The growth rate of a puppy is influenced by the nutrient density of the food and the amount of food fed. Regardless of whether puppies grow slow or fast, they will still reach a similar adult weight. It is critical that puppies are fed for optimal growth and bone development, rather than maximal growth to avoid skeletal abnormalities.
Three dietary components have been implicated as factors that increase the incidence of skeletal disease in large and giant breed puppies; protein, calcium, and energy.
Puppies have a high requirement for dietary protein during growth and development and as a result, many puppy foods are higher in protein. Diets too low in protein can lead to reduced growth rates.
The most accurate means of assessing adequate growth is not by measuring weight, but rather by assessing body condition score. The body condition score should be assessed every 2 weeks in growing puppies and the amount of food fed adjusted accordingly to provide optimal nutrition.
When there is excessive energy intake in puppies, the muscles and other soft tissues grow faster than the skeleton can keep up with. It is critical that large and giant breed puppies are not fed ad libitum and that their body condition score is assessed regularly.
Unlike adult dogs, puppies are unable to control the absorption of calcium from their food to match their body’s requirements; they will absorb all the calcium they are fed. Over supplementing a diet with calcium will lead to levels well above what is required for growth.
Excessive calcium is just as detrimental to skeletal development as a calcium deficient diet (e.g. a raw meat diet). A good quality well balanced commercial puppy diet will contain optimal levels of calcium for growth and does not require additional supplementation.
Source: Royal Canin Dog Foods