Healthy Nutrition for Puppies

Do you know how to use your puppy’s diet to give him a healthy start in life?

Read our favorite tips and advice on feeding puppies to give them a healthy start to life. Find foods that support a puppy’s growth and immune system.


The Basics

What you choose to feed your dog as a puppy, from that first week you bring it home at somewhere between six and ten weeks old, will be the foundation of his/her health as an adult.

It is vital to feed your puppy carefully to avoid impaired growth and malnutrition. Digestive issues and allergies may first appear in puppies due to their diet, so to prevent these puppy owners need to make wise decisions about their purchases.

Among the basic macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrate) puppies have a significant need for calories from fat and amino acids from meat proteins. Healthy fats will nourish the brain and provide the pathway for fat-soluble vitamins. Amino acids are necessary for the rapid growth and development of a puppy.

Once weaned, puppies have very little need for carbohydrates with a few exceptions. Very small puppies may be prone to low blood sugar, and extremely active puppies may benefit from a small amount of additional carbohydrate in the diet to provide extra energy.

One macronutrient that might be easily overlooked is water. Puppies who have just been weaned have bodies that are quite used to large amounts of fluids daily. Due to this and their small size, puppies can be at risk for chronic dehydration if owners do not take care to provide enough drinking water and dietary moisture.


Choosing a High-Quality Diet for Your Puppy

The sheer number of products available makes choosing the correct diet for your pup difficult and confusing. It is important to remember as you sort through your options that you are building the foundation of your dog’s health for his whole life. Therefore, providing the best nutrition that you can at this stage in your dog’s life can be incredibly beneficial.

Choosing the form of your pup’s food is usually the first step. With the pet food industry developing to cater to the wants of an increasingly more educated population of pet owners, there are many choices. Kibble, canned, fresh cooked, frozen raw, dehydrated, freeze-dried, and homemade are all options to be considered.

It is worth saying that it is never recommended that you feed a puppy a semi-moist diet, as these foods are high in sugar and artificial ingredients like preservatives that are inflammatory and toxic to dogs. Puppies may be especially at risk for adverse health effects when fed a diet with artificial preservatives, dyes, vitamin and mineral supplements, and flavorings.

Among your choices for the form of your dog’s food, we recommend fresh cooked, frozen raw, or homemade above the other options. Our lowest rated choices for puppies are kibble and canned due to extreme processing and high carbohydrate content. Freeze-dried and dehydrated may also be acceptable choices if they are made to provide nutrition for all life stages.

If you are interested in feeding your growing puppy a homemade diet, check out the puppy recipes at Planet Paws!

For a more in-depth look at choosing a dog food, interpreting the ingredient list, and finding a high-quality product check out our Choosing a Dog Food series!


What to Avoid in Your Pup’s Food

Instead of repeating common knowledge or previously stated warnings, we will provide you a list here of ingredients to avoid when choosing healthy food for your puppy. Then we will provide our top tips and advice for keeping your pup exceptionally well!

Avoid These Ingredients:

  • Chemical preservatives: BHT, BHA, Ethoxyquin, Citric acid.
  • Food dyes and colors
  • Sodium Nitrite (a chemical for retaining color)
  • Flavorings
  • Carrageenan
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Barley
  • Sorghum
  • Starch
  • By-products and by-product meals
  • Meat and bone meal
  • Fish oils
  • Menadione bisulfate complex (a synthetic form of Vitamin K)
  • Sodium selenite (a synthetic form of selenium, a better source is selenium yeast)
  • Sweeteners: sugar, dextrose, corn syrup, starch.

Unfortunately, this list is long. It is not comforting to know that pet food manufacturers continue to use ingredients that are dangerous or problematic for our dogs. Thankfully, the risks and adverse effects of these ingredients are identified and this knowledge can be passed from pet owner to pet owner.

However, we will now move past the confusing and somewhat depressing facts about sorting through puppy foods, and get to the fun part!

Top 8 Feeding Tips for A Healthy Puppy

Find out what you can do to improve your pup’s diet and how to fortify his health with digestive aids and supplements.

Soaking – 

If you feed your puppy a kibble diet then this is an excellent and cost-free way to boost the digestibility of the food. If the kibble is not soaked before your puppy eats it, then his body must take the time to soak the food to break it down. This causes the pup’s stomach to bloat and can cause chronic dehydration. The same goes for dehydrated and freeze-dried products. So add a little warm water to your puppy’s bowl five minutes before feeding him to help him best digest his food!

Warm It Up – 

Eating a warm meal is not only soothing emotionally, but is also gentle on the stomach. Warm food also boosts the metabolism which may help your pup use the energy from his food and avoid gaining excess weight.

