Nutrition is the first step in keeping your new puppy or kitten healthy. Puppies and kittens both thrive when fed a balanced diet that changes according to their age and life stage. Developing a healthy and nutritious diet for your puppy or kitten will help set the foundation for their growth, energy levels and overall health.
A Balanced Diet For Puppies
When choosing a puppy food you need to consider the ingredients, serving sizes and food quality. The following may help:
Puppy Formula – This nutritious, premium-quality commercial food developed specifically for puppies will provide all the necessary nutrients to accommodate their rapid growth.
Breed Formulas And Size – Make sure you buy the correct food for your puppy’s breed and/or size, so that your puppy receives the correct amount of food and doesn’t gain too much weight as it grows.
Clean Water – Clean, freshwater should be available every day.
Avoid Feeding Puppies Human Food – Human foods are a common cause of skin conditions, allergies and obesity in dogs. Fatty foods such as sausages and bacon are common causes for pancreatitis in dogs and must be avoided. Chocolate, onions, garlic, nuts, avocado and grapes are also toxic to dogs.
How often should you feed your puppy?
Meals should be spaced out evenly throughout the day and changing your puppy’s diet or moving on to adult food should be managed gradually over a week to avoid tummy upsets.
Here are some general guidelines for a feeding schedule for puppies that have been weaned from their mother’s milk:
- Three to four meals per day until your puppy is 12 weeks old
- Two to three meals per day for puppies up to six months old
- One to two meals per day for dogs over six months old
A Balanced Diet For Kittens
Just like puppies, kittens require special dietary considerations for nutrition and feeding frequency.
To help foster proper growth and lifelong health, follow these guidelines for proper kitten nutrition:
Kitten Formulas – For the first year the best nutrition is specially formulated commercial food ‘for kittens’.
Small Meal Portions – Feed small amounts regularly. Don’t overfeed as this can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and weight gain.
Fresh Water – Make sure your kitten always has access to freshwater, and change it frequently.
Quiet, Secure Feeding Area – Feed your kitten in a clean, secure area away from lots of noise.
How often should you feed your kitten?
Establishing a feeding schedule with your kitten will help it develop lifelong good eating habits and avoid unhealthy weight gain.
Here’s a suggested feeding schedule for kittens that have been weaned from their mother’s milk:
- Three meals a day when your kitten is three to six months old
- Two meals a day when your kitten is six months old, and thereafter
If you want to change your kitten’s diet or transition to adult food, do so gradually over a week to avoid possible stomach irritation.
Foods you should not feed your kitten
To prevent potential health issues, don’t feed your kitten these foods:
- Milk and dairy products (most kittens are lactose intolerant)
- Tuna (a steady diet of tuna can cause malnutrition and mercury poisoning)
- Table scraps and bones (fat can cause digestive issues, and bones can splinter, causing intestinal cuts or blockage)
- Dog or puppy food (doesn’t provide the correct nutrients for kittens)
Other human foods are toxic to kittens and cats and should be avoided:
- Grapes and raisins
- Onions and garlic
Exercise Advice for Your Puppy and Kitten
Puppies and kittens often have endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm and harnessing this energy into appropriate exercise regimes will also result in happier, healthier pets.
How much exercise does my puppy or kitten need?
As standard, the Kennel Club recommends five minutes of exercise per month of age and this can be carried out twice a day. For example, at eight weeks of age puppies should be exercised for 10 minutes, twice a day and at 4 months, it should be 20 minutes, twice a day.
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. It is recommended that puppies are physically exercised, mentally stimulated and allowed downtime so that they can rest and learn to focus through exciting events.
Mental stimulation is exercise for the brain and helps with:
- Boredom prevention. If the brain isn’t exercised, puppies and dogs will find other sources of mental stimulation such as chewing, digging or barking!
- Improves owner to dog bond. Mental stimulation games and play can increase owner to dog relationships making happier dogs and owners.
- Improves overall behaviour. Increasing mental stimulation helps reduce stress or frustration in dogs and helps promote good behaviour choices
- Helps dogs tackle frustration. Dogs can often get frustrated (the toy that rolls under the sofa or the treat that isn’t quite within reach). Using appropriate mental stimulation games can help dogs become less frustrated and to build their levels of concentration.
Mental stimulation games to play:
- Find the food! This can be as simple as hiding puppy food or treats around the house and asking your puppy to find them or scattering puppy biscuits in the grass outside.
- Using food dispensing toys such as slow feeders or puzzle feeders. These can slow a puppy or adult dog from eating too quickly and also increases mental stimulation as they must work for their food.
- Learning new tasks. Teach your pup the behaviours you would prefer to see. We recommend teaching ‘settle’ or simply rewarding for when your puppy isn’t doing anything at all. This will enable your puppy over time to understand that ‘calmness’ is a behaviour worth doing as they will be rewarded for this. Teaching recall is another task that can provide mental stimulation through learning.
- Top Tip – dogs learn by association and must be rewarded within one second for them to associate the reward!
With cats and kittens, there is no set amount of exercise that should be carried out, but at least two play sessions per day for 15-20 minutes should help reduce boredom and keep them active.
The preferred methods of play for cats are:
- Pouncing. Toys that can be pounced on are a good choice.
- Climbing. Cats naturally prefer to be high up so having safe areas for cats to climb such as scratching posts, is a good option.
- Chasing. Similar to dogs, cats like to chase. Long feather type toys are a good choice.
- Batting. Cats also like to push things around the floor. Rolling toys such as balls are good for this.
