Your guide to life stage nutrition for cats & dogs

life stage nutrition of cats & dogs


How often do we really re-evaluate what food and nutrition we’re giving our cats and dogs?

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. This is where life stage nutrition can play an important role to your pets health.

So what is life stage nutrition?

Life stage nutrition is the different types of nutrition that your pet needs as it ages.

As your pet grows they will need different levels of protein, vitamins, minerals and fats in their diet depending on their age. Understanding the life stages of your pet can help you choose the best diet and keep them happy and healthy.

How old is your pet?

The basics of life stage 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,

  • Puppy and Kitten
  • Adult
  • Senior

Puppy and kitten 

Puppies- This is the first 1-2 years of life and the major growth period. The larger the adult weight, the closer to 2 years this will be. For example, a large dog breed will be in this stage for 2 years whereas a small dog breed will only be in the growth period for a year.

Kittens-  This is the first year of life (12 months). Kittens can start to look like adults from 6 months of age but it’s important for their growth to continue with a kitten diet up until 12 months.

puppy/junior or kitten diet has been developed to support their growing bodies. The food is high in calcium and phosphorus which promotes good bone health. It is also high in calories which is needed to 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.


As with us humans, growth slows down (although doesn’t stop 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 may become an adult at around 9 to 12 months, a medium breed at around 12 months of age, and larger breed 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:- Something to be aware of,  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 and cats. These foods contain fewer calories and help suppress appetites.


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.

In cats they become senior between 7-9 years old. In dogs, there is a bit more variation. The age of which your dog becomes a senior depends on their breed, but in general:

  • Small dogs – this stage begins at 12 years old
  • Medium dogs – this stage begins at 10 years old
  • Large dogs – this stage begins at 8 years old

Senior food provides a balance of vitamins and minerals to support the immune system and promote healthy kidneys and joints. They also include fewer calories to reduce the risk of obesity which can cause additional medical conditions.

NOTE: – Specific health conditions. As part of ageing, 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.


You’ll find a wide range of life stage foods at

You can select Animal Life stage or a combination of Life stage 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.


Don’t forget we’re 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.