There are almost as many puppy foods as there are kinds of puppies. There are puppy foods for breed, size and age. It can be confusing to try to choose one for your dog. The key is to carefully read the label and know what should and should not be in your puppy's food before you buy.
Read the Label
The label on a bag or can of food will tell you how wholesome the food is. The first ingredient should be a named meat protein, such as chicken, lamb, duck or fish. The ingredients that follow should be whole foods and grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, fruits or vegetables. Look for good sources of fat and carbohydrates, which puppies need to fuel their energy.
Puppy food should contain at least 25 percent protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. The label should indicate that the food carries American Association of Feed Control Officials approval. This will assure you that the food meets a puppy's requirements for his life stage, growth and nutrition.
Look for contact information on the label for the food's manufacturer, including a phone number and website in case you have a question or your dog becomes sick while eating the food.
What Not to Feed
Avoid foods with meat by-products. These are the waste parts of an animal, such as chicken beaks or feathers. Meat should be listed as a named meat or meat meal, which is whole meat that has been cooked and dried.
Stay away from indigestible fillers, artificial colors, and foods that cause allergies such as wheat, corn and soy. Avoid food with long chemical names you don't recognize, artificial flavoring or preservatives.
Be careful of puppy food with too much calcium. Puppies need calcium to build their bones but too much can cause developmental problems, especially in large-breed puppies. Your vet can tell you what an appropriate level of calcium should be for your puppy.
Food for Growth
Young puppies who are 8 to 14 weeks of age need two to four times more nutrition than adult dogs. From 3 to 5 months of age until they're grown, that need is slightly less. A young puppy needs a food with high quality protein and no filler. An older puppy may graduate to an adult food by 6 months of age to avoid skeletal problems resulting from food that encourages rapid growth. Breeds that are prone to becoming overweight also may switch from puppy to adult food around 6 months of age.
Consult with your veterinarian to determine the age at which your puppy should change from puppy food to adult food.
When to Feed?
Young puppies benefit from three feedings a day. By the age of 6 months, most puppies can be reduced to eating twice daily. The amount to feed your puppy will vary according to the quality and content of the food you use, your puppy's weight and his activity level. Your puppy's breeder or vet can help you determine an appropriate amount to feed him.
Avoid free feeding or putting a bowl down for a puppy to graze at all day. Feeding at specific times will allow you to assess his food needs and help to regulate his system. Give your puppy 10 to 15 minutes to eat each meal and then remove the bowl. This allows his food to digest and his system to rest between feedings.