When you bring your puppy home, the breeder should have given you a diet sheet to follow. If they don't offer one then ask for a copy. This will detail the type of food your puppy has been eating and how his diet will change as he grows. They will suggest that if you wish to change this diet, it is advisable to do so over a period of a week, adding the new food to his usual food whilst decreasing his original food until you have completely changed his diet. This is how his diet should be changed at any time during the rest of his life.
There is no one diet that is best for your Irish Setter. It will be trial and error to find one that suits him and your lifestyle. Always feed the best quality food you can afford as the better quality food has less byproducts. Reading the label can make quite interesting reading. If the label says "meat and animal derivatives" this is a generic term for any animal protein and can come from any animal and almost any animal part, including the less desirable bits. Choose a food that is labelled " chicken" or "beef" and is specific. There is a growing choice of organic food and food without additives or colouring. Today there are many manufacturers that supply diets specifically for puppies, juniors, adults and even seniors as a dogs nutritional requirements change throughout its life.
There are a number of foods on the market and the choice will be your own. They are:
1 A Complete Dry Food.
2 A Concentrated Complete Dry Food.
3 Canned Food and a biscuit mixer. Many canned foods are now complete, but can be fed with a biscuit mixer.
4 Tripe or Fresh Mince with biscuit mixer.
It is not a good idea to feed flake type complete foods, as these can swell and ferment in the stomach. If the complete food you choose swells up when soaked, then feed it soaked. However, nowadays, most concentrated complete foods do not swell when soaked and can be fed dry.
Each manufacturer gives instructions as to how much to feed. This should only be used as a guide, because dogs, like humans, are individuals and you must decide whether your dog needs more or less than the manufacturer states. The basic rule is that your puppy or dog should never look thin and all his bones should be nicely covered with flesh. If you are unsure that you are giving your dog the right amount of food consult your vet or veterinary nurse.
It is important to remember that is it is possible to give your dog too much food and many vets today are finding they need to run obesity clinics to help dogs lose weight. Your dog should always have a waist and you should just be able to see his ribs.
Complete foods are, as they say, complete and will contain all the vitamins and minerals needed for both puppies and adults. However, if your puppy becomes faddy and he may do so on leaving his siblings, as the competition will have gone, then it may be best to feed him a concentrated complete food, as they do not need to eat large amounts to get the necessary nutrition. If you feed canned meat, tripe or mince, then you should consider giving calcium tablets daily to puppies (Canovel is excellent and states the dosage on the drum) together with a vitamin/mineral supplement such as SA37.
Stick to one food with your dog, as contrary to popular belief, dogs do not get tired of a food. The need for variety is a human trait, so do not spoil him, as frequently changing his food will possibly make him a finicky eater.
Fresh water should always be available; however it should be restricted for about an hour before and after food and exercise. It is essential that you never feed your dog immediately before or after exercise. Allow him to cool down for about an hour before feeding. Read the page on Bloat to find out why this is so important.
Around 5-6 months your puppy will probably be on 2-3 meals a day. Feeding his daily food ration twice a day instead of once is a good regime to follow through his lifetime. Mealtimes are generally the highlight of his day, so why not make his day twice!
Some people say not to give bones to your puppy as they can splinter and sharp, dangerous pieces can be swallowed, often resulting in emergency surgery. If you do decide to give them then make sure you only give large beef bones. Never give lamb or pork bones and never give cooked bones of any sort.
Be guided by your breeder as to whether to offer milk to your puppy, goats milk being more easily digested than cows, easily bought from large supermarkets and it freezes well. Only give it to older dogs as a treat or watered down, as it is not good for their digestive system, however much they like it!
The Pet Food Manufacturers Association has a website with lots of useful information: www.pfma.org.uk
In the past research has suggested that it is a good idea to raise the food bowl to help prevent your Irish Setter from bloating but the latest research suggests this is not the case. See our separate page on bloat for more information.