How slow-growth feeding promotes safe puppy growth (with charts)

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Dr Matthew Muir

Puppies grow up fast — but there’s such thing as too fast! While it’s true that playful pups need more nutrients than adults, an excess of calories or calcium can cause health problems.

Your puppy’s diet is a huge contributing factor to their future health, and slow growth feeding keeps the levels of certain ingredients to a controlled amount.

Puppy growth charts are a great starting point for tracking their transformation to an adult: but a knowledge of slow growth feeding is essential. Our puppy nutrition experts are here to guide you through this topic, covering everything to know about puppy growth charts, slow growth feeding, and the reasons Lyka makes life easy for new parents.

Can I use puppy growth charts to decide how much food my dog needs?

Puppy growth charts (like the commonly used WALTHAM charts) are a solid reference point for tracking your puppy’s growth, but they are best used as a guide and should not replace discussions with your veterinarian.

Large and giant breed puppies grow faster than small dogs, so controlling their growth rate via diet is critical. Puppies need food that’s proportional to their weight, with the right nutrient types and combinations to support them.

Nutritional requirements differ depending on breed, but also activity level and body condition — these are but a few of the factors that should be considered when weighing up your dog’s nutritional needs.

puppy growth chart for different dog sizes

“Lyka meals are portion controlled for your puppy’s specific needs, supporting growth at a safe and healthy rate. Our team of nutrition experts have used puppy growth charts as one point of reference (of many), in the process of designing Lyka's algorithm for serving size recommendations."

— Dr Matthew Muir, Lyka Co-founder and Integrative Veterinarian

Slow-growth feeding: an individualised alternative to puppy growth charts

All puppies benefit from slow growth feeding — this is because they can’t limit their absorption of minerals like calcium; and too much food during their years of growth and development can lead to obesity.*

Portion-controlled feeding prevents obesity in puppies, reducing risk of problems with skeletal development that are linked to overnutrition — especially in large to giant-breed dogs.**

According to Rhonda Hovan’s slow growth principles, slow growth feeding:

  • Reduces incidence and severity of orthopaedic diseases****

  • Lowers risk of soft tissue injuries during play and exercise, as faster growing puppies are more prone to injury.

The role parents play in monitoring weight and preventing obesity

It’s the same as it is with humans — more calories equal more body weight. For puppies especially, this is not good news: as extra weight can strain their immature, developing skeletons. Obesity is the biggest cause of nutrient imbalance and disease in dogs, with links to cancer and chronic disease later in life.

Leaner puppies also have a longer average health span — this means you’ll have your new best friend around for much longer, with better quality of life.

Speak to your veterinarian if you need support with weight management, monitoring body condition, or adjusting your puppy’s feeding schedule.

Healthy growth rate for large and giant breed puppies

Slow growth diets prevent large and giant breed puppies from sprouting up too fast — which can result in irreversible skeletal problems as they mature to full size.*

Rapid growth can lead to reduced bone density, and places stress on developing bones and joints. It has been linked to health conditions including:

  • Hip dysplasia

  • Elbow dysplasia

  • Panosteitis****

  • Osteochondrosis

  • Osteoarthritis

Large and giant breed dogs are 25 kg or over: with breeds including Bernese Mountain Dogs, Groodles, Old English Sheepdogs Great Danes, Labradors, and Rottweilers.

Will slow-growth feeding affect my dog’s size?

The short answer? No. They will reach their fully grown size, however, at a steadier and safer rate.

Studies have shown that controlled feeding does not reduce a dog’s final mature body size compared to puppies with unlimited access to food — dogs in both groups reach the same adult size, but slow growth fed puppies do so with fewer health issues.***

A slowed rate of growth means puppies are shorter and less physically developed than pups of the same age: but this is not permanent. Growth happens over a longer period, avoiding the steep and unnatural acceleration that results from overfeeding.

No need for a puppy growth chart — just update your customer dashboard

Lyka makes this easy for puppy parents: with a calorie calculator that considers your dog’s individual needs, providing a custom serving size based on breed, weight, age, and activity levels. This changes as your puppy hits certain weight milestones — we include this in the meal plan you receive in your first week with us.

When your pup hits these milestones, all you need to do is update this in your customer dashboard. You can always adjust (up or down) depending on your puppy’s energy and growth needs.

Why do companies make specific large-breed puppy foods?

Ultra-processed dog food brands make puppy food because their adult diets are unlikely to provide the right nutrients for puppies’ higher requirements. For large and giant breeds, traditional puppy food is too calorie-dense: this is why some companies have developed foods lower in calcium and calories.

But this isn’t necessarily the best option — the amount of calcium needs to be included in correct proportion to levels of phosphorus. Lyka includes the optimal Ca:P ratio of 1-1.5:1 for giant breeds, and 1-2:1 for small breeds.

You can read more about the difference between puppy and adult food in this expert-backed guide, where we also explain why you won’t need to switch from puppy to adult food with Lyka.

Lyka: giving puppies of all shapes and sizes the best start in life

Lyka’s gently cooked, real food range is made for dogs of all life stages, meeting AAFCO and FEDIAF requirements is just the start. The food is formulated by a team of board-certified veterinary nutritionists, led by co-founder Dr Matthew Muir.

Not sure where to start? Lyka’s Fish Bowl is suitable for larger dogs: it's high in omega-3 content, while being balanced in calcium and Vitamin D. It has the added benefit of being low in fat and calories. Our friendly Customer Care specialists are also always available to help you find the best options in our line-up of proteins for your dog.

* Hedhammar et al. 1974; Lavelle 1989; Kealy et al. 1992, cited in Fascetti et al. 2024

** Fascetti et al. 2024

*** Hedhammar et al. 1974, cited in Fascetti et al. 2024

****Kealy et al. 2000

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

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