Message Us

Top 6 Nutritional Needs of Puppies

By PatrickMahaney. | Dog Info Cool Dog Products

Puppies can be a lot of fun, but their nutritional needs aren't as easy as you'd expect.

Here are my top 6 recommendations as a veterinarian for the unique nutritional needs of puppies:

1. Complete and Balanced Meals

DogsPuppies and Their Important Health Needs can't grow on meat alone. They need an appropriate combination of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and more. Most commercially available puppy foods have been formulated to be nutritionally complete and balanced for puppy growth and will include a statement that such foods have met requirements of the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). "Nutritionally complete" means that all the required nutrients are present in a particular food and are included in quantities that suffice a puppy's playful and energetic needs. Although nutritional completeness and balance according to AAFCO is important, there are many foods available to dog owners that meet such requirements but use poor-quality ingredients, some of which don't even exist in nature, are deemed inedible for human consumption (feed-grade), and are vastly different from the manner by which canines are biologically intended to eat.

2. Quality of  the Ingredients

Always consider the source of the ingredients you are feeding your dog during the months of puppyhood and the early years of adulthood. If you're feeding commercially available, processed (i.e. non-whole food) puppy diets containing ingredients that are piecemeal (i.e. protein and grain meals and by-products, rendered fat, etc.) instead of those appearing an a form identical or very similar to how they naturally exist (i.e. whole foods), the body will utilize such nutrients less-efficiently than whole-foods. Additionally, when the diet or treat components are feed-grade, there's a higher likelihood that they may contain man-made and environmental toxins (pesticides, mold-produced aflatoxin, etc.) and potentially be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Human-grade ingredients are higher quality and less likely to contain harmful toxins.

3. How Many Calories They Eat

Anyone who's had a puppy knows how active they can be, which often alternates with periods of heaving napping. All that growing merits greater daily intake of calories than older or less-active dogs. Puppies should be fed a number of calories that supports average growth rate (but not a maximum growth rate) to decrease the risk of developmental problems with bones and other musculoskeletal structures (ligaments, tendons, discs, etc.). Increased daily caloric intake to fuel growth should continue until a puppy reaches approximately 80% of mature size, which is something your veterinarian can help determine through the regular physical examinations that occur as a puppy develops.

4. Protein Intake

Puppies' muscle growth needs higher levels of protein than adult and senior dogs. The AAFCO suggests a minimum of 22% protein for puppy foods while giving no maximum quantity. Diets having very high protein levels have been linked to developmental abnormalities, including osteoarthritis, growth plate deformities, and obesity. Therefore, it's important that protein is not excessively high and is paired with fat, carbohydrates, fiber, moisture, and other food components. Protein should be fresh, human-grade, and come from real meat. I don't suggest my patient's puppies eat protein meals (lamb meal, chicken by-product meal, etc.), even though they are very dense in protein. My belief comes from the source where such meals are obtained, which are from feed grade ingredients instead of those consumed by humans (human grade).

4. Fat Intake

Puppies need more energy to promote growth and the most dense form of energy available is fat. AAFCO suggest a minimum of 8% fat for puppy foods while giving no maximum quantity. Many commercially-available puppy foods have significantly more, which is fine provided the puppy consuming the food does not become overweight or obese. My recommendation is that fat sources should originate from the piece of protein being fed, such as the marbling in beef or the skin from fish or poultry. Unfortunately, the fat that goes into most kibble and canned foods is rendered fat that comes from the process where viable material is extracted from animal tissue (i.e. rendering, which can include the tissues of deceased, disabled, diseased, or dying animals.the 4Ds).

5. Carbohydrate Intake

Like fats, carbohydrates provide a source of energy that helps fuel growth and provide more readily-available calories than protein. Carbohydrates from vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, etc.), fruit (berries, coconut, etc.) and whole-grains (oats, barley, brown rice, etc.) not only provide great energy sources but also antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins essential for growth and development. As a common trend in my veterinary practice, when puppies eat whole-food diets and treats they are generally healthier. I've witnessed fewer episodes of mild to severe chronic diseases, slimmer body condition, and improved outward appearance of overall health. I recommend whole-food diets that have human-grade ingredients like The Honest Kitchen for all of my patients, but especially for puppies who are just starting out in life.

patrick_mahaneyPatrick Mahaney

Dr. Patrick Mahaney VMD, CVA, CVJ is a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist providing services to Los Angeles-based clients both on a house call and in-clinic basis. Dr. Mahaney's unique approach integrating eastern and western medical perspectives has evolved into a concierge house call practice, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness (CPAW), Inc. Additionally, Dr. Mahaney offers holistic treatment for canine and feline cancer patients at the Veterinary Cancer Group (Culver City, CA).


Signup/Login to post a reply


Reviews From 4Knines Customers VIEW MORE »

The best evaluations of our products come from the people who’ve bought them.

Cordura seat cover

Great product. Have them on all my seats to protect them from water sand and nails of from all the dogs that travel with me in my camper van to the beach, rivers and woods.



We liked the first cover so much that a few days later we purchased a second one. The cover installs very, very easily, fits and covers the rear seat and the back of the front seats of our Subaru Tribeca perfectly, has flaps that cover the door-side edges of the rear seat, and stays perfectly in place. Spilled or tracked water beads up on the material and can be easily wiped off. At first our dog did tend to slide just a little on the new cover, but he soon learned to stand, sit, and lay just as well as he did before on the uncovered seat. The hammock portion seems like it might provide some little bit of protection in a sudden stop (our guy will chew apart any "doggie seat belt" type of restraint in very short order - so that option is out of the question for us). As to keeping him out of the car front-area - well, our long-legged Standard Poodle has no problem in still looking closely out the front windshield by putting his front feet on the center console - straddling the hammock - with no problem whatsoever. But we did discover that having the hammock in place does allow us to safely keep his water bottle and dish, his leash, and an old towel on the floor under the hammock - where he can no longer get at them (especially the leash and towel) to chew on them. All in all, an excellent seat cover.


My furbabies don't like leather seats!!!! But they love this seat cover!!!

Very hard to find a split bench seat cover at a reasonable price, this one fit the bill. Easy to install, very durable and looks to be easy to clean. Wanted something that would protect the leather seats and was pet friendly (hate it when the material of regular seat covers snags toenails and collars). I don't think I will have to buy another for many years!!!

Jackie Carter

My Doodle approves!

Received on time, fits great and easy to install. Color is a great match. So far, so good. Durability? Time will tell. It appears to be well constructed.

Donald Fish

Fits my 2018 VW Tiguan perfectly

Very happy with our purchase. Fits perfectly, was easy to install and keeps the leather seats in our brand new vehicle perfectly clean.

Chris Campbell

great cover

This is actually a replacement for my original 4 knines cover which was 4 years old. I used it daily (bringing my pup to work with me) and washed it weekly, so the backing finally started to flake apart and come off. This newer version is easier to put over the headrests, great improvement in the strap and closures. Also the best improvement is the side flaps, the old cover didn't have these. These flaps help to catch the dirt from dogs feet when they are jumping up into the car, instead of it going on the side of the seat.

Diane Breland


This is my 2nd seat cover from 4knines and love them both. The product and service were both fantastic.


Repeat customer VERY satisfied.

We have made several purchases from 4Knines and are VERY satisfied with products (cargo liner, back seat cover, bucket front seat cover...). I volunteer at a shelter and take dogs offsite daily. Always a Pleasure doing business with 4Knines. Highly recommend.

Cristina Jones

For all general inquiries, please call or email us
Phone: 888.602.2509

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Nothing but the best for your best friend!
© 4Knines. 2017. All rights reserved | Terms | Privacy