We all love the wriggling warmth of our new puppy or kitten! Fed poperly, that little bundle of joy will hopefully light up our Halifax, Bedford, and Dartmouth homes for many years.
Like human infants, puppies and kittens have unique nutritional requirements setting them apart from adult dogs and cats. Our beloved puppies and kittens are born with no sense of sight, and no hearing. Although they do have a highly developed sense of smell and an orientation to warmth which keeps them near their mothers and nuzzling for nourishment. Initially everyone does best on mother’s milk, which is rich in fats, proteins and immunoglobulins in species specific proportions. High levels of lipids in the milk are very important for the maturing nervous system, proteins are needed for tissue growth and development and immunoglobulins provide immunity for the infant until it’s own cells are able to respond to
the non-sterile world outside the womb!
At Full Circle Vets in Dartmouth, we advocate leaving the mother to nurse the young as long as she is willing. Most dogs and cats will wean their young appropriately and watered down puppy or kitten food should be available from 3 weeks of age on. If circumstances occur that mean the mother cannot nurse or provide enough for all her offspring, a specifically formulated milk replacer is the safest way to provide the nutrient balance needed by the puppy or kitten. Cow’s milk is not appropriate for puppies or kittens. Puppies need twice the protein of cows milk and taurine is at unsuitably low levels for growing kittens.
Growth is such an important feature of puppies and kittens. Puppies gain 8% of their body weight every day, while kittens can be expected to gain 100 g per week. Part of this rapid growth includes finishing the maturation of the nervous system to permit vision, hearing and standing up. Nutrient balancing is perhaps most important here.
Once puppies and kittens start to show interest in food other than milk, they can be exposed to a variety of foods both commercial or home prepared. Our experience at Full Circle Vets in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, shows that using a growth formula commercial food or well balanced home prepared cooked food growth diets are the safer options for very young puppies or kittens. We recommend caution feeding very young animals raw food diets as this age is the most susceptible to bacterial infections such as Salmonella. (Dr. Bishop adopted a kitten while in veterinary school who nibbled on some chicken skin and nearly died from the subsequent salmonella infection.)
Our philosophy at Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives is to encourage home preparing as optimum nutrition. The next level would be using a high quality commercial diet labelled for growth that is free from wheat, and certain preservatives (BHA, BHT, and TBHQ).
Balanced Diets for Puppies and Kittens
The most important point for feeding young animals is to provide a food balanced for growth! At Full Circle Veterinary Alternatives in Dartmouth, we have several sources of puppy and kitten recipes that meet their nutritional requirements. Currently, we strongly recommend using the Complete and Balanced supplements and recipes as they will meet the needs of growth when used as instructed. Keep in mind the following facts about your young ones early days and consider how difficult it will actually be to formulate an excellently balanced diet without some expert assistance!
Puppies initially use 50% of their caloric intake for growth (the rest is used to maintain what has already grown). When a puppy reaches 80% of his or her adult weight that requirement for calories to grow drops to 8 to 10%. Protein requirements are also highest in the young puppy. Arginine is an amino acid that is essential as a puppy but can be created by a mature dog so levels in puppy diets are higher than adult diets. Recent research shows that large breed puppies are not adversely affected by high protein diets but bone formation can be affected by high fat (energy) diets and many raw food formulations are very high in fat. Puppies also need some carbohydrate up until four months of age and will often be sluggish or have diarrhea if this is not provided. Calcium regulation in puppies is not as well developed at adults leaving them more susceptible to calcium excess even though their overall requirement for calcium is quite high.
Kittens, like puppies, have high energy requirements to meet their growth. Cats are also completely carnivorous unlike dogs, and kittens do not have any requirement for carbohydrates. Kittens do not get skeletal problems from excess calcium as with puppies, but they can suffer from calcium deficiency if an unbalanced diet is fed. Kittens exposed to a variety of foods; different commercial flavors and different home prepared diets will be less finicky as adults.
Schenck, P. Home-prepared Dog and Cat Diets Wiley-Blackwell Ames, Iowa 2010
Watson, H Compete and Balanced for Cats HV Veterinary Nutrition Guelph, Ontario 2013
Your pet deserves the Full Circle of Veterinary Care!
Our dynamic, passionate and dedicated customer care team wants you to experience inspired, integrated veterinary health care. Our broadly educated veterinarians, technologists and support staff meld conventional veterinary medicine and surgery with diverse special interest fields including: nutrition (commercial and home prepared feeding plans), diagnostic ultrasound, acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, canine rehabilitation, feline focused medicine and more. Take the first step and join us.