Your guide to lifestage nutrition for cats & dogs

Great nutrition to support all life stages

As we pet owners know, caring for a pet is extremely rewarding. Nothing says welcome home quite like the joy only a pet can give.

While most of us realise that small puppies and kittens need specific diets to help their young tummies and to sustain rapid growth, after that many of us just go straight to adult foods and that’s that. How often do we really revise their diets and re-evaluate what food and nutrition we’re giving them?

Depending on your pet’s species, breed and size, your faithful companion could be with you for up to 18 years, even longer with cats.

During this time their bodies will change, their energy levels will alter and just like us, the type of nutrients they require changes too.  If you give too many calories to slower, older animals this will lead to overweight and obese pets. The nutrition they need to support them alters as they age, so it’s up to owners to adapt their pet’s diet accordingly.

This is where correct lifestyle nutrition comes in.

By reading the rest of this blog you’ll gain a strong understanding of what lifestyle nutrition is and understand how it can help your pet live a longer, healthier and therefore happier life.

So what is lifestyle nutrition?

Lifestyle nutrition is, in a nutshell, the different types of nutrition that your pet needs as it ages.

If you think about it, our pet’s development doesn’t simply jump from from kittens and puppies to “adult” and stop there.

Pets change throughout their lives, in terms of

  • bone and muscle growth
  • activity levels
  • wear and tear
  • common aging ailments such as joint problems
  • health conditions

Although “adult” food is great for most pets, it’s worth seeing whether there’s a food that better suits your pet’s specific needs or specific life stage. A different recipe may contain added ingredients which will give extra support to your pet at that time of their life.

And it’s not just a gimmick designed to sell different packaged versions of the same thing – leading food manufacturers rigorously test their recipes and their product development and research testing phases prove that pets tend to live longer on their refined and tailored life stage recipes.

How old is your pet?

The basics of lifestyle nutrition are knowing what food your pet needs and when.

As we’ve explained, dogs and cats need different nutrients from their food and at the very least, there are three main stages in a pets life that require you to change the food they are being given. These are,

  • their younger years
  • “adult” life (which generally begins around 12 months – although maturity is affected by species and breed)
  • Their older or more mature years

1) Young puppies and kittens still with their mother

We’re not really going to talk too much about kittens and puppies from birth here. If your pet does have a litter, you will also be responsible for weaning them off their mothers milk and onto solid food at around 4 weeks (depending on their breed and animal type).

You can buy specialist kitten milk replacer powder/milk substitute, puppy/ baby dog milk products. Take advice from your vet in this instance and don’t forget the poor mum! She’s going to need some additional support too at this time. Again see what your vet recommends.

2) Puppy and kitten food (8 months – 12 months)

Unless they’re part of a home litter, you’ll usually be bringing your puppy or kitten home at around 8 – 12 weeks of age.

Best practice is to register at your local vets to plan vaccinations, neutering and receive general dental and health advice. Part of this advice will include food/diet.

They will recommend a puppy/junior or kitten diet, as these foods have been developed to support their fast-growing bones/tissues and sustain their boundless energy levels. This is why it’s important to give your younger pet the correct diet, as a general all-purpose food will not support their growing bodies.

This level of growth continues as they develop through their “teenage” years.

3) “Adult” life (@ 12 months onwards)

As with us humans, growth slows down (although doesn’t stop completely immediately) but as your pets gets that little bit older, they are less likely to need the same high levels of fats and proteins to the assist development, as they did previously.

The age at which your pet becomes an “adult” varies slightly depending on their size/breed (particularly for dogs) and this is due to their ultimate expected life span.

For example, a small dog breed (who tend to live longer) may become an “adult” at around 9 to 12 months, a medium breed at around 12 months of age, and larger bred dogs could be anywhere between 12 – 24 months.

Cats tend to be classed as “adults” after 12 months, although large breeds such as Maine Coons tend to be 18-24 months old before they reach maturity.

The best thing to do is have a chat with your vet if you’re unsure. Alternatively, visit your pet food manufacturer’s website as there’s plenty of advice on when your pet should move up to the next level of nutrition.

