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Puppy Nutrition - The First 12 Months

Nutrition for Puppies and the Growing Dog 

As you will know if you have followed us for any period of time, Proflax Products are supplemental – they support in addition to other things you are providing for your dog.  If we are looking to support our dog’s health, then we need to look at the whole dog; they need to exercise, they need rest and recovery and they need appropriate nutrition.  So, we thought we’d look the nutritional needs for the different ages and stages of the dog over several blogs.  

We’re starting with Puppy Nutrition – the first 12 months.  

We say the first twelve months, but many breeds will reach 50% of their adult size within 5-6 months.  Some breeds will be fully grown by 8-12 months, some 12-18 months, and others 18-24 months.  With this incredible range, it’s no surprise that puppyhood is in fact a critical period, and one that we need to get right.    

Post weaning is in fact the most nutritionally demanding period in a dog’s life.  This is even more demanding in large or giant breeds.

It’s not just bones that grow in puppies, but every part of their body.  They have muscle growth and they are constantly renewing cells; this includes those found in the skin, those on the skin and of course red blood cells (and white blood cells for that matter – and as we know, these are crucial to their immune function).

For all this growth, regeneration, and for want of a better word, work, they need fuel and nutrients.  

Fuel

Fuel is energy and dogs are particularly good at using fat for energy.  For this reason, fat is not something to be avoided in your growing puppy.  

Fatty acids can be saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated.  The difference is in their structure.  

Saturated fatty acids contain no double bonds between the carbon atoms and are therefore saturated with hydrogen.  

Monounsaturated fatty acids have one double bond (mono=one).

Polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more double bonds (poly=many).

The more double bonds a fatty acid has, the less stable the molecule, which means it is more susceptible to oxidation, resulting in rancidity.  This is why fish oils should be stored in a dark, glass bottle and why PUFA rich oils shouldn’t be used for frying!  

In dogs, the body has a requirement for two distinct EFA families.  The Omega-6 and Omega-3 series. 

Omega-6

Linoleic Acid (LA)

Arachidonic Acid (AA)

Omega-3

Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)

But there is often imbalance.  In the modern day, dogs are seemingly consuming more omega-6 and the ancestors of the domestic dog ate a diet much higher in omega-3. 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids 

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is particularly important in brain and eye development. It comprises over 90% of the omega-3 fatty acids in the brain.  The brain takes up DHA over any other fatty acid and DHA deficient diets are being linked to neurodegenerative disease in humans more and more.  

Interestingly, Beagles fed diets fortified with DHA had statistically better results in various learning tasks than those puppies fed a DHA deficient diet.   https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312017422_Brain_food_for_puppies  

But what is also of interest is that aggression in dogs correlates with low omega-3 levels too!  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17891468/#:~:text=In%20addition%2C%20they%20showed%20reduced,in%20greater%20propensity%20to%20aggression.   

In addition, DHA supports myelin formation – which is the white matter than insulates brain circuits.  Myelin sheaths ensure electrical impulses are transmitted quickly and efficiently along nerve cells.  In short, fat is crucial in nervous system function and ultimately in the body knowing what it is supposed to be doing.  

Sources of Omega-3 (DHA) Fatty Acids:

* Sprats

* Sardines

* Mackerel

* Mussels 

* Grass fed beef and lamb

* Algae oil

* Green Lipped mussel

Not only that but fatty acids are necessary for healthy skin formation, modulation of the immune response and the transport of fat-soluble vitamins.  

Skin Health 

The skin is the largest organ of your dog’s body and it has 3 layers.  

Epidermis – above – outer layer 

Dermis – supports and nourishes – here you’ll find nerve fibres, inflammatory mediators, mast cells (that release histamine), sebaceous glands, collagen and elastin.

Subcutis – below – this is fat and connective tissue – provides insulation and energy reserves.

The skin functions as a barrier, both ways and it actually forms part of the immune system. 

In a series of studies in the early 1900s, rats were fed a diet completely devoid of fat.  These rats developed visible skin abnormalities, increased water loss across the skin and other body-wide issues.  However, when PUFAs were introduced into the diet, these defects were reversed.  

