If your puppy is rapidly approaching adulthood, or your faithful older canine has started slowing down a little, their nutritional needs will be changing as they age. We have put together some tips to help you navigate the challenges of your pet’s life stages.
Choosing a commercial dog food, adapted to your pet’s age, will help to ensure that your friend gets the most balanced and complete nutrition. To keep your pet healthy, feed according to the packet instructions, and try to restrict snacking to the odd healthy snack now and again.
Puppy (5 weeks – around 1 year)
Commercial puppy foods have the right balances of nutrients to support healthy development in this crucial growing phase. Feed your pup little and often (up to 6 meals per day in the early stages after weaning) to keep their energy levels up, as they only have small stomachs and should not eat too much in one go. Always provide a plentiful supply of fresh drinking water.
Because puppies are so active, they need a lot more energy in their diet than adult dogs. Puppy foods should also contain lots of high quality protein to promote muscle growth, plus calcium to build strong teeth and bones.
Some manufacturers refer to puppy food as ‘junior’ dog food. Always check the label to ensure the food you purchase is suitable for your dog’s lifestage and breed/ build, especially if you have a large or giant breed, as they actually need a more moderate energy content than regular puppy food provides to ensure they grow at a steady rate.
You should switch your puppy to adult dog food when it reaches its full adult height (physical maturity). This happens at different ages for different breeds, so consult your vet if you are unsure when to switch. Feeding puppy food to adult dogs risks them becoming obese and developing musculo-skeletal issues.
The first thing to consider when choosing an appropriate food for your dog is the breed and/or body shape. Different foods are available to suit different sizes of dog, and meet the specific needs of certain breeds.
The dog’s weight is also a factor to consider when choosing a food. If your dog is overweight, you may want to consider a ‘light’ or ‘weight management’ option. Alternatively, if you have a very active, fit dog, there are foods available to meet its increased energy requirements.
Never feed your dog cat food. Dogs are omnivorous, which means that they need a lot more fibre than cat food provides (as cat food contains a higher percentage of protein).
Senior Dog (age 7+)
As dogs get older, their metabolism slows down, so they may have a greater risk of diabetes and weight gain. Senior dog foods tend to have a lower GI (Glycaemic Index) and higher lean meat content, to reflect your senior pet’s reduced energy needs. Food for older dogs may also contain higher levels of glucosamine and chondroitin to help to support healthy joints. You may also want to consider your older pet’s teeth when choosing a new food for them, possibly opting for a softer kibble to make it easier to chew.