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The importance of good nutrition in growing puppies and kittens

02 October 2016
8 mins read
Volume 7 · Issue 8


While balanced nutrition is important for the whole of a dog or cat's life, of particular interest is the growth phase, which is the most complex and delicate stage of a dog or cat's life, during which a multitude of macroand micro-nutrients are required at specific levels to ensure ideal growth and development of skeleton, joints and other body systems. This article explores these nutrients and the impact each has on the growing puppy or kitten, examines the complexity of balancing a diet for growth — particularly for large breed dogs — and considers the potential consequences of feeding an unbalanced diet during this key phase.

Forty-odd years ago, growing up with a Great Dane, the only factor considered was the cost of the food. In the 1970s very little was known about canine nutritional requirements. In fact, it was 1991 before a paper citing nutritional requirements for different sizes of dogs was published (Burger and Johnson, 1991) and a further 6 years before the first commercially prepared large-breed diet was launched by Royal Canin®. Since then, nutritional knowledge has continually deepened, with thousands of publications available on PubMed for those who are interested.

By the time most puppies and kittens reach adulthood, they will have increased their birth weight by 40–50 times (Case et al, 2011). However, owing to the great variation in dogs’ sizes, from tiny Chihuahuas at around 2 kg to Irish Wolfhounds at about 70 kg bodyweight, canine growth periods vary significantly (Figure 1). Cats and small-breed dogs usually reach physical maturity at 9–12 months of age; large and giant breeds, not until they are 18–24 months old (Case et al, 2011). If one considers that an adult giant-breed dog may weigh the same as an adult human, who would take 18 years to reach maturity, this is a remarkably rapid growth period.

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