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Lifestage feeding: Part 2 - Puppies/Kittens

Puppies and kittens grow and develop so quickly so good nutrition is particularly important at this stage of life.


Weaning

Here's where it all begins. Weaning age can be as early as 3 weeks old, but some litters maybe later at around 4 weeks. A good rule is if they're interested in drinking from a bowl then they're ready.


Firstly start by teaching them how to lap up some milk or water out of a little bowl for the first couple of days.


Once they've got the hang of that you can add a little raw weaning paste to the milk. Only a small amount at first, then gradually increase the percentage of weaning paste over the next couple of weeks.


After weaning

By week 6 you can offer a raw puppy/kitten food. These are minced finer with smaller bone pieces so they can manage and digest it easier. Start with chicken for the first week as this is the protein they're used to from the weaning paste. and then you can add one new protein each week.


Puppies and kittens should eat 5-8% of their bodyweight per day split between 4 meals until 16 weeks, then you can go down to 3 meals a day and at 6 months of age they can go down to 2 meals per day.


A lot of dogs can't go too long between meals and can get a build up of bile causing them to vomit. Some people call this hunger pukes. If your dog has this or even if you have a breed prone to bloat it's a good idea to feed little and often. I do this with mine by feeding their 2 meals a day and then a snack at bedtime (usually a hairy rabbit ear!)



Teething

Teething begins from 4 months of age for all sizes and breeds. At 6 months old your pet will have all their adult teeth.

You may notice through the teething stage chewing behaviours become worse. Therefore it's important to offer them things they are allowed to chew on other than your shoes!

Yak milk bars are a great long lasting chew for this stage.

A frozen Kong filled with their raw food will help relieve any teething pain.

Be careful not too offer anything too hard to chew on as you don't want to break the baby teeth at this important stage as the root maybe left behind and affect the permanent adult teeth. You also don't want to affect the adult teeth that are coming in.


When to switch to adult food

You should continue to feed the amount for puppies/kittens until they reach adulthood and their growth plates have closed. At this point you can switch to adult food and start to reduce their food. As every individual is different you should keep an eye on their body condition and adjust the amount you feed as necessary. Weight is just a number so don't focus on it too much. You should assess if they look too fat or too thin. If you're unsure you can always ask your vets.


Cats and small dogs (expected to be under 25kg) will reach their adult weight at one year old.


Large breed dogs expected to be over 25kg will reach their adult weight at around 18months.


Giant breeds expected to be over 45kg will reach their adult weight at around 2 years.


Once they've reached their adult weight you can switch to adult food and reduce the amount to adult guidelines.


Adulecence

Bitches can expect their first season from around 6 months. Some maybe earlier. Larger breeds are usually later. Large breeds around 9 months is usual and giant breeds around a year old is average.

Cats are what's called seasonal breeders. Queens will only usually come into season over the warmer months. Although there are always acception s to the rule! At around 6 months old tom cats will begin spraying and developing their big tom cat cheeks!

During this time you don't need to do anything different with their food. They may go off their food at this time.

Males may also go off their food as their hormones kick in.

At this stage in development hormones are 5x higher than that of an adult. This is why we see a lot of behavioural changes and a lot of developmental changes too. Males testicles will grow and female mammary development will begin. They'll begin to fill out and their muscles will begin to develop a lot more.

It's common due to the surge of hormones for bitches to experience a phantom pregnancy following their first season. This happens around 2 months following their season. You may notice behavioural changes. Some get clingy, some get grumpy and some start nesting and trying to care for their favourite toy as if it were their puppy. They also begin producing milk and you may notice some nipple enlargement.

If your dog does experience a phantom pregnancy you should reduce her food slightly (some may go off food anyway). This will encourage her milk to dry up and bring her out of the phantom pregnancy. You can also get your vet to prescribe hormone treatments to help bring her out of it. She will come out of it naturally in time.


Below is a puppy feeding guide you can follow. I'd advise to start at the lower end of the guide (unless you're pup is on the skinny side) and go from there.



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