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Over the last few decades, pit bulls have gotten a bad rap, often seen as canines bent on terrorizing other dogs or attacking children. But when well-cared for and socialized from puppyhood, pit bulls can make loyal, loving family pets. One way to ensure pit bulls are healthy and good-tempered is to feed them a nutritious diet throughout their lifespan.
Chow for pitbull puppies
With their beseeching eyes and floppy ears, it can be easy to overindulge pitbull puppies. But proper nutrition from the start will help them grow into healthy adults. The best food for a pitbull puppy is one full of high-quality protein from such sources as muscle meats and eggs. Because puppies don't digest protein as well as adult dogs, look for dog food that is 34 to 40% high-quality protein.
Puppies also need a moderate amount of fat, but packing on the pounds too quickly can lead to skeletal abnormalities. Food should contain 14-to-17% fat from sources such as chicken fat and fish oil. Too much calcium can also cause skeletal issues, so pitbull pups need food that is only 1.1 to 1.5% calcium. Because the enzyme that helps puppies digest starches is low, the number of carbohydrates in their food should be less than 30%.
Given a puppy's unique nutritional needs, it's easy to see why you should opt for food formulated for puppies rather than adult dogs. Pitbulls range in size up to 80 pounds, so choose large breed puppy food to make sure your dog doesn't develop developmental orthopedic disease caused by too much growth too fast, according to the American Kennel Club.
Large breed puppy foods include less vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and fat than those designed for miniature breeds. Look on the label for an "AAFCO statement" which says the brand "is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for growth/all life stages including growth of large-size dogs (70 lbs or more as an adult)."
This nutritional statement required by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is required on all labels and will either say "including" or "except for" the growth of large-sized dogs. Read the label carefully to avoid getting the wrong kind.
Choose brands that have meat in the top ingredients such as Diamond Naturals Large Breed Puppy Formula or Iams ProActive Health Smart Puppy Large Breed Dry Dog Food.
Puppy feeding chart by weight and age
The weight of an adult dog will affect the amount of food he gets, but growing puppies typically get fed based on their age rather than their mass. Most pit bulls start weaning around four weeks of age. As they nurse less, they will need more solid dog food.
Puppies up to 12-weeks-old should eat four-to-six small meals a day. Each meal should be about a quarter-to-half cup of food. At six months, reduce their feeding frequency to three times a day. Never free-feed your puppy by leaving a bowl of food out all day. If you struggle to keep track of meals, you can make a dog feeding chart to help you stay organized.
Adult pit bulls
By about 18-months-old, all types of pit bulls are full-grown and ready to eat food formulated for adult dogs. The amount of food your pitte will eat varies by her size. For example, a large pit bull needs three cups of dry food each day; fed at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When feeding smaller individuals, keep feeding the dog three times a day but give her only two-thirds of a cup at each feeding.
Choose a meat-based food rather than a grain-based one. Look for ingredients on the label that humans eat, as well as pets, and try to find foods without such ingredients as bonemeal or meat by-products. Look for food that contains 15 to 30% protein and 15 to 20% fat.
Your dog likely loves treats and table scraps, but try to limit these. Choose nutrition-based treats without a lot of empty ingredients such as grains. Dentley's Turkey Tendon Rings, for example, have limited ingredients, help clean your dog's teeth, and serve up turkey taste your dog will love.
Senior pit bulls
While your pit bull may still be playful and active at age 8 or 9, he is entering the senior years of his 12- to 14-year lifespan. As he grows older, his nutritional needs will change. Like puppies, senior dogs have a harder time metabolizing protein, so the amount in your pit bull's diet should rise to about 40 percent to ensure he gets enough. Low protein, high carbohydrate diets may make your dog more susceptible to diabetes and urinary tract problems.
Every dog is different, and those who are active and exercising a lot can continue to eat the same amount of food as in their younger years. But as they slow down, many pit bulls need fewer calories and foods formulated with less fat. If your pit bull is putting on weight, slightly reduce the amount you feed him.
Another way to avoid extra pounds as your pet ages is to cut back on empty-calorie treats and table scraps. Choose treats that deliver targeted nutrition to help your pitbull cope with the challenges of his aging years. VetriScience Golden Years Calm and Confidence, for example, can help your dog retain mental focus and avoid confusion.
- PitBulls.org: Healthy Feeding of Your Pit Bull
- PitBulls.org: Pit Bull Puppy Nutrition
- PitBulls.org: Nutrition for Your Pit Bull Senior Citizen
- The Everything Dog Site: The Best Dog Food For Pitbulls – What To Feed Them And How Much
- Dogtime.com: American Pit Bull Terrier
- American Kennel Club: Best Large Breed Dog Food