasing, and biting. Since puppies are so enthusiastic and energetic, this is the perfect time to begin basic obedience training.

Puppies 10-16 Weeks

Pups are still very playful and curious but begin to test the boundaries their owners have set. Puppies in this juvenile phase must be reminded frequently of commands they’ve learned.

Puppies 4-6 Months

At this age puppies start to learn play-fighting and determine their role in the pack. Puppies at this stage commonly seem fearful, which is normal. If your puppy show fear, it’s best to work with him to build confidence.

Puppies 6-12 Months

Dogs at this stage often look like adults but still haven’t reached maturity. Puppies need a lot of socialization and training at this stage and will attempt to test their boundaries. Structured exercise and playtime are essential for puppies at this age.

Dogs 1-2 Years Old

Small and medium sized breeds at a year-old act and look more mature than puppies. It takes up to two years of age for large breed dogs to reach maturity. Dogs between one and two years of age have a lot of energy and still need plenty of exercise and structured playtime.

A Vet Tech Can Educate A New Puppy Owner on Nutrition

A lot of pet parents think that giving their puppy food from the table isn’t harmful. However, too much high calorie food that’s for humans and not dogs can result in your dog gaining too much weight and developing serious health problems.

Healthy Puppy Treats

The first rule for giving treats is only one at a time. Most pet owners don’t realize how many calories are in commercial dog treats, and they can add up quickly. Snacks and treats should only make up 10 percent of your puppy’s calorie intake.

A bit of broccoli, some green beans, or baby carrots are excellent treat options and most puppies like them. Fruits without seeds, including apples, watermelon, banana slices, and berries are all excellent treats for dogs.

Foods Dogs Should Never Eat

Puppies love treats as much as humans, but there are a few things to know when you’re choosing treats for your new puppy. Several foods are toxic and potentially life-threatening to dogs and should never be given as treats. They include:

It’s best not to use human foods as treats because there are other foods that are potentially harmful to dogs. Antlers, hooves, or bones should be avoided.

How Much Water Does A Puppy Need?

An average dog requires between one half and one ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. If your puppy weighs 20 pounds, he should be drinking between 10 and 20 ounces of water. Dogs need about a half cup of water every couple of hours. Make sure the water bowl is always filled so he can stay hydrated, according to the American Kennel Club.

Vitamins and Minerals for Puppies

All puppies and dogs need a certain amount of protein and fat to stay healthy. All dogs need certain vitamins and minerals which they should be getting in their diet, so it’s essential to feed nutritious foods that don’t contain any chemical additives or preservatives.

A lot of pet parents want to know if they should give their puppy vitamin supplements in addition to their food, which is something you should discuss with a vet tech. The problem with vitamin supplements for puppies is that puppies that are given vitamin supplements may grow too fast or too large. Medical problems including muscle, bone, and ligament damage.

You should never include vitamin C in your puppy’s diet. Although this vitamin is water soluble, excessive amounts of vitamin C may cause bone, kidney, or liver damage. Although Omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial for an older dog to improve cardiac health, puppies don’t need it.

The best way to ensure your puppy is getting the correct amounts of vitamins and minerals is to feed them a high-quality food formulated especially for puppies. Follow the feeding guidelines and ask your vet tech about any concerns you may have.

The Schedule for Vaccinations

Non-Core vaccines are recommended only for individual dogs, depending on their age, health, and breed. Puppies should get their first vaccines at six to eight weeks old. They should be vaccinated every two to four weeks until they’re 14 weeks old. Core vaccines for puppies include:

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about puppy nutrition interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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