Feeding Your Kitten or Puppy

Making appropriate nutrition choices for your new puppy or kitten is an essential part of ensuring normal development and optimal health. However, with so many food options now available it can be difficult to know if you are making the right decision for your pet. So what do you need to know about your growing puppy or kitten in order to feed them appropriately? Here is a quick guide.

Puppies should eat diets meant for growth.

Puppies should be fed a diet meant for growth because unlike adult dogs they are sensitive to calcium and phosphorus levels; too much or too little can result in abnormalities of bone growth, which may not show signs until adulthood. High fat diets should be avoided in large and giant breed puppies to reduce the risk of too rapid of growth which can also contribute to bone issues.

Cats have higher protein requirements than dogs.

Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they subsist on mainly animal tissues to provide nutrients their own bodies cannot create such as arginine, taurine, and vitamin B3. They have higher protein requirements compared to dogs as well. Kittens need 50 percent more protein than puppies do and adult cats need twice the protein compared to adult dogs. These special needs are the chief reason why a cat should never be fed a diet intended for dogs. 

Puppies and kittens should be fed measured meals between three to four times daily up until about four to five months when most will tolerate being transitioned to two meals daily though individual feeding schedules and volumes may vary. Free feeding is not recommended as overfeeding and obesity is a major concern for most adult dogs and cats. Obesity increases risk for orthopedic diseases, arthritis, liver disease, diabetes, and urinary tract disorders.

Transitioning to an adult diet should occur after spay/neuter and skeletal maturity has occurred. For most breeds of dog this will be about nine to twelve months or twelve to eighteen months for giant breed dogs. For cats, skeletal maturity typically occurs between nine to ten months. Always slowly transition, over about five to seven days, to improve acceptance of the new diet and reduce the risk of GI upset (loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting).  

So how do you pick a food? Pick a diet labeled for growth and, preferably a diet tested via an Association of American Feed Control Officials feeding trial (see the AAFCO feeding statement on the packaging) to ensure that your new puppy or kitten is getting a well-balanced complete diet. The AAFCO is made up of local, state, and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds. They define and establish regulations for pet food and ingredients, as well as setting standards for nutritional adequacy.

For a personalized recommendation on what and how to feed your puppy or kitten, consult with your veterinarian who can assess your pet’s body condition, rate of growth and overall health.

Kasey Schmidt, DVM

Queen Anne Animal Clinic