Puppy Nutrition

Large-breed puppies have very specific nutritional needs and feeding your Irish Setter pup the correct food is crucial to its lifelong health.

Studies have shown that both too much and too little calcium has the ability to cause irreparable joint damage. And it’s not just calcium itself that must be considered, phosphorous, vitamin D and a host of other minerals influence calcium absorption.  Nutrient levels must be high enough to support healthy growth, but low enough to maintain a slow, steady growth rate. All these factors need to be taken into account when choosing the type of food to feed your pup.

For Irish Setter puppies, I feel a commercial super premium kibble – specifically formulated for large-breed pups – is the best.  However, not all commercial puppy foods are created equal – give minimal credence to marketing claims on the front of the bag and rather study the ingredients and nutritional information on the back of the bag before making a decision!  Websites such as www.dogfoodanalysis.com are useful in understanding dog food ingredients better.

Other things to remember…

  • Feeding a poor quality diet in general, although often providing a low calcium component, usually also has a low-energy density, requiring the pup to eat more before feeling full, and thus actually resulting in a high calcium uptake
  • The aim in young large-breed puppies is to have them grow ‘slower but stronger’.  It is thus important not to allow free access to the food , but to feed the required daily allowance in frequent meals (2 – 3 times per day). Even a large-breed puppy formulation, fed “ad lib”, may cause nutritional imbalances. Each dog is different and the quantity of food should be adjusted as required. The body condition score of a puppy younger than 6 months should be on the thin side of normal. They should look like gangly teenagers.
  • Place your puppy’s food bowl on the ground – do not elevate it. A common myth is that raising food bowls will help prevent bloat in dogs. Actually, studies have found that dogs are more likely to gulp air when fed from elevated bowls, which is one of the risk factors for bloat. Stainless steel bowls are usually the easiest to clean and the most sanitary.
  • Fresh, clean water should be available to your pup at all times
  • Do not over-exercise your puppy. Heavy training, jumping and running long distances will cause trauma to the developing joints. Wait until your dog is skeletally mature before taking him running with you on marathon runs.

12 week old irish red setter puppy

As a Guideline…

  • Pick a large-breed puppy food that is preservative-free and has human-grade, good quality ingredients.
  • Look for protein sources, such as chicken or beef, as the first ingredients in the food. If the food has a carbohydrate listed as the first ingredient, such as corn meal or rice, skip it.
  • Look for a food that has a protein level of 25% or higher.
  • The food should contain moderate fat, between 10% and 16%.
  • Calcium should ideally be between 0.7% and 1.2%.  It should NOT be higher than 1.5% for your Irish Setter pup.