What Should I Feed my Poodle Puppy? – Advice on Proper Poodle Nutrition

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Poodles" by Tarah Schwartz. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Tarah Schwartz

Importance of a Good Diet

Feeding your Poodle a properly balanced diet will ensure that you are giving him the best chance at a long and healthy life. Without a balanced diet, your Poodle is at risk for developing potentially life-threatening conditions, especially as a puppy. Your dog must receive the proper amounts and ratios of essential vitamins and minerals in order to grow and develop strong bones and muscles. A proper diet also provides him with the nutrients to maintain a healthy immune system and a shiny coat. The various fats and proteins in a balanced diet also provide your dog with the necessary energy to perform in the show ring and play with his buddies. Not all dogs thrive on the same type of food, so you’ll need to figure out what type of diet works best for your dog. Most commercial dog foods are formulated to standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. AAFCO standards are designed to provide your dog with the nutrients required to live a long and healthy life.

Diet + Exercise = A Healthy Poodle

A proper diet is essential to your Poodle’s well-being, but a diet must also be balanced with portion control and adequate physical exercise. A well-balanced diet will not keep your dog healthy if he overeats and lounges on the sofa all day. Most commercial diets provide a rough guide on how much you should feed your dog based on his ideal weight. These guides are not always accurate since your dog’s individual metabolism may differ from a similarly sized dog, but they offer a good starting point. In addition to portion control, be sure that your dog receives a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day. Exercise will not only help keep the excess weight off, but it will also keep your dog calm and relaxed.

Choosing the Right Dog Food Formula

Poodle playing on grass
Photo Courtesy – Alice Goodman

Commercial dog food can be found in a number of different formulas. Some formulas are intended for dogs of all life stages, while others are formulated specifically for puppies or senior dogs. Puppy food tends to be higher in calories and has a different ratio of certain nutrients, while senior food is often lower in calories and sometimes contains nutrients intended to ease arthritis or other age-related conditions. There are also different formulas for different health concerns, such as kidney disease or allergies. As your dog ages, he may need to change foods occasionally due to changes in his health or overall well-being, so don’t expect to keep your dog on the same type of food for his entire life. If you do need to change foods, most experts recommend a slow transition. Mary Ann Riess of Vision Red Standard Poodles says, “I do recommend that people go slow and introducing new foods to a puppy. It should be done over a long period of time, especially if you decide to change foods.” Gradually introducing a new type of food will help ease any gastrointestinal distress and will also help picky eaters get used to their new food. The process of changing diets should be done over several days or a week, gradually increasing the percentage of new food and decreasing the percentage of old food.

Nutrition Differences in Size Varieties

There is little to no difference in the nutritional needs of the different-sized varieties of Poodle. The type of food you choose to feed your dog should be based on his individual needs and health concerns, rather than just his size. If you have multiple dogs in your home, you may find that your dogs may be able to all eat the same food, or they may each need a different diet. The biggest difference in dietary needs between the size varieties is their ability to eat large pieces of kibble. Toy Poodles may need a different-sized kibble than Standard Poodles. There are many different companies that make ‘small bite’ kibble specifically for Toy Breeds. Some Miniature Poodles handle regular-sized kibble well, while other prefer small bites, so you may need to try out different types of food to figure out what your dog likes best.

Portions Sizes Should be Related to Activity, not Size

Toy poodle eatingAnother difference between the size varieties that you may encounter is that the amount of food your dog consumes is not directly related to his size. A Standard Poodle weighing 50 pounds will not eat exactly five times that of a Toy Poodle weighing ten pounds, nor will two 30-pound dogs eat the same amount. Small dogs often have higher metabolisms than larger dogs, but your dog’s individual caloric needs will be different from other dogs of a similar size. Instead, you should base your dog’s meal size on how active he is. If your Poodle runs with you every morning and also competes in agility and flyball on the weekends, he will obviously need more food than your neighbor’s Poodle who takes a leisurely walk around the neighborhood twice a day. Some dogs may also be more active during certain times of the year, so you may need to adjust your dog’s portions throughout the year. Keep an eye on your dog’s weight and adjust his meal sizes accordingly.

Smaller Poodles May Need More Frequent Feedings

Many adult Poodles of all size varieties fare well with one meal per day, while others prefer two, but small Toy Poodles may particularly need to eat more frequently, especially as puppies. Small dogs often have a difficult time regulating their blood sugar as efficiently as bigger dogs and frequent meals can help prevent serious drops in blood sugar levels. Puppies should always be fed more frequently than adults, but your dog’s individual needs and preferences will dictate the ideal number of meals needed per day.

