Interview With Dr. Chavez on Puppy Nutrition

Much like nutritional information for people, there is a ton of information on pet nutrition available. Luckily for us, we were able to go straight to an expert for advice, and interview Dr. Oscar E. Chavez, BVetMed MRCVS MBA. Dr. Chavez is the Chief Medical Officer and Director of Canine Clinical Nutrition for Just Food For Dogs, based in Los Alamitos, CA. 

Wag Hotels: How does puppy food differ from adult dog food? 

Dr. Chavez: Puppy food is formulated to contain a higher concentration of specific nutrients that a growing puppy needs. For example, calcium and phosphorus are in greater quantities in puppy food because a puppy is making and building bone. Iron, selenium, magnesium, and vitamins are also present in higher quantities. Puppies also eat a lot more food because they are turning it into growth. Your dog may eat more food at 3 months of age, then at 3 years of age even though it's three times bigger! 

WH: If someone is choosing to do treat based training, with their puppy, would that affect what or how much food they are feeding their dog?

DC: Treat based training is best done with small pieces of treats. I usually tell people no larger than a cheerio. If you use this rule of thumb, you won’t tend to over do it with the treat based training. Also, remember, treats are only given initially, as motivation. After the puppy learns the new command and has done it (for treats) consistently, you should discontinue giving treats for that command and give verbal and physical praise. 

WH: At what age do puppies typically transition to adult food?

DC: This will depend on the breed, but generally speaking dogs can switch to adult food once they are done growing (or are full size). This will happen at 10 months to 24 months depending on breed. Small breed dogs <10 lbs will likely grow to full size by 10 months. A Great Dane or Mastiff, on the other hand, might take the full 2 years. 

WH: Are the certain signals a dog owner should be looking for in their puppy, to indicate that they may need to look at switching up their food?

DC: You always want to make sure you are feeding a diet that has been formulated for growth. It should say so on the label, or some diets will say it’s good for “all life stages” which is essentially puppy food. Puppies are doing well if they are growing steadily, have no abnormal gait or posture, and have normal stools. If you notice any issues with growth, development, or stool consistency and appetite, then talk to your vet about switching foods. 

WH: Do some breeds do better on certain proteins than others? What is your opinion on switching up proteins for puppies?

DC: “Breeds” per se don’t need specific proteins, but some dogs do better on some proteins than others based on their own unique and specific physiology. Some dogs will do better on a few select proteins or minimal variety, while others will thrive on lots of variety. I always tell people to keep it simple. Pick 2-3 proteins they like, and switch between them if you want to provide variety. Or, if there’s a food sensitivity or allergy, stick to just one protein. 

For more specific information on a diet best for your puppy, we always recommend consulting their veterinarian. 

For more information on Just Food For Dogs, please visit

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