Along with all the tools you’ve gathered to raise a healthy, happy dog, you are probably also thinking about the quality of your new puppy’s food. Safe and highly nutritious foods are essential to the long-term health and quality of life for your dog. This is especially true for puppies who grow quickly.
Their diet during this developmental phase will greatly affect bone growth. It's important that they receive both a balanced diet and one that causes muscle gain and not fat. Fast growth and excessive fat can both contribute to the developmental orthopedic disease (DOD) commonly seen in large breed dogs like Great Danes.
A healthy diet impacts hormone levels, which can affect your dog's behavior and contentment with appropriately sized meal portions. The food you feed your dog will provide energy for exercise and will influence your pup's quality of life for years to come.
Meal portions should be according to package instructions or your vet's recommendation. The amount of food you feed at one meal is based on your dog’s metabolism and body type. It’s important to note that once you begin training with treats, you should reduce your puppy’s meal portions a bit.
|Feedings Per Day
|Adult (after spaying/neutering)
|Adult (after spaying/neutering)
|1 Year +
|1 Year +
Transition your dog between puppy and adult food slowly. Always avoid sudden changes to your dog's diet. Even with the healthiest foods, this disruption can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Keep a food diary and slowly introduce new foods to your pup. If you see a change in digestion within the first day, your dog could have an intolerance to the new food. If you see a change in the dog's skin or coat, talk to your vet about the recently introduced food. It's possible your dog has an allergy.
A mature or senior dog is between the ages of 12-14 in smaller breeds and 7-9 years old in large and giant breeds. As your dog ages, their nutritional needs will change. Obesity, degenerative joint disease, cognitive dysfunction, cardiac, renal, liver, and metabolic diseases are commonly seen in older dogs. When you see your dog slow down, ask the vet how you can adapt their diet for a long, healthy life.
The most common nutritional issues dogs face are bladder stones, weight gain, inflammatory disease, and dermatitis. All of these can be addressed through your vet who will adjust your dog’s diet, exercise, and medication. The good news is, you can positively influence your dog’s health through diet and exercise alone.
Now that you are feeling the importance of providing your new dog with the right foods for a long healthy life, let's outline a plan that avoids dangerous pitfalls and enhances your dog's lifestyle.
Obesity in Dogs
Even before moving in with you, mealtime was a social activity for your puppy. It was an important time of the day to teach socialization. It’s no wonder that dogs want to hang out with humans at the dinner table.
Begin by discussing your meal plan with your dog's veterinarian. Most pet owners feed their dogs a commercial dry kibble. These meals are considered nutritionally balanced and have contributed to longer, healthier pet lives. However, other studies conclude a dried kibble diet is a risk factor for obesity, which is now the most prevalent medical disease of companion animals.
We know that it's important to measure the amount of kibble you feed your dog at mealtimes. Pet owners can sometimes be inconsistent, even when using the same measuring cup every day. Increasing or decreasing the meal portion can impact your dog's health. If the vet feels your dog is overweight by even one pound, reduce the measuring cup size by a third of a cup to see if your dog loses that extra weight. Or, consider replacing some of the kibble with specific fruits and vegetables.
Dogs are considered obese when only 15% over their ideal body weight. You want your dog to have an excellent “health-related quality of life,” or HRQL, which measures their level of energetic/enthusiastic, happy/content, active/comfortable, calm/relaxed behaviors. Overweight and obese dogs are less energetic/enthusiastic and active/comfortable than dogs of a healthy weight. Not to mention total cholesterol and triglycerides are higher in obese dogs.
There are three factors that will influence a healthy weight for your dog—genetics, whether your dog will have puppies, and human management, which is the diet and amount of exercise in your dog's daily routine. Before switching your dog to diet food, which unfortunately tends to fail, cut back a little bit on meal portions and increase exercise to a daily walk.
Outside of dieting, there are a few simple rules you can follow to reduce weight gain in your dog. First, only one family member should feed the dog. In fact, as the number of people who live in the home increases, a dog’s weight increases too.
Second, feed your dog two times a day. Do not let your pup graze! Try not to feed them every time they ask. Surprisingly, dogs who are fed once each day are also more likely to be overweight. It’s great for your pup if you exercise together in the evenings. Dinnertime meals also increase nighttime activity for your dog. For any aged dog, this provides after-meal energy to walk or exercise outside. More dogs who exercise daily outside the yard are of normal weight as opposed to once a week or only playing in the yard.
If you do attempt a reduced-calorie diet, influence your dog's behavior by favoring healthier foods. One study found that dogs chose a smaller portion when their owner preferred it over a large portion. So, when introducing new, healthier foods to your dog it may help to pique their interest by "ooh-ing and ahh-ing" before placing the bowl of food down.
Lastly, keep treats to a minimum. Food beyond meals greatly affects the weight of your dog.
If you are feeding your dog an AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) approved dog food, adding fruit and vegetables to your dog’s diet is not necessary. But these foods are great for overweight dogs and also a way to incorporate low-calorie treats into your dog's diet. Interestingly, dogs prefer the smell of their food to be meat combined with other foods. Variety in the foods you serve keeps them interested in eating.
When introducing new vegetables, steam or boil them to help break down the fiber and assist with digestion. Add little fruit and vegetables to your dog's diet in moderation. Fruit contains natural sugar, and fiber is present in many fruits and vegetables. Large portions may be difficult for your dog to digest and can lead to gastrointestinal distress.
Wash fruits and vegetables, and remove pits and larger seeds you find in fruits like watermelon. Chop, grate, or puree vegetables and mix them into their meals. Remember fresh, not canned fruits and vegetables are best as they won't contain added salt and sugar.
There’s incredible nutritional value to incorporating daily fruit or veggies into your dog’s diet. For example, if your dog suffers from any number of dermatosis conditions (skin rashes or parasitic infections), raw dark leafy vegetables like broccoli will assist a quick recovery (Therapeutic Management of Canine Demodicosis, Singh, 2011).
Peaches (remove pit)
|Corn (remove cob, unpopped)
Homemade Dog Food
If you want to avoid commercial food, Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, Ph.D., professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University suggests a homemade diet designed by a nutritionist. With the right recipe and variety of foods, you'll ensure that your dog is receiving all the vitamins and minerals required for a shiny coat, healthy skin, clean teeth, and a high energy level.
A homemade meal of combined raw and cooked foods can be more beneficial to the health of your dog than commercially processed foods. To first ensure you are covering all the nutritional bases, run the dog food recipe by your vet. Also, check your recipe to see if you are covering all the bases. It provides a comprehensive list of acceptable foods to feed your dog and what supplements (if any) they'll need.
Foods You Should Never Feed to Your Dog
It’s great if you want to supplement your dog’s diet with cooked meats and safe fruits or vegetables. However, never feed these foods to your dog:
- Sugary foods and drinks
- Fat trimmings
- Xylitol (candy, gum, toothpaste)
- Onion, garlic, chives, leeks
- Caffeine (coffee, tea, energy drinks)
- Persimmons (fruits with pits)
- Grapes, raisins
- Dairy (ice cream, milk)
- Raw eggs
- Macadamia nuts
- Yeast dough