A Solution To Optimum Growth and Microbiome Health In Dogs

The Solution To Optimum Growth and Microbiome Health in Dogs 

Dear Breeders, Trainers and Owners

A Guide To Maximise Growth Potential In Your Puppy To Achieve Optimum Genetic Expression. 

Correctly feeding a growing puppy can be the most important and life-changing aspect of dog ownership. But why is feeding a young animal so important, and so different, from feeding an adult dog

More importantly, why is our philosophy so vastly different from the way breeders have traditionally fed puppies?”

From a nutrition perspective, the most amount of work the body does is when it grows, and as the puppy ages, the amount of work required to grow reduces. This is because growth is defined as the rate of cell multiplication in the body. This rate of proliferation is most significant at birth and slowly reduces until growth ceases when maturity is reached. 

For example, a new-born pup weighing 100g could grow by as much as 10g per day or 10% of its body weight. Whereas the same puppy at 1kg growing at 50g per day is only increasing its body weight by 5% per day. 

Therefore the amount of work required by the body in the early stages is much higher than the amount of work needed in later stages of growth.

Usually, the rate of growth (or cell multiplication) starts at approximately 10% per day rate at birth and ceases at maturity. This means the highest rates of growth are in the early days and weeks of life, whereas by the time the pup approaches full height that rate of cell multiplication has fallen to a level somewhere around 1% of body weight per day. With this decline in the rate of growth requires a change in nutritional requirement, so a correctly designed feeding program will need to change too.

The reason for this change in nutritional requirements can best be explained by looking at what is happening in the body of a puppy. In the first half of growth from birth to full height, (full height is the half-way point in the entire cycle of growth), nutrients are primarily directed to bone growth. It’s a bit like building a house; you have to build the framework before you can clad the walls or add the roof. The secondary call for nutrients is then for muscle development, whilst the base requirement of nutrients for the functions of life (moving, breathing, heart rate, digestion and the like), remain relatively constant. 

From full height to maturity takes about as long again as it took to build the frame. During this second half stage, the first call for nutrients is for muscle development, with the needs for bone being relegated to second place simply because most of that work is practically finished. The base requirements for the functions of life remain ongoing. This second half of growth is much slower than the first half of development, and it’s during this period where all the developmental completion is achieved. You could think of it as fitting out the new house!

When we consider all of these changes in the growing body, it is easy to see the nutritional requirements of the puppy are entirely different from those of the adult dog. After all, the adult-only undertakes those normal functions of life, whereas the pup has to grow as well as breathe, digest, pump blood and run around, not to mention the differing rates at which puppies grow. Remember, at the start, it could be as high as 10% of body weight per day whereas in the late stages of growth it could be as low as 0.5% of body weight per day. This variation means if we are to help the puppy grow correctly, we need to change the nutrient supply in the food according to the level of growth and activity.

First Stage Growth 

Is the very early and extremely high rate of growth immediately after birth. This growth is initially powered with milk from the mother, but as the puppy grows, there quickly comes a stage where the mother is unable to provide all the nutrients required to maintain this development. It is at this stage, around three weeks of age, that we introduce the first solid food being the ‘Performadog Turkey Starter’ diet. 

“…failure to adequately develop a robust gut microbiome results in pups developing skin and gut sensitivities quite early in their later life.”

Turkey Puppy Starter is what we term a “soft and gentle” food that is extremely rich in essential amino acids, the actual building blocks of cells. Turkey Puppy Starter is also made up of a broad range of easily digested ingredients which stimulate the development of the puppy’s gut microbiome. It is the most critical stage in puppy growth. Not only because the puppy is growing at the fastest rate, but the gut microbial population is rapidly diversifying if stimulated correctly. This development immediately after birth is critical for future health; failure to adequately develop a robust gut microbiome results in pups developing skin and gut sensitivities quite early in their later life.

After numerous trials, we have found puppies benefit significantly by having ‘Turkey Puppy Starter‘ as their first solid food, which should be fed until a suitable opportunity arises to transition to second-stage growth at around 12 weeks of age. This reduces stress on the young animal through the weaning process by allowing for a slow and consistent transition from an all-milk diet from the mother to an all solid food diet. Some bitches will become short with the puppies and want to wean them early, whilst other mothers will happily allow them to suckle for an extended time. Maintaining a regular feeding program throughout this period will limit the stress on the pups, and reduce the impact of the inevitable weaning and the pup’s development. 

Where puppies are to move to new homes, it is essential to space stressful events adequately. If the puppy is to be weaned early, ensure it is stable and established in its feeding regimes before relocation to its new home. Only after successfully established in the new home should the pup be transitioned to a second stage growth food. Ensuring stressful events such as weaning, diet change, and relocation are correctly spaced, ensures we don’t overload the pup’s developing microbiome. Excessive stress throughout this period is the number one cause of digestive upsets. As mentioned earlier, uninhibited development of the gut microbial population is arguably one of the most important considerations, if not the most critical consideration, in the upbringing of the new pup. 

Second Stage Growth

This is the period from weaning and initial establishment, to mature height. That very early rate of cell multiplication slows quite rapidly, and this alters the required nutrient ratios significantly. Transitioning from the Turkey starter to the Lamb and Fish second stage food should be done gradually, and at a rate, the pup’s digestive system can accommodate. A good rule of thumb is to substitute 10% of the old food with an equal amount of the new food, and vary the mix by an additional 10% each day after that… namely 90% old, 10% new on day one, 80% old and 20% new on day two, and so on for ten days. 

