Weight Management & Your Puppy
Probably one of the biggest issues in the overall health and wellness of a puppy for life is one of the most overlooked, and easiest to prevent! An overweight puppy or dog is at risk for many issues——from an extra tax on internal organs, to an increased risk of skeletal issues—-as opposed to a littermate that is kept in a healthy body condition. We make an effort to always discuss this with families at pick-up, but as everyone is so enamored with puppy at pick-up, topics are sometimes overlooked, so I wanted to make a place here to discuss.
The importance of maintaining a proper body condition in your puppy absolutely cannot be overstated! Before I get into our tips for how to assess your dog and how to address issues, let me quickly point out something that we regularly run into:
your dog’s weight gain as a puppy does not determine adult size!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
How heavy your puppy is at a specific age is not what determines his or her adult size. Full size is determined by your dog’s genetics. Outside of careful selection of where your puppy comes from, slow, steady weight gain as a puppy is the BEST thing you can do for your puppy’s current and future health in MANY areas! This happens much more often in our Great Pyrenees than our Cockapoos, but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t be tempted to overfeed your puppy in hopes of making them bigger! It doesn’t work, and can cause a host of other problems!
how much should you feed your puppy?
This is a question we are asked with almost every puppy in almost every litter, and it is a great questions! Unfortunately, it isn’t one that I can answer with a quick, easy answer for you. While puppies are here, we feed the litter all together, so we don’t have a way of telling you exactly how much your specific puppy has been eating. Here is our best advice:
Split feedings into at least two times per day. This can change later in life, but at the puppy stage, going 24 hours in between feedings is just too much! Breaking their food into two to three smaller meals each day is a MUCH better plan :)
Check the back of the bag. Although this is not an amount to live and die by, this is the best place to start! Different food has different ingredients, different concentrations, and different kcals——so the amount from food to food varies greatly. The best thing you can do is read the instructions on the back of the bag of food you are using, and start there.
adjusting feed rations by body condition
Once you have started your puppy on this back-of-the-bag amount, it is important to start monitoring your dogs body condition. When your dog is done growing, you can monitor weight a little more to adjust meals, but as a puppy weight is not a good indicator as their weight SHOULD be climbing during growth. The best way you can check your puppy is by their body condition! This is easy to do just by sight in a short haired breed, but in a long haired breed like our Cockapoos and Great Pyrenees, it’s a bit tougher and needs to be a deliberate job. Here are the steps, you will want to follow this quick process at least weekly.
Find a time when your dog is standing up comfortably on all fours.
Take a hand on each side of the rib cage behind their “arms”, and rub from the front to the back of the body and back again with your fingertips. This will yield one of three different feelings, and this is how you know how to adjust your dog’s diet:
a. If you cannot feel your dogs ribs as you run your hands along his or her sides, your dog is overweight, and you need to reduce their amount of food.
b. If you can feel your dog’s ribs, and they feel like the knuckles of your closed fist, your dog is underweight, and needs to be getting more food.
c. If you can feel your dog’s ribs with your fingertips, but they aren’t pronounced, this is ideal. If you run your fingers across the back of your hand along the flat part, this is about how you want your pup’s ribs to feel like. They should be easy to feel, and easily countable——-but never visible or pronounced. This means your dog is at peak condition!