Ensure Good Nutrition for Your Pet - I
Pet Nutrition Stages
Nutrition For Growing Animals
Newborn kittens and puppies receive total
nutrition from mother's milk for about the first
four weeks of life. After that, food is gradually
added, and after a few more weeks they are fully
weaned. During the first weeks of life, body
weight may double or triple and this rapid growth
will continue (although at a gradually decreasing
rate) until maturity. Large amounts of energy and
nutrients are required in balanced quantities to
support this spectacular growth
Kittens are best fed mom's milk; it's
perfect for their needs. However, circumstances
may require that the kittens be fed a "milk replacer." If the queen is ill, has an extremely
large litter, doesn't produce enough milk or
wanders off or dies, it is necessary to feed the
kittens a commercial milk replacer. A properly
formulated milk replacer can come very close to
matching the growth of kittens nursed by the
Generally, orphaned or hand-fed kittens will be
offered moistened kitten food at about three weeks
of age. The "moisture" should be a commercial milk replacer and be gradually reduced over time until
the kittens are eating dry kitten food at about
five or six weeks of age.
Initially, the food will be more of a play
thing than food, but the youngsters will soon
catch on as they watch mom eat her food. By the
time the kittens are five to six weeks old, they
should be nibbling on their dry food consistently.
This process of gradually introducing their kitten
food is important in training the kittens to eat
when they are weaned. It also helps the queen by
providing a separate source of nutrition for the
rapidly growing kittens.
After weaning, kittens are usually fed free
choice - dry or nutrient-dense canned food - with
fresh water available at all times.
Most queens will suckle their kittens until 7-8
weeks of age. By this time, 80 - 90% of the
kitten's total nutrient intake should be from
kitten food. Kittens need large amounts of energy
equaling about two to three times that of an adult
cat on a kilogram of body weight basis. Kittens
also need about 30% of total energy from protein.
Therefore, kitten food must meet all the
nutritional needs, including high amounts of
energy and protein, from weaning until maturity at
about one year.
As with kittens,
puppies occasionally need a replacement for the
bitch's milk. Milk replacer for puppies is used
similarly to milk replacer for kittens as
described above but should have pup-specific
instructions on the container.
Puppies generally begin eating puppy food three
or four weeks after birth (whelping) and are
completely weaned by seven or eight weeks. They
require up to twice the energy intake of adults
per kilogram of body weight and need to have 25%
to 30% of total energy provided by protein
depending upon their breed.
Prior to weaning, as with kittens, puppies
should have puppy food available. These meals
should begin when the pups are three to four weeks
old and be small quantities at first. Puppies
often play in their food when it is first
introduced, but they will quickly learn its value.
By the time the pups are ready to wean at six to
eight weeks old, they should be eating their dry
food consistently. This is important training for
the pups. It also helps the bitch by providing a
separate source of nutrition for the rapidly
Small breeds of dogs reach mature body weight
in nine to twelve months, while giant breeds may
not be mature until 24 months of age.
Small breed puppies are those whose adult size
will be 20 pounds or less. These pups can often be
fed free choice from weaning. With the constant
availability of food, most will develop good
eating habits and not become overweight. Owners
with other pets or concerns about overeating
should feed their puppies by the portion control
Most medium breed puppies (adult size between
20 and 50 pounds) and all large or giant breed
pups (adult size over 50 pounds) are best fed with
the portion control method.
The Challenge of Feeding Puppies:
If puppies are allowed to over-eat, they may
consume too many calories and too much calcium,
grow too rapidly and develop bone growth problems.
In breeds that are prone to these diseases, such
as many large and giant breeds, overfeeding can
lead to an increased frequency of hypertrophic
osteodystrophy (HOD), osteochondrosis (OCD) and
hip dysplasia. The formation of the young growing
bone is disrupted and the resulting malformation,
lameness and pain may cause serious clinical
The clinical signs seen with these bone growth
diseases include bowing of the front legs.
Sometimes, these signs are misdiagnosed as weak
bones due to calcium deficiency (rickets). Rickets
is a very uncommon disease so it is important to
accurately diagnose these bone diseases by x-rays.
Adding more calcium to the diets of dogs with HOD,
OCD or hip dysplasia will actually worsen the
diseases and may result in life-long damage to the
Therefore, with large and giant breed puppies,
it is important to aim for a slower rate of
growth. Do not over-feed or try to push the growth
rate too fast. Controlled feeding of a balanced
diet specifically made for large and giant breed
puppies facilitates optimal skeletal development.
Remember, the adult size of a dog is determined
genetically, not by how fast it grows.
Article courtesy: The American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Printed with permission.
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