You want the best for your puppy including a good puppy food. Mother's milk took care of all his nutritional needs for the first four weeks of his life. Now it's time to read labels to find a dog food that is specific to your growing pup's needs.
Meat proteins have a higher biological value than vegetable proteins, so the first ingredient in your puppy's food should be a specific type of meat. Avoid foods that do not specify a type of meat. Also avoid meat byproducts -- the leftovers such as eyes, beaks and even bone meal. Proteins are the building blocks for the tissues and are necessary for your pup to develop. Look for kibble containing 25 to 35 grams of protein in each serving.
Your rambunctious puppy has twice the energy needs of an adult dog. Carbohydrates are a direct supply of that energy, and carbohydrates prevent the body from using protein for energy. Quality carbohydrates are rice bran, brown rice, oatmeal and barley. Wheat, corn meal and soy meal are known to cause allergies in dogs. In fact, corn has been linked to joint swelling, bloat, aflatoxin contamination and has little to no nutritional value, according to Dog Breed Info Center.
Fats provide a number of needs for your growing puppy. Derived from animal fats and the seed oil of plants, fats are the most concentrated energy. They transport fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. They help keep your puppy's skin healthy and his coat shiny as well as play a role in cell structure. However, too much fat can result in weight gain and even developmental orthopedic diseases. Look for puppy foods that have approximately 21 percent fat.
Association of American Feed Control Officials
Part of reading labels is also looking for the AAFCO approval stamped on your puppy food. The AAFCO sets the standards for animal feed sold in the United States. In order for a dog food to be advertised as "complete and balanced," it must meet the nutritional standards set by AAFCO. In order for a puppy food to be rated for growth and reproduction, it must have verification of laboratory analysis and/or actual feeding trials.
By Pauline Gill
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine: Nutrition for the Growing Puppy
Dog Breed Info Center: Basic Feeding Guide: Puppies and Adult Dogs Health Guidance: When Can Puppies be Weaned?
The National Academies: Your Dog's Nutritional Needs
Dog Breed Info Center: Corn in Dog Food. Really?
AAFCO: AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles
Dog Days of Birmingham: Top Worst and Best Dog Foods
About the Author
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.