Brown Labrador Retriever puppy standing indoors next to a stainless steel feeding bowl
Golden Retriever puppy running outdoors in grass

The developmental needs of puppies

The needs of growing puppies are very different from those of adult dogs, and not remotely similar to those of humans. Their diet must provide them with the nutrients needed to maintain body condition, and with the right nutrient mix to develop their bodies and ensure correct growth. It must also take into account their immature digestion, immunity and dentition. A perfectly tailored nutritional solution supports the body’s growth, energy needs and immune function.

Key requirements of a puppy’s diet

High energy provision to aid growth

Tailored to mouth size and dental structure

Strengthen immature immune system

Aids cognitive, skeletal and cell development

Easily digestible


The term “carbohydrates” mostly includes sugars, fibre and starch. They play an essential role in enhancing body function in dogs and cats. Sugars and starch that are used in ROYAL CANIN® diets, are useful and easily digestible form of energy for growing puppies.

Dietary fibre

Dietary fibre can be found in carbohydrate-like substances such as pectin, cellulose and lignin. They are sourced from plant materials such as wholemeal cereals, root vegetables, fruit and gelling agents. Limited amounts of dietary fibre in a puppy’s diet can be useful in the prevention of gastro-intestinal issues such as diarrhoea and constipation.


Dietary fats serve as the most concentrated source of energy in a balanced diet, and lend palatability and texture to puppy’s foods. As well as providing energy fats (also known as lipids) deliver essential fatty acids that are vital to body functions, while also positively effecting coat quality and a healthy nervous system.


Protein plays a vital role in healthy puppy development by forming and renewing tissue, muscle and the skeleton. Protein is a precious micronutrient for both the human and animals' food chains, and one which should be used as efficiently as possible. Proteins are composed of chains of hundreds (or even thousands) of amino acids.

There are 20 amino acids present in proteins and they are classified into two different types: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the puppy's body in sufficient amounts for healthy functioning and development, and therefore must be present in food. Non-essential amino acids can derive from excesses of essential dietary amino acids, but they are still vital to healthy function and should form part of a balanced diet.


There are two types of minerals required for healthy development. Macro-elements such as calcium, phosphorous and potassium enable a number of key functions in the puppy’s body, including healthy bone growth, transmission of nerve impulses and muscle metabolism. Trace elements such as iron, copper and manganese contribute, amongst other things, to healthy skin, bones, blood and coat.


Vitamins are needed for a wide range of biological and developmental functions including:

  • Immune and cognitive function
  • Cell function and repair
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Fat metabolism
  • Blood clotting
  • Brain and liver function

There are two types of vitamins: water soluble and fat soluble. A puppy is less able to store water soluble vitamins such as vitamin B, in particular thiamin, and riboflavin in its body and therefore it is critical that these vitamins are part of their regular daily diet.

Black Labrador Retriever puppy lying down outdoors next to a white bowl


The animal’s water requirements are mainly, but not entirely, met through drinking. The diet also contributes, firstly through its water content and secondly through the water produced as nutrients are assimilated. For example, when a puppy uses one gram of lipids it produces a little over one gram of water in the body.

Two puppies sitting outdoors eating from a feeding bowl

Maintaining a nutritionally balanced diet

The diet you feed your pet during puppyhood will influence their health and eating habits for the rest of their life. So ensuring they maintains a healthy balanced diet during this stage is vital. A nutritionally complete and balanced diet tailored to their specific size and breed needs plays a vital part in that. For further advice and information on choosing an appropriate diet for your pet, speak to your vet or search for a vet.

Our Puppy Ranges

ROYAL CANIN® puppy nutrition supports growth and development by providing all the nutrients essential to a puppy's needs in the first year of life.

Black Labrador Retriever puppy eating from a red bowl

Explore more about feeding

Your dogs diet during puppyhood will influence their health and eating habits for the rest of their life. Ensuring your puppy maintains a healthy diet during this stage is vital, so a nutritionally complete and balanced diet tailored towards their specific size and breed can play a vital part.