Special Nutritional Needs of Puppies
petMD - Puppies eating a food with too much Calcium and Phosphorus, and a high calcium to phosphorus ratio, also increases the odds that a large breed puppy will be afflicted by a developmental orthopedic disease.
Studies have shown rather definitively that high calcium levels are a risk factor for development of DOD in large breed puppies. Best to a avoid calcium-containing supplements and treats.
Choosing the best large breed puppy food — and feeding it in the right amount — can significantly lower your dog’s risk of developing hip dysplasia.1
That’s because the nutritional needs of large and giant breed puppies are different from those of small and medium breeds, and ignoring those needs can lead to crippling bone and joint disorders like:
Why Large Breed Puppies
Are at Greater Risk
When compared to smaller breeds, two unique factors about the way they grow make large breed puppies more prone to skeletal problems:
In comparison, a human being can take 18 years to achieve results that are less than half that much. What’s more, unlike smaller breeds that can be fed as adults at about 9-12 months, many larger breeds continue to grow and can still be considered puppies until 12 to 24 months.3
Rapid growth means the bones must change quickly — a factor that can put them at risk of forming improperly. And it is this remarkable rate of growth that makes large and giant breeds so sensitive to nutritional imbalances.
Pups, unlike adult dogs, cannot adequately regulate how much dietary calcium they absorb from the intestinal tract. Sometimes they absorb and retain too much calcium which can cause skeletal malformations.
Free choice is a popular feeding method in which the food remains in the bowl and continuously available — so a puppy can eat whenever it wants.
Sadly, many owners of large breed puppies mistakenly believe that this form of uncontrolled eating is the correct way to feed their pets.
However, free choice feeding has been shown to cause a puppy to grow too fast — and lead to serious problems.
For example, a 1995 German study of Great Danes demonstrated a significant increase in the risk of developing skeletal disease when the puppies were fed free choice.8
In another study, one group of Labrador Retriever puppies was fed throughout life a restricted calorie diet while a second was fed free choice.9
The restricted calorie group experienced a much lower incidence and later onset of hip joint arthritis.
Too Much Calcium
Like overfeeding, excessive dietary calcium has also been shown to increase the risk of skeletal disease in large breed puppies.10
That’s because puppies can have trouble regulating how much calcium is absorbed from their intestinal tracts11 and that’s not all, feeding too little calcium can also lead to problems. That’s why it’s so important to feed a dog food that contains an amount of calcium that’s safe for large breed puppies.
Unfortunately, the Internet is awash with misinformation about how to feed large breed puppies. For example, many insist that high levels of dietary protein can lead to hip dysplasia.
Yet contrary to that popular myth…
No evidence exists to link high protein intake to skeletal disease in large breed dogs.4
So, if high protein isn’t the problem — what is?
The Real Causes
of Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
If you exclude all the less common factors, hip dysplasia in large breeds appears to be the result of at least one of 3 proven causes:
Scan the Package for the Nutritional Adequacy Statement picture below on the bag we feed our large breed puppies.
How To Be Sure
Your Dog Food Is Safe
It is recommended that puppies not eat a food that has high Calcium to Phosphorus ratio. This increases the risk of large breed puppies presenting with Developmental Orthopedic Disease (DOD). It is best to avoid dog foods and treats, etc., containing higher calcium levels. Unfortunately, the internet is saturated with misinformation about how to feed large breed puppies. For example, many insist that high levels of dietary protein can lead to hip dysplasia. Yet, contrary to that popular myth, no evidence exists to link high protein intake to skeletal disease in large breeds.
Due to a change in the dog food labeling law in January 2016, the standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), they now have stricter guidelines for the well-being of large breeds. This is based on scientific data published by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science. Look for the label on the back of the dog food bag that has “The Nutritional Adequacy Statement.”
IVC Journal (Innovative Veterinary Care)
Lauten SD, Nutritional Risks to Large Breed Dogs: From Weaning to the Geriatric Years, Vet Clin Small Anim 36 (2006) 1345–1359.
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