Feed Slowly – 

Puppies can be rather impatient and persistent at meal times. They have a tendency to gulp their food without much chewing, but this isn’t good for them. Encourage your pup to slow down and chew his food to avoid choking and stomach aches, or difficulty digesting meals.

Feed Multiple Small Meals –

Growing puppies require as much as twice the calories and nutrients as adult dogs. That means they can eat a lot of food. However, it is best to give your puppy several small meals each day so that his little stomach is not stuffed or bloated. Getting all the nutrients out of his food will help proper growth and development.

Train-As-You-Go – 

Mealtimes are the perfect times to teach your pup good manners! Training commands such as sit, lay down, stay and come is easy when the pup is hungry and willing to do whatever it takes to earn each bite. Teach your pup simple tricks like spin, shake, and high-five to increase the fun factor!

Watch the Carbs – 

Many commercially processed puppy foods are high in carbohydrates because they are a cheap source of energy. However, too much carbohydrate (sugar and starch) can cause inflammation, feed yeast, bacteria, and cancer cells, and predispose puppies to disease as adults. Check out this article to learn about calculating the carbohydrate percentage of pet food and how to reduce the carbs in your dog’s diet!

Calculate the Calories – 

Some puppies may have an easier time putting on excess weight while others will have trouble gaining enough weight as they grow to rapidly reach their adult height and length. Keep tabs on your pup’s weight and how many calories he/she is eating so you can quickly tell how much to increase or decrease to keep him at his ideal weight. You can usually find the calorie content per cup of food on the back of the package.

Keep a Feeding Journal – 

Keeping a written record of feeding details can be a huge help if any problems arise. Write down all details such as the brand of food, the ingredient list, the date you started feeding the food, how much food you are feeding and how much weight your pup is gaining or losing. Don’t forget to record any digestive issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, extreme thirst or hunger and changes in eating habits.

Top 8 Supplements:

Click on any of the highlighted supplements to learn more about them in our Healthy Additions series!

Bone Broth – 

One of our favorite supplements for puppies, a good homemade bone broth is full of amino acids and calcium that support a healthy gut and normal growth. Bone broth can be given even to very young puppies when there is a need to keep the pup hydrated or when a puppy is sick.

Coconut oil – 

Our top pick for puppies is raw coconut oil. Raw coconut oil is excellent for providing extra calories, boosting the effectiveness of omega 3 supplements, and fighting infection and parasites. Raw coconut oil (but not refined coconut oil) is anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-viral, antiseptic, and anti-fungal!

Salmon – 

Full of healthy omega 3 fats and proteins, Salmon is an excellent way to boost your pup’s diet. Especially helpful when a puppy requires extra calories, to reduce the carbohydrate in the diet, and to make healthy training treats!

Eggs – 

Eggs offer 100% bioavailable protein! Easy to digest with complete chains of amino acids, eggs are perfect for supplying puppies with nutrients for growth. Scrambled or boiled eggs are easy on the stomach and may replace normal food if your pup is feeling sick. Feeding raw egg whites to puppies is not advisable though, so stick with cooked whole eggs or raw egg yolks from pastured hens.

Leafy Greens – 

Dark, leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of fiber and micronutrients. Feed them well chopped or lightly steamed for best digestibility. Leafy greens have been shown to have high levels of antioxidants and bioflavonoids which work against allergies and cancer.

Berries – 

Berries are well known for their antioxidants but they also provide fiber, vitamins, polyphenols, and bioflavonoids like Quercetin. Feeding berries can help develop a strong immune system and digestive tract. It may also help prevent allergies, cancer, arthritis, and leaky gut syndrome.

Digestive enzymes – 

Any processed diet will lack digestive enzymes, the catalysts for breaking down food into energy. Enzymes are important throughout the body for many functions, but especially for digestion. Adding digestive enzymes can prevent stomach discomfort, leaky gut syndrome, and food allergies and intolerances.

Turmeric – 

Turmeric may just be the ultimate herb for good health. When combined with a healthy fat like coconut oil and a dash of black pepper, turmeric becomes a super-powerful and digestible source of immune-boosting nutrients! Here are a few of its many properties: anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-bacterial (a natural antibiotic!) and analgesic (pain relieving).


May God bless your efforts to raise your puppy responsibly!

For Satisfied Dogs!

 – Cassy Kay & Caliber

dogs, dog food, completed and balanced dog food, processing, macronutrient combination, AAFCO

1 Sagman, Mike. “Canned or Dry Dog Food – What’s the Better Choice?” Dog Food Web. Aug. 9, 2017. <>

2 Thixton, Susan. “How many times are Ingredients cooked in Kibble Pet Foods?” Truth About Pet Sept. 9, 2016. Web. Aug. 10, 2017. <>

Sagman, Mike. “How To Estimate the Carbohydrate Content of Any Dog Food” Dog Food Web. Aug. 15, 2017. <>



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