Get Your Puppy Started on the Right Paw

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Dr Donna Spector

Puppies depend on their owners for everything; from food and shelter to love and companionship.  Owning a puppy is a privilege and a responsibility—one that involves more than food, water and walks.  It includes providing an enriched environment, training, love, respect, patience and taking care of your puppy as a unique individual.  Following are some recommendations to help your puppy achieve optimum health, well-being and longevity. 

Feeding

Since puppies grow and develop rapidly, a specially formulated puppy food is recommended.  Puppies have higher calorie requirements than adults, and require increased levels of fats and proteins in their diet in order to support basic growth and development of a healthy immune system. Puppies require more calcium and phosphorus than adults, and these minerals need to be supplied in the correct ratio. Both over- and under-supplementation can be harmful to growth and bone problems.  An excellent natural puppy food, together with appropriate pet supplements, is essential for providing these critical nutrients and optimal nutrition during this time.  Large or giant breed puppies may have special needs and you should ask your veterinarian about the right diet. 

Feeding the first few days and changing to a new food

Although exciting, moving into a new home can be a little stressful for your new puppy.  While he or she is adjusting to their new environment, it is important to continue feeding the same type of puppy food and use the same feeding schedule the puppy was on before he or she came to you.

After about one week in your home, begin slowly introducing Halo puppy food.   Puppies have a unique set of digestive enzymes that must adapt to the proper digestion of a new food.  I recommend introducing the new food over 7-10 days.  Use the following guidelines for an easy transition:

  • Day 1-3 feed 75% old food and 25% Halo
  • Day 4-6 feed 50% old food and 50% Halo
  • Day 7-9 feed 25% old food and 75% Halo
  • By day 10 your puppy will be eating 100% Halo food

If at any time during the introduction of Halo food your puppy develops stomach upset, slow the rate of transition.

Feeding Schedule

Your puppy should be fed two to four meals each day and not allowed free access to food all day long.  This "free feeding" approach can contribute to unnatural hormonal signals which can lead to weight gain.  If you are away from home for large portions of the day, there are feeders that can be set on timers to ensure your puppy is getting food only at meal time.  Not only is feeding on a set schedule healthier for your puppy, it creates more predictable bathroom habits.  This often makes housetraining easier and faster!

Type of food

I recommend choosing a natural diet throughout the life of your dog.  Natural diets do not contain preservatives or other potential carcinogens—so they reduce the risk of adverse reactions.   Choosing natural foods also eliminates "empty" calories that come from fillers (such as corn and rice), additives and flavorings and contribute to pet obesity.  It has been well documented that dogs maintaining an ideal body weight throughout life live 15% longer, and with less disease (especially arthritis) than overweight dogs.  Natural diets contain higher levels of quality protein sources (since there are no fillers, inferior by-products or meals) which better address nutritional requirements and may help prevent disease. 

I also recommend feeding a combination of canned and dry food.  Dry food is recommended to provide some abrasive action for teeth cleaning and canned food provides the necessary hydration.  Water is especially important for puppies to maintain adequate hydration as they are growing so fast.  Puppies and adult dogs are very similar to people—they often don’t drink enough water to keep themselves adequately hydrated which can lead to premature aging and organ degeneration.  

Treat

Get your puppy started off right with healthy natural treats.  In general, owners tend to "over-treat" their puppies which can lead to problems with behavior and weight gain.  Treats should make up no more than 10% of your puppy’s daily calorie intake.  Choose natural treats that do not contain artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.  Avoid treats with fillers (corn or rice) or sugars (molasses or high fructose corn syrup).  Human foods like fresh vegetables and lean meats are excellent treats but never feed your puppy from the dinner table or you will create negative begging behaviors.  Treats should only be given as rewards for good behavior or during training.  Never give treats around your puppy’s meal time as this may cause him or her to skip meals which can lead to imbalances in the diet and the development of possible deficiencies.      

Supplements

For optimal health, it is recommended that puppies get a daily pet vitamin supplement.  There are many stresses associated with growth and development which may lead to increased requirements, especially for B vitamins.  Vitamin C may support joint health and minimize the development of hip dysplasia in some breeds. Digestive enzymes and probiotics may enhance the availability and absorption of essential nutrients.  Essential oils and fatty acids help promote hair growth, keep skin supple and may prevent itchy, flaky skin.  Always ask your veterinarian which supplements would be best for your puppy.

Grooming

We want healthy puppies on the inside and out!  Examination and grooming is an important part of daily or weekly maintenance that is often overlooked by pet owners.  Learn how to clip your puppy’s nails, brush their teeth, and inspect and clean their eyes and ears.  These things contribute to their health and wellness by preventing painful irritations and infections.  This basic health maintenance can be done at home and may help avoid costly visits to the veterinary office.  Bathing should be done weekly or as recommended by your veterinarian.  Choose a natural shampoo without artificial colors or fragrances as these ingredients may contribute to allergic reactions. There are many instructional books and videos that can help pet owners learn about proper dog grooming.  Don’t forget to wash your puppy’s feet every time they go outside. This can help them avoid ingestion of chemicals that may be in the grass or on the sidewalks and streets. 

Exercise! 

This will help your puppy keep a lean body and facilitate weight loss.  In people, exercise has been proven to lessen heart disease, reduce anxiety, and lower the risk of certain cancers and diseases.  Continue this routine as your puppy grows—your adult dog is likely to benefit from these things also. 

Veterinary healthcare

Find a veterinarian who agrees with a natural approach to caring for your new puppy.  Inform them you are interested in natural solutions and ingredients to remedy conditions and for health maintenance whenever possible.  It is important to have your new puppy examined shortly after bringing them home to establish this veterinary relationship and update them on any necessary medical care.  New puppies often require vaccinations, deworming and other routine "puppy care" to get started on the right paw. 

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