The skin, especially the epidermis, is organised into layers with a distinctive lipid composition.  Linoleic acid (LA) is the most abundant PUFA present in the epidermis and as we know, LA is an Omega-6 fatty acid – the point is not to avoid Omega-6 but ensure there is a balance between the two families.  

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins are needed in minute quantities to function as essential enzymes, enzyme precursors or coenzymes in many of the bodies metabolic processes.  Fat soluble vitamins can be stored in the body’s lipid deposits, making them more resistant to deficiency but also more likely to result in toxicity.

The fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K. 

The well-known function of vitamin A is its role in vision.  Vitamin A is a precursor of rhodopsin, the photopigment found in rods within the retina of the eye that helps us and our pets to see at night.  One manifestation of vitamin A deficiency is slow, dark adaptation progressing to night blindness.  Vitamin A is also part of the bone formation and bone resorption equation. It influences both osteoblast and osteoclast function.

Sources of Vitamin A: eggs, oily fish, carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe.

Vitamin D is actually a hormone that promotes calcium absorption.  It also plays a role in immune function and cell growth and development. Dogs are dependent on dietary sources of Vitamin D.  sources include salmon, eggs and liver. 

Vitamin E includes several compounds, of which the most biologically active and widely distributed is alpha tocopherol.  Vitamin E functions as an important antioxidant within cells, protecting lipids, particularly the polyunsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes, against oxidative damage caused by free radicals and active forms of oxygen that may be generated during metabolic processes.

Vitamin E is synthesised only by plants, the richest sources being vegetable oils and to a lesser extent seeds and cereal grains. Tocopherol concentrations are highest in green leaves. Animal tissues tend to be low in vitamin E with the highest levels being found in fatty tissues.  Sources include sunflower seeds, spinach, pumpkin, red bell pepper.  

Vitamin K comprises a group of compounds called the quinones. Vitamin K1 occurs naturally in green leafy plants and vitamin K2 is synthesised by bacteria in the large intestine.  Vitamin K3 is the most common form of synthetic vitamin K.  Vitamin K is required for normal blood clotting and is also involved in the regulation of calcium phosphates in growing bone.  Sources include spinach, green cabbage, beef liver. 

Whilst dogs can also carry out this process known as gluconeogenesis, which turns non-carbohydrate sources into energy, including protein, we like protein for it’s function in structure!

Proteins are large, complex molecules composed of hundreds to thousands of amino acids.

They are the building blocks of the body.  Protein is required in the diet to provide a source of amino acids to build, repair and replace body proteins.

Dietary amino acids are absorbed in the gut and then transported to the liver.  The liver changes amino acids so they can be used by the rest of the body.

Proteins in the body have numerous functions.

  1. Components of hair, skin, nails, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, 
  2. Hormones are composed of protein molecules – these include insulin and glucagon which are key to maintaining blood sugar levels,
  3. Proteins are found in the blood –haemoglobin carries oxygen between the lungs and cells, lipoproteins carry fats throughout the body and transferrin carries iron through the blood.  
  4. Proteins are also found in the immune system in the form of immunoglobulins to make the antibodies that provide resistance to disease.  

 

All proteins are in a constant state of renewal and degradation and during growth (or reproduction) additional protein is needed for the creation of new tissue. 

This is why puppies have a higher requirement than a fully matured dog.  

Sources of Protein:

  • Meat – lamb, chicken, beef, duck, pork, kangaroo, veal, venison
  • Eggs
  • Fish and seafood– sprats, sardines, salmon, mackerel, mussels, 
  • Dairy – yoghurt, kefir

Puppy Size

The most important thing to monitor in your growing puppy is their weight.  You always want to see a waistline, a tuck under their abdomen and you want to be able to feel their ribs (though not see them).  Undesirable weight gain in puppyhood places undue pressure on the growing skeleton, leading to a range of orthopaedic issues. 

Proflax Support

In supporting the nutrition of your puppy, you will find a range of functional ingredients in our products.  

Of support for your growing puppy are Puppy Power and Tummy Tastic.  Puppy Power for nutritional and adaptogenic support and Tummy Tastic to support gut health, especially when their gut cells are constantly renewing (much like an adult dog, but we all know puppies like to eat anything they can dig up in the garden!) 

Written by Lisa Hannaby - Bsc. Psych. Hons, MSc Human Nutrition

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