NOTE:- It’s just a note to be aware of, but if you neuter or spay your pet, 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 –  Royal Canin have a range specifically tailored for the size of your neutered dog – or neutered cats. Again leading pet food brands such as Royal Canin, Hills and Purina Pro Plan have options to choose from.  These foods contain fewer calories and help suppress appetites.

4) “Senior” years

No-one likes to think of their pet as getting old or “senior” but actually, pets can be happy & healthy in their senior years for quite a long while and be supported with the correct diet.

As you might expect, older animals

  • tend to slow down/move less
  • might start to develop age-related health conditions

Because of this, they require

  • fewer calories (it’s important not to allow older animals to become overweight or obese as is likely to cause additional medical conditions)
  • less protein (as not in a growth stage)
  • more support – e.g diets containing Glucosamine help to support joint cartilage – dodgy joints aren’t just a human complaint!

Again – depending on the size of the breed of your dog, adult diets should be reviewed around the 7 year mark. If you’re not sure, talk to your vet during your annual check up.

It may sound confusing but you simply visit the website of your current pet food manufacturer for more information as to when you should consider switching up. They’ll probably be dependent upon the size of dog, which usually results in larger dogs being classed as “senior” earlier (@7 years) as opposed to smaller dogs, which tend to be around 9 years or more.

Cats tend to move up to senior diets at around 7 years of age.

Again, your vet can advise but basically, older pets will benefit from a “senior” diet to help maintain a healthy weight and benefit from additional oils and minerals within their diets.

NOTE: – Specific health conditions. As part of aging, our pets often develop common ailments and complaints such as kidney and urinary problems, joint and weight issues. If your pet has had a condition diagnosed by a vet, be aware that there are many foods/diets available that help support these conditions and you should discuss the best option for your cat or dog.

Hopefully by reading this blog, you’ll appreciate why you should review your pet’s diet at different stages of their lives.

Whether kitten/puppy stage, neutered, adult, senior, or with specific health conditions, each stage represents a change in their nutritional needs and as a responsible pet owner who wants to do our best by them, we should review what we’re feeding them and change their diet accordingly.

You’ll find a wide range of lifestage foods at animeddirect.co.uk. Simply visit our website, select Dog Food or Cat Food and look at the menus down the left hand side.

You can select Animal Lifestage or a combination of Lifestage AND your favourite pet food brand if you want to keep with their range. Similarly you can select a diet to support health conditions, once you’ve received advice from your vet.

Here is just a selection from some of our biggest brands.

Hills Science Plan Kitten Healthy Development with Chicken/Ocean Fish Wet 12x85g Pouch on Animed Direct

Hills Science Plan Kitten Healthy Development With Chicken/Ocean Fish Wet 12x85g Pouch

Hills Science Plan Feline Kitten Classic Selection comprises of 6 chicken pouches, 6 ocean...

Our Price: £8.2300

Hills Science Plan Mature Adult 7+ Light with Chicken Dry 12kg on Animed Direct

Hills Science Plan Mature Adult 7+ Light With Chicken Dry 12kg

Hills Science Plan Mature Adult 7+ Light with Chicken Dry Food is formulated to help maint...

Our Price: £36.7400

Eukanuba Caring Senior Large Breed Rich in Fresh Chicken Dry 12kg on Animed Direct

Eukanuba Caring Senior Large Breed Rich In Fresh Chicken Dry 12kg

Eukanuba Caring Senior Large Breed dog recipe has been specifically tailored to support optimal b...

Our Price: £33.3500

Eukanuba Developing Junior Large Breed Rich in Fresh Chicken Dry 12kg on Animed Direct

Eukanuba Developing Junior Large Breed Rich In Fresh Chicken Dry 12kg

Eukanuba Developing Junior Large Breed food is the newest addition to the Eukanuba range. ...

Our Price: £33.3500

Don’t forget we’re first and foremost an online veterinary pharmacy, so you can buy all your pet’s prescribed medication (search for your product via our A – Z) and regular dog flea/tick or worm or cat flea/tick and worm treatments here for cheaper prices than your veterinary practice.

All delivered directly to your door too with one of the lowest Free UK delivery order limits of only £29 around.