Q: My new puppy is 5 months old and a little on the skinny side. Can you give me some tips on fattening her up? Should I cook for her or just feed her more of her regular food?

A: I'm betting that your puppy isn't too skinny.

When we picture puppies in our minds, the image is usually of a roly-poly fuzzball. But when it comes to growing puppies, being on the thin side is better. Puppies need to grow slowly and steadily. Putting on too much weight too quickly stresses their still-developing bones and joints and can lead to orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia later in life.

A good rule to live by is "Watch the dog; don't watch the bowl." In other words, how the dog looks should tell you whether you're feeding the right amount. A healthy puppy in good shape looks muscular but not fat.

To gauge your puppy's overall condition, give her an "eye exam" followed by a hands-on test. Eye your pup from above; she should have a visible waistline when you look down at her. Then put your hands on her, thumbs along the spine and fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel, but not see, her ribs. If you can see her ribs, feed more.

I'm a big fan of feeding puppies with puzzle toys instead of bowls. Having to put forth some effort for their food keeps dogs from eating too much or too quickly. Put your dog's normal amount of food in the toy and let her push, roll or manipulate it in other ways to get the food to fall out. Keep several and rotate them to keep your pup interested and challenge her brain and body.

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