Puppy Nutrition

What to Look For when Choosing a Food

The Quick Sniff

  • A properly formulated dog food should state on the packaging, “Complete and balanced for all life stages.”
  • Most foods designed specifically for puppies are similar, if not identical, to foods designed for all life stages.
  • Puppies can be weaned beginning around 4 weeks of age and be fully transitioned to regular dog food around 8-9 weeks.
  • Puppies should be fed 3-4x per day until 8-9 months old, with recommended daily feeding amounts spread over the number of feedings.
  • After 8-9 months, feedings can be reduced to 2x per day.
  • Dog owners should not feed puppies to accelerate their size or weight. Puppies should develop as their bodies dictate and puppy meals should be calorically right-sized.
All of the above are guidelines. When in doubt, consult your local holistic veterinarian.

A Risk-Free Taste Test

Not sure if your new pup is a chicken fan or more of a lamb connoisseur? Try a BIXBI Sample Pack. $10 gets you samples of our most popular RAWBBLE Dry and Freeze-Dried, a bag of Peanut Butter Pocket Trainers and a $10 gift certificate good to use when your puppy picks the recipe they like the best! 

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The Full Sniff

Introduction

Getting a puppy is one of life’s most exciting moments. We all want what’s best for our new family member, and new puppy parents often need guidance on topics ranging from nutrition, to socialization and training. There is an endless learning curve to owning and developing a healthy and adjusted pup. Dogs are an incredible source of joy, but they also require a commitment to ensure their safety and well-being. Puppies are especially vulnerable to life’s everyday challenges and proper nutrition should be an important area of focus.

Most new puppy owners ask a very good, very basic question: “What should I feed my puppy?” Some answers can be overwhelming with technical information, while others can leave us with more questions than when we started. Online research is a common place to begin your education, but there is as much bad advice as there is good. Luckily, there are other resources available to you. A holistic veterinarian with a solid background in canine nutrition can provide excellent guidance. Your local pet store also has employees generally more educated than the average Joe. Even some branded pet food companies, like us, provide objective advice worth listening to. So here goes…

Puppy Food 101

Without going too far down the technical or regulatory rabbit hole, a little context may be helpful. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) is the quasi-governmental body that establishes nutrient profiles for pet food. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and various state regulatory agencies are the actual governmental entities that enforce the standards established by AAFCO. To put it another way, AAFCO sets the rules and state regulatory agencies enforce them.

AAFCO has established two dog food nutrient profiles:

Dog foods fitting into this category have the nutrients adult dogs need. Generally speaking, dogs over the age of one are considered adults. The exception to this is for some large and giant breeds who do not fully mature until they get a bit older.
Puppies and pregnant or lactating dogs fit into this category and have different nutritional needs from adult dogs.

These are not either-or categories for pet food. Well formulated foods can fit into both profiles at the same time. Confused? You’re not alone. Dog food manufacturers do their best to overly-complicate things so unsuspecting new dog owners buy expensive products they don’t need. Claiming that only puppy-specific foods can properly nourish a young dog is like saying only a sports car can drive fast. Here in Boulder, CO our wagons and trucks get us from point A to point B plenty fast and they do so quite safely, comfortably and affordably.

Key Puppy Nutrients

Ingredient Benefit BIXBI RAWBBLE
High-Quality Protein Helps develop strong muscle tissue We only use fresh meat and never add rendered meat meal powders. Our approach delivers an especially delicious, nutritious protein source with industry-leading protein digestibility. RAWBBLE Dry Foods = 90% average protein digestibility RAWBBLE Freeze-Dried Foods = 95% average protein digestibility
High-Quality Fat Helps develop brain and nerve tissue, and proper vision RAWBBLE uses salmon oil as a very high-quality fat source, providing plenty of absorbable Omega-3s like DHA and EPA.
Minerals like Calcium and Phosphorus Help develop strong bones and teeth High-quality fresh meat used in RAWBBLE foods is loaded with naturally occurring phosphorus. Calcium comes from various sources including ground bone or by simply adding it to the recipe (shown as dicalcium phosphate on the ingredient panel).
Antioxidants Help strengthen the immune system Salmon oil, pumpkin and raspberries provide excellent antioxidant support in RAWBBLE foods.
A quality dog food, like BIXBI RAWBBLE, will help a puppy develop and flourish and delivers the nutrient profile established for growth and reproduction. It does not need to say the word “Puppy” on the bag to be fantastic food. It needs to provide key nutrients, in the correct quantities, to help your puppy thrive. It’s what’s in the bag, not on the bag, that matters. Marketing puffery aside, you should look for these key components in any food suitable for young dogs.