- Exploring. Cats and kittens love new areas or objects such as cardboard boxes or cat activity stands.
Cats tend to hunt and be most active at dawn and dusk, which is a good time to play. Cats have a natural predatory sequence – search, stalk, chase, pounce, catch and manipulate. So, we must mimic the ‘catch’ part of this when playing with our kittens.
Indoor cats may be more at risk of experiencing boredom and frustration so it’s important to plan exercise and activities for indoor cats to ensure they are stimulated.
Examples of enrichment for cats include:
- Cardboard boxes. Use different sizes and move these around in different locations every day.
- Cat activity stands or scratching posts. The taller the scratching post, the better
- Puzzle feeders
- Various toys. Use different toys every day and rotate them weekly.
- Shelves. Having shelves around the house will make for a very happy cat as they prefer to explore from above
Neutering your kitten or puppy is another really important thing that you can do for the well-being of your pet.
It is usual for male kittens to be castrated from around four months of age before they start developing habits such as urine marking around the house. Female kittens come into heat every three weeks and become pregnant very easily. Therefore, we advise spaying from around four months of age.
We usually recommend female dogs are spayed before their first season at six months of age, except for certain larger breeds when we recommend before their second season. As well as preventing unwanted pregnancies, early spaying has been proven to result in a huge reduction in the occurrence of mammary tumours in older female dogs. It also prevents life-threatening uterus infections. This protection is dramatically reduced after the second season.
We usually start talking about castration for male dogs from six months of age before they start to develop male traits, such as roaming and urine marking. This also reduces the risk of developing prostate problems, anal tumours and testicular cancer. Also, by having them castrated at a young age, this may reduce the risk of them being stolen for breeding.
If you would like to find out more, please get in touch with us. We’ll talk through the options and discuss what’s best for your pet, considering their age and breed.
Vaccinations help to protect your pets from severe infectious diseases. It also prevents them from passing anything nasty on to other animals in the area. It is another one of the most important things you should do as a new puppy or kitten owner.
When should kittens be vaccinated?
To help protect kittens they’ll need two sets of vaccinations. Kittens should have their first set of vaccinations at nine weeks old and the second set to boost their immune system at three months old. After this, kittens and cats usually need ‘booster’ vaccinations every twelve months.
Until your kitten is fully vaccinated (and neutered), you should keep him or her inside. Your vet can advise which vaccinations your cat or kitten will need to help protect them from infectious diseases.
When should puppies be vaccinated?
Puppies are typically vaccinated at eight and ten weeks (although they can be vaccinated as early as four-six weeks of age) with the second dose usually being given two to four weeks later. Your vet will be happy to advise you on the best timings.
Your puppy will then require a booster vaccination at 6 or 12 months of age. As your puppy grows into an adult dog it’s important to ensure you visit your vet and keep your dogs vaccinations up to date.
Microchip Your New Arrival
No matter how careful we are, pets can and do go missing. A very simple solution to this is to microchip you puppy or kitten as soon as possible. It is more comfortable for a puppy if they are at least 7 weeks old and under the microchipping law that came into effect in April 2016, all dogs and puppies MUST be microchipped and registered by the age of eight weeks.
Although there is no law for cats, it is equally as important. Many cats roam over large distances and even house cats are prone to escaping if the opportunity presents itself!
It is a quick and simple procedure where a tiny chip is injected under a pet’s skin. This chip contains a unique code that is linked to the pet owner’s details.
Pet Health Plans
St Kitts Pet Health Plans are designed to save you money and help spread the cost of your pet’s routine and preventative treatment with simple low monthly payments. Plans are available for cats, dogs and rabbits and include worming treatment, booster vaccinations, microchipping and a six-monthly health check. Our Plus Plan additionally includes flea and tick treatment and a discount on your vet bills.
St Kitts Pet Care Plans are not designed to replace insurance and we recommend taking out a pet insurance policy to cover the costs in case of an accident or illness.
Please contact us for more details.
The Importance of Pet Insurance
Pet insurance can be used for most illnesses and injuries and enables you to claim back veterinary fees (except for a small excess). What’s more, the younger your pet is when you insure them the better! It will help to:
- Save you money
- Give you peace of mind
- Allow you to focus on your pet’s wellbeing
- Budget the cost of your pet’s care
There are many different types of pet insurance policies available on the market, so it’s important you choose the right level of cover for your pet. The four main types of policy are as follows:
- Accident: Provides cover for accidents only, no cover for illness.
- Time-limited: Cover is provided for a set period of time (usually 12 months) and after this period, the condition is excluded.
- Maximum benefit: Provides cover up to a maximum cost per condition. Once the limit is reached the condition is excluded.
- Lifetime: Provides a set amount each year which is refreshed each time your policy is renewed, allowing you to continue to claim for ongoing conditions.
Here at St Kitts Veterinary Group, we recommend an insurance company which offers a comprehensive lifetime policy to give you the best overall cover.
Puppy Parties are a great way to add to your socialisation training. These get-togethers are designed to teach your puppy how to interact with others, as well as giving you the chance to pick up some great hints and tips and ask any questions you might have. Why not bring your puppy along to our Puppy Parties at our Firgrove Veterinary Centre in Yateley? Please contact us for more details:
St Kitts Veterinary Centre: 01252 844044
Basingstoke Veterinary Centre: 01256 844944
Crookham Park Veterinary Centre: 01252 913990
Firgrove Veterinary Centre: 01252 877799