Puppies are obvious masters of the sad puppy-dog eyes, the look that typically results in a crumbling of your firm convictions and leads to extra treats. Although you're rewarded with frantic tail-wagging and face-licking, falling for those pleading eyes too often can lead your little puppy down an unhealthy path.
Dogs in general seem to have voracious appetites, and puppies may be too young to figure out when their little tummies are full. They may continue eating, or snacking, even when they aren't hungry. Eating too much can lead to food bloat, or even a life-threatening condition called gastric dilation-volvulus. GDV essentially means your puppy has eaten himself sick and is in danger of suffering from a twisted stomach. His little belly may look extremely distended, he may retch unsuccessfully and salivate excessively. Call your veterinarian if you notice these symptoms for immediate treatment. Your puppy's life could depend on it.
Your puppy doesn't know exactly how much food he needs, so if there's food available to him, he's going to eat it. This could lead to obesity, which is never good no matter what species you belong to. Chubby puppies turn into chubby adult dogs, and this extra weight brings the possibility of unwanted health conditions. Diabetes, heart problems and hypothyroidism all tend to appear in overweight pooches, which can further endanger your dog's longevity. Healthy eating habits as a puppy usually translate to healthy habits in the adult dog.
The high amount of nutrients and calories in puppy food helps your puppy build strong bones and grow into a healthy adult. Too much food causes his little body to go into overdrive, essentially creating bone too fast. As a result, your pudgy puppy can have a higher risk of developing skeletal and joint problems later, especially if he's a large breed like a great Dane or Labrador. Feeding puppy food to your not-quite-a-puppy-anymore dog can cause similar problems.
A puppy's eyes are bigger than his stomach, and he may think he needs more food than he actually does. His tiny tummy dictates that he eat many small meals a day as opposed to one or two large ones. Offer him four small meals a day until he's about 4 months old, then lower it to two or three slightly larger meals. By about 6 months of age he should be getting two meals a day. Switch him over to adult food when he approaches maturity, which varies depending on the breed. Smaller breeds tend to mature faster, some as early as 10 months of age, while larger breeds could take up to one or two years. Consult your vet if you're unsure when to start the switch.
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