Lifestage Nutrition: The Best Food for Puppies, Adult and Senior Dogs

Dog lifestage nutrition | Animed Direct

Depending on your dog’s breed and size, your faithful companion could be with you for up to 20 years. During this time their bodies will change, their energy levels will alter and the type of nutrients they require will change. Lifestage nutrition is all about making sure that your dog is receiving the right diet at the right time. There are three main lifestages for a dog: puppy, adult and senior. Puppy food will meet the specific requirements of young, growing dogs, just as senior dog food will contain the right balance of nutrients for ageing dogs. Making sure your dog gets the right nutrition is very important for their growth, development and overall health.

What is Lifestage Nutrition?

Lifestage nutrition aims to provide the correct nutrition for your dog at different ages throughout their life. Puppies, adult and senior dogs all need different levels of protein, vitamins, minerals and fats in their diet. Understanding the lifestage requirements of your dog can help you choose the best diet to keep them happy and healthy.

Puppy Food

Dogs are considered to be puppies throughout the first 1 to 2 years of their life. Larger dog breeds will remain in their puppy phase for longer than smaller breeds. The puppy stage is the period of major growth when dogs grow and develop very quickly.

Puppy food needs to support this rapid rate of growth – and it also needs to sustain all the energy that excitable puppies have!

Puppy food for small and medium breeds is specifically developed to support growing bodies, containing the highest levels of protein and fat than any other lifestage diet. The only exception is pregnant or lactating dogs who have even higher energy requirements. Puppy food is also higher in calcium and phosphorus, nutrients that promote good bone health. The increased calories in puppy food will sustain a young pup’s boundless energy too.

When it comes to large breed puppies however, energy content should be restricted somewhat to control growth. This is because if their weight increases too rapidly, their bone development can’t keep up, and it can damage the joints. Calorie-restricted diets reduce the risk of this happening, and can reduce joint problems later in life.

When it comes to dry puppy food, the size of the kibble is also important. Puppies only have small mouths, so small kibble (around 9mm in size) is essential to making sure they can easily eat it.

Difference Between Puppy and Adult Dog Food

A common question that gets asked is, ‘Can puppies eat adult dog food?’ The answer to this question is no, an adult dog’s diet will not provide a puppy with the correct balance of nutrients they need to grow and develop as they should. A general, all-purpose dog food will not support the growing body of a puppy. The main difference between puppy and adult dog food is that puppy food contains more protein and fat, as well as increased levels of other nutrients like calcium and phosphorus.

Junior Dog Food

Like puppies, adolescent or junior dogs still have plenty of energy, and still have some growing to do – but not at quite the same rate as puppies. Lifestage nutrition for junior dogs should support their continued development and high activity levels with enough protein and fat, but less than they had as a puppy to allow for the slower rate of growth.

Kibble will also increase in size for dry junior dog food, to account for your pup’s growing mouth.

Adult Dog Food

While growth doesn’t stop immediately, it does slow down as dogs reach adulthood. Adult dogs are in the maintenance phase of life. This means they are less likely to need the same high levels of fats and proteins to assist development as they did previously. However, they still need enough to support their daily activities and bodily functions. Adult dog food contains the right levels of nutrients for this stage of life.

The age at which your pet becomes an adult varies slightly depending on their size and breed. For example, a small dog breed may become an adult at around 9-12 months, a medium breed at around 12 months of age, and larger breed dogs could be anywhere between 12-24 months.

If you’re unsure what age your dog should move on to the next stage of nutrition, have a chat with your vet. Alternatively, visit your pet food manufacturer’s website as there will be plenty of advice on when your puppy should move on to adult dog food.

Note: If you neuter or spay your dog, they may start to gain weight. This is due to changes in their calorie requirements. If they do start to get too heavy, look for foods specifically for neutered dogs. These foods contain fewer calories and can help control appetite.

Senior Dog Food

The age at which a dog is considered to be senior varies a lot from breed to breed. In general, the age at which a dog enters the senior lifestage is as follows:

  • Small dogs: 8-10 years old
  • Medium dogs: 7 years old
  • Large dogs: 5-6 years old

As dogs approach their senior years, making sure they have the right nutrition for their lifestage is essential to keeping them happy and healthy for as long as possible. Lifestage nutrition during a dog’s senior years should factor in their activity levels, digestive ability and joints.

The amount of fat and protein in senior dog food is the lowest of all the lifestages. This is partly because senior dogs tend to lead a more sedentary lifestyle, so they need fewer calories to avoid becoming overweight. It’s also because they are less able to digest and utilise fats and proteins than they used to be. The lower levels of fat and protein in senior dog food avoids providing too many nutrients that the dog can’t use, and is less likely to cause digestive issues.

However, the levels of glucosamine should increase for dogs in their senior years. Glucosamine is an amino sugar found in healthy joint cartilage. It helps to promote cartilage regeneration and maintenance, something older dogs find more difficult. As dogs get older, they produce less glucosamine naturally and so obtaining more through their diet can help to keep their cartilage in good condition. This is essential for healthy bone function and joint health, which many senior dogs struggle with. Glucosamine can be found in many diets and supplements in different forms, such as glucosamine sulfate.

James Wellbeloved Senior Dog Food

James Wellbeloved is a natural dog food brand that offers a range of lifestage nutrition diets, including those suitable for ageing dogs. James Wellbeloved Senior Dog Food is available in both wet and dry varieties, and contains simple, easily digestible ingredients. Suitable for dogs over 7 years old, it’s packed with essential amino acids to help maintain healthy hearts, and chondroitin and glucosamine to support healthy joints.

Specific Health Conditions in Senior Dogs

Ageing often brings with it certain conditions such as kidney, urinary tract and joint disease, as well as difficulties controlling or maintaining a healthy weight. If your pet has a condition diagnosed by a vet, be aware that there are many diets available that help support these conditions. You should discuss the best option for your dog with your vet.

What Type of Dog Food is Best for My Dog?

This really depends on the individual dog! As well as taking lifestage nutrition into consideration, you should also consider breed, lifestyle and health when choosing a dog food. Weigh up the benefits of different kinds of dog food too, such as science diets and natural dog food.

Science-based dog foods are grounded in research with the help of nutritionists and veterinarians. They aim to deliver the specific nutrient requirements of different breeds and ages, and they are a great option if you need help managing specific health conditions like diabetes or kidney problems. Science brands include Royal Canin, Hill’s and Purina.

Natural dog food takes a different approach. Natural brands, such as Nature’s Menu, Butcher’s and James Wellbeloved use simple, recognisable ingredients that are closer to what our dog’s ancestors would have eaten. Packed with fruit, vegetables and meat, natural dog food aims to provide with all the nutrients they need, with nothing artificial.

There are merits to both types of dog food. If you’re unsure which kind would be best for your dog, have a chat with your vet to help you decide.

Wrapping Up

Feeding your dog a diet that’s specifically suited to their current lifestage will make sure that they are receiving the right balance of nutrients at the right time. You’ll find a wide range of lifestage diets for dogs at Animed Direct. You can use our search function and filter for the relevant Animal Lifestage alone, or select your favourite pet food brand too if you want to stick with their range. Similarly you can filter for Speciality to select a diet designed to support health conditions, once you’ve received advice from your vet.

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