How Often should I feed my puppy?

After a puppy is fully weaned (anywhere from 6-9 weeks old) they should eat between 3-4 times a day. Keep in mind that you should be feeding the recommended amount, just spread out over the day. The smaller meals are easier on the puppies digestive system and help the puppy keep more consistent energy levels throughout the day. Once your puppy hits 8-9 months you can transition to a typical 2-3 times a day feeding schedule. 

Pro Tip: Use meal time for training

There is nothing better than a new puppy. But a new puppy requires a lot of training to learn those new tricks and good behaviors. Training can be hard, so it is always good to positively reward the wins. What you need to avoid are too many extra calories from too many extra treats. That’s why is can be a great idea to turn one of your pup’s meal times into training time. A few pieces of RAWBBLE Dry or Freeze-Dried can be a high value reward for a job well done. 

Technical Puppy Nerd Stuff

The average consumer usually stops reading here… Don’t be the average consumer. Puppy nutrition is cool. You can impress your friends and family and make educated decisions about your puppy’s food. It’s important for you to understand that not all dog foods are created equal. BIXBI RAWBBLE exceeds the minimum requirements established by AAFCO for growth and reproduction nutrient profiles and we do it without marketing puffery. Our motto is, “Don’t say good. Be good.” By using whole food ingredients, loads of fresh meat and taking a gentle processing approach, BIXBI RAWBBLE foods deliver protein digestibility that’s off the charts. Digestibility is the name of the game and we deliver that like no other. Some puppy foods do what’s called ingredient stacking to hit protein levels. They load up with synthetics, fractionated ingredients and a bunch of fake meat (called chicken meal, fish meal, etc.) so their marketing department can make high protein claims. The problem with all this is their foods have relatively low digestibility. The average meat meal recipe (eg, one with chicken meal, fish meal, etc.) has a digestibility rating in the high 70% range. Really good food can get into the high 80% range. Exceptional food is in the 90 %s. BIXBI foods average greater than 90%.

Puppies need absorbable nutrition. Their growing bodies need highly digestible foods to maximize nutrient uptake. This is not a complicated concept. What is complicated, however, is determining digestibility ratings for other dog foods. BIXBI shares its digestibility test results on our product pages, because it’s important…and because we rock! Good luck getting that info from other brands. AAFCO does not require dog food brands to test for digestibility. Even if a brand does the testing, 99% of them won’t share the results. Why? We’ll give you one guess.

Back to the nerdery…

Protein digestibility is a key measure of quality, but there are other considerations as well. AAFCO has set the following minimum and maximum nutrient levels for puppy foods. Note that maximums are only set for a small number of nutrients because these have safety issues beyond a certain level. We have not included every AAFCO nutrient level on the below chart. We have picked the ones most relevant, and often discussed, for puppy nutrition. The entire list is viewable here.

BIXBI RAWBBLE foods are all specifically formulated to exceed AAFCO minimum nutrient requirements for a growth and reproductive diet. But it’s important to note that we do this without low digestibility ingredients. Without fractionated ingredients. Without ingredients from China, which is so common in our industry. At BIXBI, we take the less-is-more approach. Fewer, better ingredients can provide whole food nutrition and the life-sustaining nutrients puppies need to thrive.
Nutrient AAFCO Min. AAFCO Max. BIXBI RAWBBLE Chicken Dry Food*
Crude Protein 22.5% N/A 30.0% min.
Crude Fat 8.5% N/A 15% min.
Calcium 1.2% 1.8%** 1.48%
Phosphorus 1.0% 1.6% 1.18%
Selenium 0.35 mg/kg 2.0 mg/kg 1.14 mg/kg
Iodine 1.0 mg/kg 11.0 mg/kg 2.21 mg/kg
Vitamin A 5000 IU/kg 250,000 IU/kg 19,000 IU/kg
Vitamin D 500 IU/kg 3000 IU/kg 1369 IU/kg

