Monday, March 17, 2008

Proper Feeding and Exercise For Your Mastiff Puppy

This is the content of a handout I give all my Puppy buyers. There is some very good general information listed here.

Picking out your Mastiff puppy is only the first step towards owning a truly outstanding dog. Proper care and feeding are especially important the first 18 to 20 months of your pup’s life. Mastiffs grow rapidly the first 18 months in height and continue to grow in overall size (weight) until 3 to 3 1/2 years of age. Any loss suffered during this critical time can not be made up later. This fact alone is why we stress proper puppy care and feeding.

Mastiffs have been shown to grow and maintain proper growth on a 100% meat based diet. At no time should a Mastiff be fed a dog food with soybean meal. Soybean meal has been shown to contribute to the occurrence of canine bloat in large breeds. Experience has shown that while other dogs may thrive on a certain dog food, a Mastiff will do poorly or marginally.

Several large breed puppy foods are now available. Your puppy has been fed a combination of Black Gold Premium Adult Dog Food and canned Pedigree Puppy Lamb and Rice. A pure meat based feed is recommended with at least 25-27% protein and a 12-15% fat content as a puppy feed. After 12 months of age, an adult dog food with a 21-25% protein and 8-10% fat is recommended. Please note that high protein diets (>21%) in older (>5 years) large breed dogs has led to the development of renal and hepatic failure.

Your puppy has been fed a combination of moistened and dry feedings. For your convenience, advance the pup to dry feed by the age of 16 weeks. Your pup will need to be fed separately from other dogs and/or pups: Mastiffs are often so meek that they will allow other dogs to take their food (especially older dogs). Try to feed 3 to 4 times a day until your pup reaches 3-4 months of age, and then advance him to twice a day.

Let your puppy be the guide for the amount you feed it. Use the guideline below, but if your puppy eats the recommended amount of feed within a reasonable time (30-45 minutes), then increase the feeding 1-cup at a time. A pup that cleans his bowl at all its feedings needs to be fed a larger feeding portion.

Age of Pup Daily Amount Type Frequency
4-8 weeks 3-4 cups Moistened & Dry 3-4 times/day

8-12 weeks 4-6 cups Moistened & Dry 3-4 times/day

12-16 weeks 5-7 cups Dry 3-4 times/day

16-24 weeks 6-8 cups Dry 2-3 times/day
(4 to 6 months)

6-18 months 8-12 cups Dry 2 times/day

Some people oppose “free feeding”—placing out a daily quantity of feed out and leaving it so that the puppy can eat at any time. I have used the free feeding method to raise all my Mastiff puppies once they are weaned, and have never experience any problems. I find that my puppies as adult dogs do not “gulp” their food, eat moderate amounts without overeating, place themselves on an individualized schedule, and I have never had a case of bloat.

I place out fresh clean water 2-3 times a day; keep dry food available at all times, but place out moistened feed 1-2 times a day until the pups reach 12 weeks of age. I do not use feeders; puppies need daily contact and socialization. As I feed and water, I monitor my puppies for health problems, make observations about temperament and interactions, and work on socialization.

Always keep plenty of fresh water available and provide a shaded area for your puppy/dog when it is outside. Mastiffs are especially prone to heat exhaustion and can die in less than one (1) hour. An adult Mastiff will consume up to 2 ½ gallons of water a day and more during hot weather. A good rule of thumb is to leave a 5-Gallon bucket per adult dog. Automatic livestock waters work well (but can provide entertainment if the Mastiffs take it apart!); I use kiddie wading pools as cool down areas for my dogs. Mastiffs love to swim and play in water.

Studies have shown daily supplements of Vitamin C will decrease the incidence and/or severity of hip dysplasia. Your puppy has been receiving 1000 mg of vitamin C each day and this should be increase at 16 weeks of age to 2000mg per day. This is the only dietary supplement recommended and is required for you to meet your sales health agreement. It is your responsibility to keep sales receipts/records showing your purchases of Vitamin C to document proof of its’ usage. Although most Vets will disagree with this policy—a study done at Cornell School of Vet Medicine supports this practice.

DO NOT GIVE CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS! The use of calcium supplements can lead to bone and joint deformities and electrolyte imbalances. Your pup’s food will supply the proper balance of minerals for its growth.

I do give a multi-Vitamin—I use a GNC product --- Preventron. I give 2 tablets a day along with the Vitamin C. I use a pill crusher—it can be bought at any drugstore—crush the pills and add the powder into the food once a day. I feel that this supplement assists in proper growth of joints and bones. I have practiced this policy with my dogs for over 15 years and I have never had a case of hip dysplasia.

Due to the rapid growth of these pups, under no condition should extensive road work (running) type exercises be done until after the age of 18 months. Joints and growing bones are too prone to injury. Do not allow the pup to jump off elevated areas (i.e. porches, decks, and pick-up truck beds) or walk up more than 3 steps. I have seen a 10 week old large breed puppy break both front legs jumping off a 2-3 foot high deck. They could also damage their shoulder joints. Likewise, puppies should not be allowed to play or spend significant time on slippery surfaces (i.e. tile or linoleum floors) in order to prevent joint injuries.

Do not allow the Mastiff puppy to become overweight as this places stress on the growth plates of its bones. Likewise, do not keep your puppy crated for long, extended periods of time. Lack of exercise is just as bad as too much exercise. Your puppy will need to exercise to develop proper muscle tone and bone structure to carry its adult weight and be a strong healthy, active dog.

Although your puppy may look big, do not allow children to pull on the legs, jump on, or lie on your puppy. Long term permanent injury could result. Always supervise your children (both the very young and the older) and teach them proper interactions with your puppy. Teasing, hitting at, and causing harm can cause your puppy to have a permanent antisocial temperament. A puppy should receive love and positive reinforcement from all members of its family.

Because Mastiffs are large, fast growing dogs and their joint development is slow; the dog’s level of exercise must be monitored closely until the age of 18 months to prevent injuries. You must monitor activity level to avoid over-exertion while insuring that the dog receives sufficient exercise. This can normally be accomplished by such means as walks or play sessions with toys. Be careful to stop when the dog shows signs of fatigue; don’t take young puppies on long walks unless you can carry them home! Particular care must be taken to insure that a puppy is not injured or over-tired by play with a mature dog. Never leave a puppy under the age of 6 months alone with adult dogs. Always supervise interaction to prevent injury to the puppy.

Remember, the time, expense, and care you provide these first few months determines a great deal of the overall size, health, soundness, and longevity of your puppy. Proper loving care will produce a most devoted companion. As Mastiff breeders and owners, we want the Mastiff to be as we call them “gentle giants” and loyal guardians with loving temperaments and proud demeanors.

At Kiokee Mastiffs, we have developed a proven track record. Our dogs are sound in body and mind. Our practices and advice is based on documented scientific facts, practical experience, and our own successes and failures. By informing you, the buyer, we hope to allow you the chance to avoid some of our errors. It is your choice whether to listen and consider.

We are always available as an information resource for you and your “new” family member. Please keep in touch.

Cathy (Catie) Arney