ISSN 2398-2942      

Dietary requirements: growth


Dietary requirements

  • Most rapid growth period is during first 6 months ’ bodyweight at maturity = x40-50 birthweight.
  • Most dogs reach 50% of adult weight by 5-6 months, however significant breed differences exist. Small breeds reaching mature weight at 7-8 months while giant breeds may grow in weight until 18 months.
  • Balanced diet - formulated for growth - is essential, providing increased energy and balanced protein, minerals and essential nutrients per unit bodyweight compared to adult maintenance ration.
  • Maximum bodyweight growth is not optimum growth because being overweight during skeletal maturation increases the risk for bone and joint problems (hip dysplasia (HD Hip: dysplasia ), elbow dysplasia (ED) and osteochondritis/osteochondrosis (OCD Osteochondrosis ) in genetically predisposed breeds).
    Growing dogs do have different nutrient requirements from adults. In large and giant breeds nutrition has been proven to impact bone and joint health.
  • Energy requirement = x2 normal adult maintenance, on average.
  • Requirement is higher just after weaning then decreases as growth rate decreases (after 6 months).
    General guideline: avoid dog being overweight during growth. Energy intake = x2 maintenance level ’ x1.6 maintenance level once reached 40% of adult weight ’ x1.2 maintenance level once reached 80% of adult weight.
  • Higher requirement than adult maintenance to ensure sufficient level of essential amino acids.
  • Diets should contain higher protein levels, balanced to the higher energy density of food, than adult maintenance diet and be of high quality and highly digestible.
  • Higher protein % in large and giant breed foods Dietary requirements: by breed is important to keep optimal protein:energy balance.
  • 26% is the minimum energy proportion that should be supplied by protein in a growth ration.
Calcium and phosphorus
  • Research has shown that daily calcium (Ca) intake is the most important risk factor in dogs genetically predisposed for OCD.
  • Recommendation: minimum [calcium] = 0.8-0.9% have proven to support healthy bone and joint development in diets formulated for large and giant breeds; safe upper level assumed to be about 1.3%-1.5%. Phosphorus [P] levels at about 90% of Ca support optimal growth.
    Do not feed adult diets and do not add extra Ca to complete and balanced diets because of the risk of certain skeletal disorders Hip: dysplasia.

    High Ca requirements of growing large and giant breeds is adequately covered by the high food intake with levels of over 0.8% Ca.

New ingredients

  • Recently new ingredients including essential fatty acids (omega 3) and nutraceuticals Therapeutics: oral chondroprotectants such as chondroitin sulfate Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine Glucosamine , have been introduced as valuable components to diets for growing dogs, especially for those at risk for developmental joint diseases such as osteochondritis and hip dysplasia. The majority of the available literature suggests beneficial effects of these ingredients on cartilage condition. Conditional usage can therefore not be advised against. However, there are no guarantees for positive effects and dose effect relationships for clinical cases do not exist. Further double blind placebo controlled studies in clinical cases are needed to convince the scientific critics who argue based on other studies that positive effects are lacking today.

Digestibility and energy density

  • Important because of quantity of food required for growth and development, viz. growing dogs have higher energy and essential nutrient requirements but less digestive capacity, smaller mouths, and smaller and fewer teeth than adults.
    With poor quality food, a dog's gastric capacity may be reached before sufficient nutrients have been consumed.
    Overfeeding ’accelerated bodyweight growth rates ’eventual obesity.

Feeding procedure

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Kealy R D, Lawler D F, Ballam J M et al (2002) Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. JAVMA 220 (9), 1315-1320 PubMed.
  • Schoenmakers I, Nap R C, Mol J A et al (1999) Calcium metabolism: An overview of its hormonal regulation and interaction with skeletal integrity. Vet Q 21 (4), 147-153 PubMed.
  • Kealy R D, Lawler D F, Ballam J F et al (1997) Five-year longitudinal study of osteoarthritis in coxofemoral joints of dogs. JAVMA 210 (2), 222-225 PubMed.
  • Lust G, Williams A J, Burton-Wurster N et al (1993) Joint laxity and its association with hip dysplasia in Labrador Retrievers. Am J Vet Res 54 (12), 1990-1999 PubMed.
  • Kealy R D, Olsson S E, Monti K L et al (1992) Effects of limited food consumption on the incidence of hip dysplasia in growing dogs. JAVMA 201 (6), 857-863 PubMed.
  • Goedegebuure S A & Hazewinkel H A (1986) Morpholoical findings in young dogs chronically fed a diet containing excess calcium. Vet Pathol 23 (5), 594-605 PubMed.
  • Hazewinkel H A W, Goedegebuure S A, Poulos P W et al (1985) Influences of chronic calcium excess on skeletal development of growing Great Danes. JAVMA 21 (3), 377-391 VetMedResource.
  • Lust G, Rendano V T, Summers B A (1985) Canine hip dysplasia: concepts and diagnosis. JAVMA 187 (6), 638-640 PubMed.
  • Hedhammar A, Wu F M, Krook L et al (1974) Overnutrition and skeletal disease. An experimental study in growing Great Dane dogs. Cornell Vet 64 (2), 5-160 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Tryfonidou M A (2002) Involvement of Vitamin D3 metabolism in calcium homeostasis and skeletal development in growing dogs. Thesis Utrecht University, Utrecht NL.
  • Nap R C, Hazewinkel HAWH & van den Brom W E (1993) Growth and skeletal development in miniature poodles fed different levels of calcium: radiographic, histologic and endocrine aspects. 75-93. Thesis Utrecht University, Utrecht NL.

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