After this time, a gentle transition should be completed, and the pup now firmly established on the Lamb and Fish diet. Throughout this process, keep a close eye on the quality of the pup’s stools. If signs of soft stools appear, stay at that level of mixed food until the digestive system catches up before continuing with the transition. 

“…solid development through this stage being essential to growing a robust dog that is protected from seasonal allergies and digestive sensitivities in later life.”

As with the earlier development of the pup’s gut microbiome, second-stage food continues to grow and diversify the gut microbial population. Performadog Fish and Lamb puppy food is specifically designed to add to that diversity, with substantial development through this stage being essential to growing a robust dog that is protected from seasonal allergies and digestive sensitivities in later life.

Growth in this second stage tends to be in bursts. It is not uncommon to get up one morning and find your pup has grown a couple of centimetres in height overnight! It seems the body builds up a reserve of nutrients before launching a growth spurt, only to slow and build up resources for the next spurt. Therefore it is vitally important to maintain an increasing quantity of available food for the pup. All too often, we see the amount of food being offered lag behind this growth requirement, which then limits the development of the puppy. At all times, the puppy must be fed to satiation at a level that ensures a light layer of fat covers the body throughout. This means the last rib should be level with the surface of the skin on the pup’s flank, whilst the ridges of the spine are slightly prominent to the top line of the body. Ribs that are apparent with the backbone exposed is a sure sign the pup is being growth limited, and this will impact on the future development of the dog.

One great way to overcome the risk of applying limitations to the development of the puppy is to ensure you clearly define the daily rations required to maintain an even and healthy cover on the dog. This can take some time to establish by monitoring the volume of food required daily to keep the ideal weight. 

Once the correct volume of daily food rations is determined, you can then help the dog learn how to work for its food, assisting the family in achieve domestic harmony. Place the daily food rations evenly into sperate bowls strategically scattered around the house up on a ledge so the dog cannot access the food. (We use three bowls in the main areas my dog resides).

That could be the family/tv room, study and kids bedroom. 

These exercises will not only provide the dog with its daily food rations to maintain a healthy weight but also consume all essential nutrients. It also gives you an ability to reward your dog strategically when it presents you with behaviours you like and trying to establish. Through repetitions, the dogs will begin to link that specific actions provide access to a food reward. It’s powerful because it is a consequential system. 

Provided the food is correctly structured and balanced, the pup will readily eat the daily rations, and its growth and development will be in accordance with the pup’s genetic blueprint. Performadog Lamb and Fish has been specifically designed with this husbandry practice in mind. One crucial aspect requiring considerations is that there are provisions made for the ongoing growth that a puppy undergoes. As a result, you will need to increase food rations accordingly. 

Second stage growth varies from breed to breed. Small breed dogs usually reach full height at around five to six months, whereas medium breeds reach the same point at about nine or ten months of age. Large breeds won’t reach this point until 12 months or so, and giant breeds can take much longer. Reaching full height marks the end of second-stage growth. 

Third Stage Growth 

This covers the period from full height to adulthood and is about the same length of time as taken to achieve maximum height. This means the small breed puppy that reaches a full height at five months of age is not classified as an adult until ten months of age, whereas the large breed puppy that reaches a maximum height at twelve months of age cannot be classified as an adult until two years of age.

Many different ideas are circulating as to the age of adulthood in dogs. Still, if you are to develop your puppy to its optimum genetic expression, appropriate food must be fed in accordance with the pup’s physiological needs. End of story!

Growth during the third stage slows rapidly, and it is during this phase, the puppy fills out and develops its final stature. Muscle and organ development is the primary outcome during this stage, and once again, the pup must be fed to body condition as outlined earlier. Throughout the entire growth period, it is essential to provide as much food as the puppy requires, and any consideration of the manufacturer’s suggested feeding guide is to be ignored. The correct amount of food to feed is the amount that maintains the proper body condition in the growing pup. 

“… if you are to develop your pup to his or her full genetic ability, appropriate food must be fed in accordance with the pup’s physiological needs.”

As growth slows, so too will food intake. The most significant amount of food eaten daily is going to occur somewhere around mature height, and in some individuals, this can be an alarming amount of food. Please don’t ever think the amount being fed is too much. If the pup is hungry for more, provide more, regardless of all else other than body condition. Whilst skinny or bony pups are to be avoided at all costs, so too are overweight pups. Any state other than the preferred body condition is detrimental because any deviation from the ideal state will reduce the ultimate development of the puppy. 

Please note; however, these feeding mandates apply only to foods that have been developed using the performadog technology. Many find it necessary to limit the growth of pups to avoid distorted growth, but this only occurs when the nutrient and ingredient profile of the food is not correctly arranged.

One final consideration in respect to this feeding program is to point out that “adulthood” refers to physical development only. Many breeders and trainers will point out that dogs don’t mature mentally until much later than the time frames expressed in this article. Whilst this is true, mental maturity will occur quite naturally in an adult dog eating adult food. The feeding plan outlined here is designed to allow your pup to develop to the full extent of his or her genetic potential. It is only after this occurs that you will fully appreciate the benefits this feeding approach bestows on your puppy.

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What you choose to feed your cherished pet is one of the most important decisions you can make. We are dedicated to upholding the highest standards of nutritional integrity and food safety, and it’s why we make every Performadog Premium Performance bag in Australia, using some of the best manufacturing systems in the world. To assure our quality, our factory, ingredients, processes and foods meet the strictest standards, and our ingredient suppliers are approved and audited.

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