Growth and Reproduction in
Dogs: Growth, pregnancy, and lactation greatly increase nutrient demand over that of maintenance. Growth diets have increased nutrient density, digestibility, and bioavailability to provide nutrients necessary in a smaller volume of food. Supplementation of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D over levels present in complete and balanced diets designed for growth and reproduction is rarely necessary and may be contraindicated if the calcium level is >3.0% dry-matter basis or the calcium:phosphorus ratio is outside the ratio of 1:1 to 3:1.
Growth: Overfeeding during growth increases growth rate, which not only is incompatible with proper skeletal development but also contributes to obesity later in life. Feeding methods for growing puppies should be individualized for the puppy and owner. General recommendations are that puppies between weaning and 6 mo of age should be fed three times a day; puppies 6-12 mo old should be fed twice daily.
Large and giant breed puppies should be fed complete and balanced (based on feeding trials) growth diets that contain calcium, fat, and protein closer to the minimum levels stated by the AAFCO. Small-breed puppies may have to be fed more than three times a day using a diet that contains calcium, fat, and protein at levels greater than the minimums stated by the AAFCO.
Although there are no published breed growth curves to serve as guidelines, a slow growth rate is preferable to a fast growth rate. Weight gains should be closely monitored (weekly), and feeding recommendations adjusted such that the puppy gains a small amount of weight each week. When growing large-breed puppies were fed 50-70% of their littermate's ad lib intake, adult height, length, and bone or muscle mass were not stunted; only total body fat was affected. It is difficult to stunt the growth of a puppy being fed a complete and balanced growth diet (approved by AAFCO feeding trial) for 2-5 min 2-3 times/day.
Gestation: Feeding recommendations for the pregnant bitch through the first two thirds of gestation are the same as those for maintenance. A common mistake is to overfeed the bitch during early gestation and to underfeed during lactation. In the last third of gestation, the total amount of food offered may be slightly increased (10-20%) over the amount for maintenance, or the same amount of a growth diet can bet fed.
Lactation: Within 10 days of whelping, the diet should gradually be changed to a growth formula. The lactating bitch often requires energy levels 2-4 times those of maintenance to avoid excessive loss of body condition. Feeding a complete and balanced growth diet (10-20% fat, dry-matter basis, approved by AFFCO feeding trial) ad lib is recommended to maintain lactation and to permit optimal body weight and condition to be required by weaning. If the bitch loses significant body condition during lactation, the fat content of the diet should be increased to 20-30% fat (dry-matter basis) and the bitch should be fed ad lib.