(Continued from last week)
Before we launch into today’s theme, allow me to mention that someone – after reading last week’s column – asked me how one could distinguish between a young puppy and an older puppy. Well, without researching the literature on the matter and using my own experience, one could refer to the following rule of thumb:
Very young pup (aka newborn): from birth to the point when the eyelids open (10-14 days), and while the pup is still nursing. At 3 weeks of age the very young pup can receive its first deworming. Remember that, in all likelihood, this very young pup would have been born with worms. At four weeks of age, you can introduce some solid food.
Young pup: from one month of age until the pup has lost all of its milk teeth (circa 5-6 months of age), and has stopped nursing. NB: At 6 weeks of age the young pup should receive its first vaccination.
Adult: When the dog has reached the age of maturity, ie when it can mate and sire/conceive offspring; and when it has stopped growing.
Of course, as I have argued before, biology cannot be treated in the same way as mathematics. In the latter, 2×2 = 4 – always; in biology a human female can deliver her rather normal and healthy baby at 8 months, 8 ½ months, 9 months, 9 ½ months and so on. One cannot pin down exact dates in biology. Consequently, the times delineated above must be considered as guideline averages. Sure, we have seen young adult male dogs at 6-7 months of age trying to copulate – and some (not many) of them can actually produce viable sperm. But that is not the norm. Genetic make-up can account for a lot of differences in young animals. Not all have the same constitution, the same immunity levels, the same hormonal metabolism, etc. So, do not believe that the figures mentioned above are etched in stone, and that one size fits all.
Now let us return to our substantive theme of feeding older puppies and young adults.
Meats, cottage cheese, milk or table scraps may be added for palatability and to supply additional proteins, but should not exceed 25 per cent of the total daily ration. This does not include pastry, candy, potatoes, greasy food, splintery bones and other indigestible morsels.
Many breeders of large-boned breeds believe it is advantageous to add vitamin and mineral supplements, including calcium, phosphorous and Vitamin D to a puppy’s diet. When feeding a preparation already formulated to meet the needs of a growing puppy there is danger of inducing a metabolic bone disorder by over supplementation.
If your puppy is a poor eater and you think he may need supplements, discuss this with your veterinarian before you undertake any remedial action. The pup might just be suffering from a worm burden.
Feeding adult dogs
An older dog will be kept trim by feeding once a day. Calorie requirements differ from dog to dog. The needs are less as the dog grows older, and are less in warm weather and during periods of inactivity. Information on the dog food packages can be used as a guide to feeding, but these are only rough estimates and not always applicable to the type of breed or individual dog you own. Nutrition for elderly dogs will be discussed when we write about canine geriatrics.
Examine your dog to see if his body fat is in correct proportion to his height and bone structure. There should be a layer of subcutaneous fat over the ribs – thick enough to provide some padding and insulation, but not too thick. You should be able to feel (but not see) the ribs as individual structures.
Weigh your dog from time to time so as to establish his ideal weight and then maintain him at that level. Obesity in the adult dog is usually due to feeding snacks and treats between meals. Most of these are high in sugar and therefore are very palatable. Use table scraps sparingly. Feed them only as a special treat and avoid fatty or spicy foods that can upset your dog’s stomach.
To learn more about dog nutrition, you may read The Collins Guide to Dog Nutrition, published by Howell Book House, Inc.