Feeding your puppy and kitten: Essential nutrition tips

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Learn how to provide a balanced, nutritious diet for your puppy or kitten, how often to feed them and which foods to avoid.

Both puppies and kittens thrive on a balanced diet that changes to accommodate their age and life stage, though their individual nutrition needs can differ. Developing a healthy and nutritious diet for your new puppy or kitten will help set the foundation for their growth, energy levels and overall health. 

A balanced diet for puppies

When it comes to happy and healthy puppies, a complete and balanced diet is key. When choosing a puppy food, you’ll need to consider the ingredients, serving sizes and food quality. The following guidelines can help.

Puppy formulas

Nutritious, premium-quality commercial food developed specifically for puppies will provide all the necessary nutrients to accommodate their rapid growth. 

Breed formulas and size

Make sure to get the correct food for your puppy’s breed and/or size, so your puppy receives the correct amount of food and does not gain too much weight as it grows. 

Clean water

Clean, fresh water is a must – avoid milk as it can cause diarrhoea. Remember to regularly change water bowls that have been sitting for more than a day. 

Avoid human food

Human foods are a common cause of skin conditions, allergies and obesity in dogs. Fatty human foods like sausages and bacon are common causes for pancreatitis in dogs and must be avoided.  

While you’re at it: Ask your pet health professional for advice on keeping your puppy’s teeth and gums healthy. Special diets, cleaning treats and home teeth cleaning are all great ways to keep your puppy’s teeth strong and healthy, and you should continue habits throughout its lifetime. 

How often you should feed your puppy 

Space out meals evenly throughout the day, and when changing your puppy’s diet or transitioning to adult food, do it gradually over a week to avoid tummy upsets. 

Here are some general guidelines for a feeding schedule for puppies that have been weaned from their mother’s milk: 

  • Three to four meals per day until your puppy is 12 weeks old 
  • Two to three meals per day for puppies up to six months old 
  • One to two meals per day for dogs over six months old 

Foods you should not feed your puppy 

Feeding your puppy foods other than puppy-specific formulas can cause health issues. Do not feed your puppy:  

  • Adult dog food (doesn’t provide the right nutrition for a growing dog) 
  • Table scraps (high in fat) 
  • Cooked bones (can fracture teeth and perforate the intestinal tract) 

Additionally, you should avoid the following dangerous foods that are toxic to dogs: 

  • Chocolate 
  • Onions 
  • Garlic 
  • Avocado 
  • Nuts 
  • Grapes  

Liver treats are much healthier for your dog than human snacks and are just as tasty. 

A young kitten walking in the grass

Kittens thrive on a complete and balanced diet 

Just like puppies, kittens require special dietary considerations for nutrition and feeding frequency. 

To help foster proper growth and lifelong health, follow these guidelines for proper kitten nutrition.

Kitten formulas

For the first year the best nutrition is specially formulated commercial food ‘for kittens’. 

Small meal portions

Feed small amounts regularly – don’t overfeed as this can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and weight gain

Fresh water

Make sure your kitten always has access to fresh water, and change it frequently. 

Quiet, secure feeding area

Feed your kitten in a clean, secure area away from lots of noise. 

Talk to your health care professional to find out what food is best for your kitten. Although home cooking may seem like a more nutritious option, it lacks a good source of omega-3 fatty acids for brain and eye development and can lead to taurine deficiencies, which can cause blindness and heart failure in kittens. 

Premium-quality kitten food has the right balance of essential nutrients, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. However, not all premium foods are complete and balanced, so check the label before you buy a new food for your kitten or cat.  

If you want to change your kitten’s diet or transition to adult food, do so gradually over a week to avoid possible stomach irritation. 

How often you should feed your kitten 

Establishing a feeding schedule with your kitten will help it develop lifelong good eating habits and avoid unhealthy weight gain.  

Here’s a suggested feeding schedule for kittens that have been weaned from their mother’s milk: 

  • Three meals a day when your kitten is three to six months old 
  • Two meals a day when your kitten is six months old, and thereafter 

Foods you should not feed your kitten

To prevent potential health issues, don’t feed your kitten these foods:  

  • Milk and dairy products (most kittens are lactose intolerant) 
  • Tuna (a steady diet of tuna can cause malnutrition and mercury poisoning) 
  • Table scraps and bones (fat can cause digestive issues, and bones can splinter, causing intestinal cuts or blockage) 
  • Dog or puppy food (doesn’t provide the correct nutrients for kittens) 

Some foods are toxic to kittens and cats and should be avoided at all costs: 

  • Caffeine 
  • Chocolate 
  • Grapes and raisins 
  • Onions and garlic 

Nutrition is just the first step in keeping your new puppy or kitten healthy. Check with your vet to determine the best vaccination schedule for your puppy or kitten, and start a parasite protection and prevention plan to shield them from potential parasite infections in their new home. 

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