Different Types of Commercial Food

The type of food you are probably most familiar with is kibble. The small, crunchy nuggets make up the majority of the pet food market and are available in a huge variety of sizes, flavors, and formulas. Most companies offer different foods for different life stages, but some even go so far as to offer different foods for different breeds of dog. Grain-free kibble has become popular in recent years, replacing corn, wheat, and soy with alternative carbohydrates such as potatoes and peas. For dogs with food sensitivities you can also find kibble made from novel proteins such as kangaroo, salmon, and venison. There are different- sized kibble pieces for different-sized dogs and even different formulas made for dogs with health concerns. If your dog is suffering from allergies or heart problems, there’s a kibble specifically designed to help. If your Poodle is particularly picky, you may need to try a few different types of kibble before you find something he enjoys. Just remember to transition your dog to the new food over a period of several days or a week.

Benefits of Canned (Wet) Dog Food

Canned food is another popular choice for Poodle owners. It comes in nearly as many varieties as kibble but is softer and has a higher moisture content. Canned food is ideal for older dogs or those with few or no teeth. Some dogs find canned food to be more palatable so it may be a helpful addition to a picky eater’s meal. Canned food is also a great way to help hydrate dogs who don’t drink enough water. However, because of its soft texture, canned food often sticks to dogs’ teeth, leading to more plaque and tartar than with kibble. The crunchy texture of kibble often helps to scrape this off, so if your dog is strictly eating canned food, he may need more frequent teeth brushing or dental cleanings.

Fresh Foods Can be a Good Option for Picky Poodles

You may notice that your local pet store now has a refrigerated section. This is due to the rise in popularity of fresh dog food. Fresh dog food is typically packaged in a dense roll, which can be sliced according to your dog’s portion needs. This is a great option for picky eaters or for owners who like the idea of a homecooked meal but lack the time or adequate understanding of nutrition. Fresh food is usually firmer than canned food, but softer than kibble, so it’s also an option for dogs with missing teeth or older dogs. Be aware that fresh food is often more expensive than most canned food or kibble.

Raw Diets – All the Rage

Another trend in dog food that can be found in your local pet store’s refrigerated section is the raw diet. Raw food is intended to mimic the diet that dogs eat in the wild. Since kibble has not been around for very long, the raw diet is meant to return your dog to the diet of his ancestors. Commercial raw diets are usually small nuggets or patties made from a mixture of meat, organs, bone, and vegetables. Raw diets do not include grains or excess carbohydrates. Many raw feeders supplement their dog’s diet with goat milk or recreational bones. Since raw food is quite soft, plaque and tartar can build up quickly, so the raw bones are meant to help clean the teeth. Like other diets, raw diets are available in a variety of proteins to suit dogs with different preferences and sensitivities.

Homemade Foods and Recipes

Toy poodle brownHomemade diets are trending among Poodle owners who are dissatisfied with commercial options. Some owners choose to feed a homemade raw diet, while others prefer to cook their dog’s food at home. Depending on your dog’s needs, homemade diets can be expensive and labor intensive, so if you don’t have a lot of spare time, you may need to consider a commercial diet. It’s important to thoroughly research homemade diets before you start making your dog’s food. Homemade diets can cause nutritional imbalances if not properly formulated. The effects on your dog’s health will likely not show up right away, but they may cause long-term damage to your dog’s well-being. If you aren’t confident in the nutritional balance of your homemade diet or simply would like some professional guidance, consider consulting a canine nutritionist or a veterinarian that specializes in nutrition. They will be able to analyze the nutrients in your dog’s food or even provide you with a nutritionally balanced recipe.

Homemade Foods for Poodles with Allergies or Dietary Restrictions

Cooked homemade diets can be a great option for picky Poodles or those with severe allergies or intolerances. You’ll be able to decide on each and every ingredient that you include, so you won’t have any surprise allergic reactions from your dog. Home-cooked diets typically include different types of meat, organs, and vegetables. They may also include some type of carbohydrate such as rice, oats, or even barley. Some owners also supplement their dogs’ diets with various vitamins and minerals to ensure they’re their dogs are getting all of the essential nutrients. If you are interested in learning more about home-cooked diets, there is an incredible variety of books that have been published about the subject. Many of these books also include recipes. You can also speak to a professional nutritionist or veterinarian for recommendations.

