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The Holistic Approach to Health and Nutrition

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Growth and Nutrition - the holistic approach

A  very busy MumAs a new puppy owner you are naturally anxious to make sure the new arrival receives the right amount of nutrients in their diet for healthy growth and development.

When should you feed him ?

What's In the food?

The purpose of your puppy's diet is to provide him with all the nutrients he needs to grow and remain active. All food contains a mix of protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals and vitamins, each of which plays a vital role in nutrition and must be supplied in the correct amounts by the puppy's diet.

Protein is important for growth and to repair damaged tissue, especially muscle. This is why it is needed in higher amounts in the diets of growing pups and very active adult dogs.

Carbohydrates and fats are the body's main energy source. Fats provide more energy than carbohydrates and are essential in small amounts for a healthy skin and coat.

Minerals and vitamins are important in the diet in small amounts. Puppies and nursing bitches especially require an adequate supply of calcium and phosphorus in their diet. It is possible, however to get ‘too much of a good thing’ and it is dangerous to over supplement an already balanced diet.

As your pup grows into adulthood, his requirements for each of these nutrients will change, and it will be your responsibility to ensure that he is receiving the correct diet for each stage of his life.

Of course, proper nutrition starts before the puppy was born!

A puppy born to parents fed on good quality food, especially when the bitch is pregnant, is much more likely to have a strong constitution, and we can expect the puppy to be healthier, more resistant to disease and have a long life.

Similarly, a bitch living as part of a family in an emotionally satisfying environment can be expected to produce puppies which are more stable and well-adjusted than a one living in a caged and restricted environment.

A puppy’s initial nourishment is linked to the mother. Any deficiencies in her diet over a prolonged period will be passed to her litter. The most important stage of pregnancy is the last third, from six weeks onwards. This is when over 75% of the puppy’s weight is developed.

This is also the period when there is an efficient flow of nutrients from the mother to the puppies, which will be so beneficial during the first few weeks after birth.

At this stage the mother may be fed a higher energy food as her stomach capacity will be reduced.

Feeding the puppies places a demand on the mother to eat, digest and absorb very large amounts of food/nutrients. This then enables her to produce sufficient milk to support the growth and development of a number of puppies.

With all breeds it is important that weaning (changing the puppy’s diet from mothers milk to dog food.) does not begin until the end of the third week after birth. This process should be done gradually.

At this stage the mother’s milk provides the only nutrition to the puppies. Most of the puppy’s antibodies will have passed from the mother during the final days of the pregnancy. These antibodies will last for the first 8 weeks of life.

Breeders and owners love to see plump, roly-poly puppies because these seem to epitomise good health and proper care. In the same way, fat babies were once admired but this is now frowned on by health professionals.

In practice, more health problems result from over-nutrition than from lack of adequate nutrition. Although severe underfeeding will stunt growth, slight underfeeding will actually reduce health problems in adulthood.

There is undisputed evidence that a high intake of protein and fat during puppy-hood leads to health problems. Behavioural problems especially hyperactivity can often be attributed to the same cause. Skin problems which used to be seen mostly in older dogs now seem to be prevalent in young dogs also.

In spite of this, most proprietary pet foods for growth have very high levels of protein and fat and this is even promoted as a virtue. (The adverts may even say “The first ingredient is meat!”)

Obesity is an easily prevented condition, and now is the time to form the habits which will save your dog from suffering in later life. Some breeds are predisposed to obesity, such as Labradors and the small terrier breeds, neutered animals can also be a little more prone to gain weight. As well as taking your pup for regular exercise, be sure to feed him no more than is required to keep him in peak condition with his ribs easily felt, but not showing.

The key to having a healthy puppy is to feed enough of a natural and easily digestible diet to ensure a slow rate of growth rather than for the puppy to shoot up. A puppy which grows slowly will still realise its growth potential but may take a little longer to reach full size.

The needs of puppies vary tremendously so recommended feeding amounts should be treated with suspicion. Good judgement and experience are better guides.

Although many health problems and weaknesses have a hereditary basis correct diet can minimise the effect of these inherited weaknesses. Weakness of the digestive system, as in the German Shepherd or a tendency to develop eczema as in the West Highland Terrier can be avoided by a correct diet. Hip dysplasia has been shown to be aggravated by incorrect diet during growth and it is likely that other developmental disorders of the skeleton are diet-related.

With Giant breeds the difference between appetite and requirement is vast and therefore there is more chance of these breeds becoming obese. This can be accentuated by owners wrongly believing that it is desirable that a puppy should grow rapidly and then feeding more than is required. Excessive growth at this stage may also lead to bone abnormalities.

Exercise is important, and in itself promotes health.

Some health care professionals advocate that puppies should not be exercised as this will damage the developing bones and joints. This makes as little sense as recommending that children should not have exercise until adulthood.

Exercise promotes good muscle tone, and well-developed bones and joints as well as providing social interaction. As mentioned above, developmental defects of the skeleton are caused, not by exercise but by poor diet.

Some problems of the growing dog

Although many health problems/weaknesses have a hereditary basis correct diet can minimise the effect of these inherited weaknesses. Weakness of the digestive system, as in the German Shepherd or a tendency to develop eczema as in the West Highland Terrier can be avoided by a correct diet. Hip dysplasia has been shown to be aggravated by incorrect diet during growth and it is likely that other developmental disorders of the sleleton are diet-related.

Developmental problems are less significant in the cat because of the proportionally smaller size.

See also -


Burns Mini BitesCorrect feeding is vital - Burns MiniBites have been developed using holistic principles to ensure that requirements for energy, muscle and bone development are met but not exceeded.

MiniBites are also free of colours, flavourings and artificial preservatives and contains battery-free chicken meat and the goodness of brown rice. Good health - naturally!


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©2006 Burns Pet Nutrition Ltd. No part of this website can be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Burns Pet Nutrition Ltd. The advice of Burns Pet Nutrition or a qualified veterinary surgeon should always be sought before changes are made to the diet in the nutritional management of health problems.

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