8 weeks is the magic number where puppies are often adopted and brought together with their new human family. It is a time of puppy playfulness and rapid growth. Puppies at 8 weeks are learning important social behaviors that will define how they interact with the world throughout their life. During this important period of growth and development, it is essential to ensure that your 8-week old puppy is provided with proper nutrition.
It is also important that you as the owner have a puppy checklist that you can follow which covers all the basics of caring for a new puppy. Proper nutrition will not only help support a balanced and healthy physical development but also provide the nutrients necessary for cognitive and neurological development.
For new owners, figuring out what to feed a puppy at 8 weeks can be a daunting process. The truth is, there is a large body of information out there regarding what you should feed your puppy. Much of this information conflicts with other sources, leading to difficulty discerning the ideal food source for your puppy.
The single most important resource for new puppy owners is their veterinarian. It is strongly recommended to develop a close relationship with a trusted local veterinarian, as they can provide guidance about your puppies nutrition, exercise needs, and track their healthy development.
The first thing for new owners to understand when figuring out what to feed a puppy at 8 weeks is that puppies need more calories, when adjusted for body weight, than older dogs. Puppies are tiny bundles of energy that are constantly moving, playing, and learning. When they aren’t doing these activities they are probably snuggled up, snoring away to rest up for their next bout of exploration.
Because their caloric needs are so great, puppies generally need to be fed food sources that provide excellent nutritional density. Typically this means that food specifically marketed to puppies contains higher quality ingredients and fewer fillers than a similar product formulated for adult dogs.
Puppies at the 8-week mark are also in a period of transition as far as what they can eat. 8 weeks of age is the time where puppies have weaned from their mothers, and are eating solid food for the first time. Their food source can be either dry or wet food or a combination of both. Puppies that are feeding primarily dry food may need their kibble softened up with warm water at first until their teeth and chewing ability catch up to their hunger.
Unlike adult dogs, which are traditionally fed two meals a day, puppies will need about four evenly sized meals throughout the day. Puppies simply don’t have the body mass or capacity to keep up with their rapid metabolism and high exertion levels, and so will need to be fed more frequently. One common mistake new owners make is taking this into account when adopting a puppy, leading to them being caught off guard with the time demands that puppies can place on new owners. But, with proper planning, nutrition, and puppy training, your dog will emerge from this time as a playful, well-adjusted, and valuable member of your family.
Puppy Foods vs. All Life Stages
When selecting a puppy food there are two schools of thought for finding a balanced and adequate nutrition source. The traditional approach is to select a dog food that is specifically designed for puppies. Puppy formulas are designed to provide adequate nutrition to support healthy growth. There are variations between brands, so new puppy owners are encouraged to seek out products that contain high-quality ingredients.
Typically puppy foods with high-quality ingredients will have smaller portion sizes, due to the increased nutritional density of the ingredients. Keep in mind that puppy parents who choose to feed their companion a puppy formula will eventually need to transition them to their adult food source at some point.
A relatively newer school of thought when approaching puppy nutrition is to select a high-quality food that is designed to support “all life stages”. Pet food formulations for all life stages are required to meet the nutritional needs of any part of your dog’s life, including their puppy growth period. A high-quality food product designed for all life stages will typically exceed the minimum levels set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which set the thresholds that pet food manufacturers must meet.
One advantage of choosing a product designed for all life stages is the lack of a transition between foods during different growth periods. As with a puppy formula, to find the right nutritional profile for your specific puppy breed, consult with your local veterinarian.
By following these guidelines above, you will be able to give your puppy the best nutrition possible. For any further questions regarding your pup’s health, consult with your local veterinarian.