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Working puppies have special nutritional requirements

By Scott Williams – Nutrition and Technical Services Manager (Companion Animals), CopRice


It is estimated that it costs about $40,000 to provide adequate feed and care for a working dog over its lifetime.1 As such, it makes economic sense to take whatever steps are necessary to optimise the health, performance and longevity of your dog.

Just like in human nutrition, diet can have a significant impact on health and life expectancy.2 For young dogs, a balanced diet means a lot more than providing a rich source of protein and energy. It is providing the right combination of more than 40 essential nutrients in the right amounts, carefully matched with the levels of protein and energy they need to match their rapid growth.3

Puppies have different nutritional requirements to adult or senior dogs. Providing optimal nutrition throughout the puppy stage will ensure they have the very best start to an agile working career and a long, healthy life.

The puppy stage can vary from nine to 24 months, depending on breed.4 Working dogs, such as Kelpies, are considered to have reached adulthood at approximately 12 months of age.

Specific puppy nutrition is easy to justify during the early stages of development (i.e. up to three months) because the rapid growth is visible to the owner. However, the importance of continuing to provide specific puppy food is often overlooked during the juvenile period, which can last from six months to 21 months.5

This is because most of the major observable changes have already occurred (such as overall size and adult teeth). As a result, many owners transition their juvenile dog to adult food too early. However, there are still important changes occurring inside the body.

It is essential they are fed a specific puppy diet until they have completed growing. Changing diets too early may impact the dog’s optimal growth rate or development, and in some cases, can have a detrimental impact on health and agility in later life.6

Inadequate nutrition during the juvenile stage can leave dogs susceptible to poor growth rate (low levels of zinc, iron, protein or Vitamin A), poor bone structure (imbalance of calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin D) and reduced stamina (low levels of iron, fat and protein).5

Supplementation of specific nutrients is not recommended due to the high risk of overdosing or upsetting the balance of nutrients, which can cause lifelong and irreversible issues. For example, while a deficiency of calcium can cause soft bones and increased fractures, an excess of calcium can cause joint problems and osteoarthritis in later life, especially if it is not balanced appropriately with phosphorus.6

Optimal nutrition is more important than maximal nutrition, meaning it is vital to not overfeed a puppy. Obesity can cause health issues throughout life.5 A scientifically formulated puppy food takes the guess work out of what nutrition to provide the pup, including the volume of each meal.

When choosing what food to buy, look for high quality ingredients, such as meat and brown rice, which are highly digestible, and for elevated levels of essential fats, DHA, zinc, manganese and Vitamin A. A good choice is a ‘complete and balanced’ ration formulated specifically for puppies according to the Australian Petfood Standard.




References:1. Australian Geographic, March/April 2019. 2. Australian Government (2013). National Health and Medical Research Council Department of Health and Ageing , “Eat for Health”. 3. Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition (2009). Waltham pocketbook of essential nutrition for cats and dogs. [Accessed 2019]. 4. Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (2015). Puppy Nutrition Factsheet. 5. Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition (2012). Waltham pocketbook of puppy nutrition and care. 6. Cave, N. (2013). Nutrition and Joint Health, World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, Auckland, New Zealand.