* Note: every dog food recipe has its own specific nutrient levels based on its formulation. We use our RAWBBLE chicken dry food for the example above because it is our most popular food for puppies.
** 1.8% includes diets for large breed puppies. Max is 2.5% for diets that exclude large breed puppies

Puppy vs. Adult Dog Food

A quick review of the above info tells us two key things:

  1. AAFCO mandates that puppy appropriate foods meet certain minimum nutritional requirements
  2. Meeting these requirements doesn’t necessarily mean the food is healthy

Most manufacturers suggest switching from a puppy specific food to an adult-specific food because they make higher profit margins on adult food. Since AAFCO sets lower nutritional levels for diets considered “Adult Maintenance”, ingredient panels can be less robust. Manufacturers can include less protein, less phosphorus, less calcium. They can replace beneficial nutrients with much cheaper fillers like rice or corn or wheat. Consider the same AAFCO nutrients listed above, but this time let’s compare the requirements for each type of AAFCO defined diet.

Does anyone believe that an 18% crude protein level is enough to maximize a dog’s nutritional well-being? AAFCO’s own guidelines use the words “nutritional adequacy.” Do you want your dog’s diet to be “adequate,” or would you prefer it to be at rock star levels? What does it say about any pet food company if their recommended diets for adult dogs are worse than the diet they recommend for puppies? Again…one guess.

Nutrient AAFCO Min. for Growth & Reproduction AAFCO Min. for Adult Maintenance
Crude Protein 22.5% 18.0%
Crude Fat 8.5% 5.5%
Calcium 1.2% 0.5%
Phosphorus 1.0% 0.4%
Selenium 0.35 mg/kg 0.35 mg/kg
Iodine 1.0 mg/kg 1.0 mg/kg
Vitamin A 5000 IU/kg 5000 IU/kg
Vitamin D 500 IU/kg 500 IU/kg

Large Breed Puppies

If you are the proud owner of a large or giant breed puppy you’ll want to hang with us a bit longer. Large and giant breeds take a bit longer to reach maturity. Generally speaking, these breeds are considered adult dogs somewhere in the 18-24 month age range. It’s especially important that large breed puppies grow steadily, and not too quickly to avoid bone abnormalities and joint issues. So, exert some control over your dog’s diet and help control her/his growth. This includes treats, which should make up no more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily caloric intake. A lean dog is usually a much healthier dog.You know your puppy is a good weight if you can’t see their ribs or hip bones, but can feel them when you lightly pet them.
At BIXBI, we formulate our recipes by starting with the assumption that consumers want, and their dogs need, rock star quality. Our foods are complete and balanced for all life stages because we assume puppies and healthy adults both need superior nutrition to maximize wellness potential. And, most importantly, we don’t develop our foods to meet a paper regulatory requirement. We formulate for health and well-being. We formulate for digestibility levels that maximize nutrient bioavailability. We formulate from a place where whole food ingredients that provide whole food nutrition are the gold standard, and we’ve built our supply chain to deliver that.

Who is the “we” you ask? Who creates this magical formulation of which we speak? Glad you asked. There is a team of experts with decades of experience in canine nutrition behind our proverbial curtain. It’s not enough to say “vet formulated.” That would be puffery (see above). Our R&D team includes a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist and a Ph.D. in Companion Animal Nutrition. We take this seriously. And of course, we want to be a successful, profitable company in the process. But we don’t start from there. Rather, we hope to end there.

Don’t say good. Be good.

Job Well Done

As a reward for being an educated responsible puppy owner, here’s 30-seconds of puppies.

Want more awesome puppy tips? How about amazing dog content delivered to your inbox in a frequent yet not annoying cadence?
Perfect, that is exactly what our newsletter is!