Feeding a RAW Diet at Home

Raw diets are probably the most popular type of homemade diet among dog owners. Generally, raw diets are categorized as either Prey Model Raw (PMR) or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF). The reason for this is the debate on whether or not you should include vegetables in your dog’s diet. PMR diets consist of meat, bones, and organs with little to no vegetables. The PMR diet and the percentages of meat, bone, and organ are intended to reflect the amounts that can be found in whole prey animals. BARF diets are similar, but they allow for up to 10 percent of the diet to consist of fruit and vegetables. Owners who make their own food may also supplement the diet with goat milk, bone broth, or fish stock for additional nutrients. On raw diets, dogs do consume a certain percentage of bone, which particularly small or senior dogs may struggle with, so some owners opt to grind their dogs’ food, similar to commercial raw diets.

People Food – Harmful and Acceptable Kinds

Some experts recommend keeping people food far away from your dog, while others only recommend certain foods and only in moderation. If people food makes up more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily portion of food, you may find that his diet will become unbalanced over time. People food is best used for special occasions and as treats or rewards.

Safe Human Foods

The healthiest types of people food to give your Poodle are fruits and vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables are low calorie and provide benefits such as essential vitamins and antioxidants. Fruit can be higher in sugar, so if your dog is sensitive to sugar, it may be best to limit his fruit consumption or stick with vegetables only. Fruits that are nontoxic for dogs include bananas, apples, blueberries, and cantaloupe. Many dogs also enjoy eating watermelon, pineapple, and raspberries. Healthy vegetables include sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, and cucumbers. Green beans and peas also make excellent treats. Broccoli and spinach can also be fed in moderation but may cause stomach upset in some dogs. Be cautious when introducing new fruits or vegetables to your dog’s diet as some are toxic to dogs. Grapes, garlic, and onion can be harmful, especially if eaten in large amounts. The pits of pitted fruits such as peaches, mangoes, and cherries can also be harmful, but if the pit is removed the fruit can safely be fed to your Poodle.

Foods to Give Sparingly

There are also certain types of people food that can be fed, but only in small quantities. Cheese and peanut butter are popular treats for dogs but can be quite high in fat. The high fat content can affect some dog’s endocrine systems, so these types of treats are best used only for special occasions. Salty foods such as ham, bacon, or popcorn should also be kept to a minimum. Some dogs are also quite sensitive to dairy products, especially in large amounts. Foods such as yogurt, kefir, or milk should be fed sparingly.

Foods Poodles Should Never Eat!

Most dog owners are aware of toxic foods such as chocolate and anything containing caffeine, but there are a few unexpected foods to watch out for. Food that contains the artificial sweetener xylitol should be avoided at all costs. Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free candy and gum and is extremely toxic to dogs, even in relatively small amounts. It may seem obvious, but alcohol should also be avoided. If you think your dog may have eaten something toxic, it’s important to contact your local veterinarian as soon as possible. The sooner he can be treated, the more likely he is to survive the ordeal.

Weight Management

One of the most common conditions affecting pets is obesity. Overweight dogs are prone to myriad other health problems including diabetes and heart disease. Obesity can also have a negative impact on your dog’s ability to exercise and enjoy life. Excess weight also puts more stress on your dog’s joints, which can lead to arthritis and mobility problems even at a young age. It can be tempting to spoil your Poodle, especially when he gives you that look that just melts your heart, but for your dog’s health and well-being, you must choose to show your affection through petting and praise, rather than treats and snacks.

Determinging the Ideal Weight for Your Poodle

The recommended guidelines of what each size variety should weigh are meant to guide breeders toward developing consistency in the breed. They should not be used to determine whether your dog is the correct weight. Each dog is an individual and even littermates can vary in size. Depending on your Poodle’s hairstyle, it may be difficult to determine whether he’s at the correct weight. Long hair can be deceiving, so it’s important to put your hands on the dog and feel his body. A healthy dog should have a slight but defined waist when viewed from above, or when felt along his sides. You should be able to feel his ribs, but they don’t need to be visible, even with a short haircut. When viewed from the side, your dog should have a pronounced tuck up under the belly at the waist. Poodles are a deep-chested breed, so it’s okay if this is more pronounced than in other breeds. If you are unsure about whether your dog is at his ideal weight, ask your veterinarian.

Beware of “Over-Treating”

When calculating portions and determining your dog’s daily food intake, it’s crucial that you include all treats. Treats shouldn’t make up more than 10 percent of your dog’s diet, but they should always be included in his daily calorie allotment. If your dog needs to watch his waistline, but you spend a lot of time in training, you may be able to use a portion of his meals as his training reward. You can also substitute his treats for small bits of his favorite fruit or vegetable. It’s also important to make sure your dog gets enough exercise every day. The more he exercises, the more he will be allowed to eat, so if you’re set on spoiling your Poodle with treats, make sure he is exercising enough to keep his weight at a healthy and manageable number.

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