There’s nothing quite like the simple joy of welcoming a puppy into your family. In those vital months of growth, you experience a whirlwind of emotions and special moments as you raise, teach, and bond with your pup. In exchange for love and companionship, your puppy depends on you for their overall health and well-being; it’s your duty to become aware of pet nutrition in order to nurture them into adulthood. It’s an exciting time that demands you take on new responsibilities. As such, there are several important decisions you’ll have to make to ensure that your puppy grows into a healthy adult.

As a new pet owner, the onus is on you to create a healthy lifestyle for your dog. Along with critical tasks such as daily exercise or regular visits to the vet, creating a healthy dietary pattern for your puppy is crucial for the growth process. By crafting a meal plan tailored to your dog’s nutritional requirements, you’ll ensure that they live a long and vigorous life. So, if you want your puppy to grow strong and healthy, read on to discover the nutritional needs of growing puppies during this critical stage. 

The Puppy Stage: Nutritional Needs for Puppies 

Most pedigree or rescue animals won’t arrive at their new home until they are at least 6 weeks, but if you’re raising a puppy from birth, then it’s vital that you understand the dietary needs of the initial stage. As with any newborn baby, the first month of eating and drinking are where you lay the foundations for their health and early growth. 

Dogs typically start to wean from their mother’s milk at around 3 to 4 weeks. While they may be mature enough to no longer depend solely on natural milk, their bones and bodies are still fragile. By week 4, their puppy teeth will begin to emerge and they’ll start gnawing and chewing. If you notice that your animal is weaning early, you might want to consider feeding your dog a calcium supplement to make sure that they’re receiving all the nutrients that milk would otherwise provide. 

The Power of Protein

When you reach the one-month milestone of puppy ownership, you’ll already be neck-deep in the adventure. At this stage, your puppy is a bundle of fun and energy. To sustain this verve and physicality, it’s essential that you feed your puppy a well-balanced diet that is high in proteins. The ASPCA recommends that when you feed your puppy, each meal should be made up of at least 25-30% protein. This might mean supplementing your puppy’s food with an additional source of protein to ensure that you are hitting exactly the mark you need for optimal puppy nutrition

The best-recommended sources of protein include:

  • Duck
  • Salmon
  • Venison
  • Sheep

The above are not only high in protein but also tend to be more easily digestible for developing puppies.

Moving on to Solid Ground

By week 6, your puppy should be fully weaned and gradually introduced to solid foods. This change can be somewhat of a shock to their digestive system, which can lead to some unpleasant bodily responses. Don’t worry, it’s normal, they’re simply adjusting to their new diet. However, there are measures you can take to ease the shift to solid foods in your dog’s diet. Consider giving them nutritional supplements to keep their digestive tract healthy:

  • Zinc and Magnesium – Both have a bountiful positive affect on their maturing digestive systems
  • Vitamin D – Helps to strengthen bones and teeth, allowing them to chew more comfortably and naturally

Foods to Avoid

On top of knowing what nutrients to value, it’s also crucial that you know which foods should be avoided in a balanced diet. Remember that our human stomachs have an entirely different composition than a puppy’s. Beyond behavioral training, the reason we discourage feeding your puppy from the dinner table is that common human foods such as garlic, onions, chocolates, and raisins can have a highly damaging effect on their digestive systems.

A Healthy Pup is a Happy Dog

It’s essential that you put as much emphasis on your dog’s health as you do their training and inclusion into your family. Providing your puppy with essential nutrients and a healthy diet is the best way to set them on the path towards growth and happiness. High-quality dog food ensures that their muscles, organs, and bones grow as they should. Nurturing proper growth will keep your vet bills down and promote a long and happy life. 


ASPCA. People foods to avoid feeding your pets.
PetMD. Your Puppy: Weeks 12-16. ASPCA. Dog Nutrition Tips. 

Dr. Melinda J. Mayfield-Davis, DVM, WCHP-AH, brings over 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine.  She is the Technical Services Veterinarian with Innovacyn, Inc., parent company of Vetericyn Animal Wellness. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University and now resides in Southeast Kansas with her husband, two children, four dogs, and six horses. Prior to working with Innovacyn, Dr. Mayfield owned and operated the Animal Care Center in Columbus, KS.

Previous post Signs of Hip Problems in Dogs
Next post The Dog Digestive System