General Feeding Guidelines for Your Dog

Feeding recommendations for adult dogs can vary, depending upon the breed, activity, metabolism and the owner’s preference. Energy and nutrient requirements of dogs change as they grow, mature and eventually enter their senior years. In addition to different energy needs, the minimum requirements for certain nutrients appear to differ between large and small breeds, being especially true for growing puppies. In adult dogs, offering the proper amounts of the appropriate dog food throughout their adult life will help to optimise the health and maintenance of ideal body weight and condition. For these reasons, your PFIAA manufacturing members will create a range of adult dog foods to suit each individual dog while also providing a feeding guideline to support, remembering the guidelines are a guide and that each dog is different. It is also important to ensure fresh drinking water is always made available for your furry friend.

Puppies have a higher requirement for energy (calories), protein, vitamins and minerals than adult dogs of comparable size. Growing puppies should be fed a food that is specifically designed for growth and has been designed for the puppy’s adult size.

Due to the wide variation in size, puppies of large and giant breeds have different nutritional needs than small breed puppies. Large breed dogs tend to grow more rapidly and experience a higher incidence of skeletal developmental problems. Therefore, puppy foods for large breed dogs are formulated to promote moderate growth rates and healthy bone development. Foods that are designed for small and toy dog breeds are high in energy and essential nutrients while being designed to accommodate smaller mouths and stomachs.

The amount of food to provide will vary depending upon the puppy’s age, size, activity level and environment. Puppies should be fed an amount that supports a lean body condition and a moderate rate of growth.

The adult maintenance stage refers to mature pets who are not pregnant, lactating or working hard. Small to medium breed dogs reach adult maturity when they are around 12 months of age, while large and giant breed dogs are considered to be mature adults when they are 18-24 months of age.

Adult maintenance diets are designed to maintain ideal body condition and prevent dogs from becoming overweight. A healthy body condition is one in which the pet is well proportioned, has an observable waist behind the rib cage, and ribs that can be easily felt with a slight fat layer over them.

As dogs enter into their senior years the primary objective of feeding is to care for and support optimal body condition while slowing or preventing the development of chronic disease, or to manage the signs of any disease that may already be present. Nutrients that are of special interest include calories, protein, fat and certain essential vitamins.

Feeding dogs during pregnancy can require an increased amount of protein, energy, vitamins and minerals, in particular calcium and phosphorous. This can, in theory, be achieved by feeding a maintenance diet. Feeding a growth diet has the benefit of providing more nutrients in a small volume of food, which could be important particularly if a large litter is being carried. The easiest way to ensure proper nutrition is to feed a good quality pet food that is labelled complete and balanced for reproduction and growth. Note, when feeding these diets supplementation of vitamins and minerals are not necessary, and can cause problems, especially when high levels of Vitamin A or Calcium are added.