What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog’s Lifespan?

Apr 2, 2024 | Pet Health, Pets, Tips and Tricks

Happy Wednesday everyone!  It’s been a minute since I last posted.  It’s been a crazy busy time for us and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon but I didn’t forget about you.  I’m back and ready to blog!  One of my loyal readers has suggested I create a post on What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog’s Lifespan.  I’ve done a ton of research and here is what I’ve found.

Jake's favorite place to be...on the couch!

If you know Jake, you know he is very low key dog and since the couch is where Jake loves to be, I am continuously washing blankets and recovering the couch with them.  This is his many stages of waking up to slowly getting off so I can do my job :-). 

What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com
Life Stage Nutrition For Pets:
Nutritional needs for dogs and cats vary based on which stage of their life they are in. 
These life stages include:
*Senior care
*Gestation/lactation for reproducing females
What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com
Puppies and Kittens
When puppies and kittens are growing, they require more calories, protein and fat and higher levels of vitamins and minerals than adult dogs. This is because they need nutrients for their daily activities in addition to nutrients to allow for tissue growth and development. Puppies and kittens, in general, need a diet formulated for growth until they are 12 months of age. Large and giant breed puppies require diets designed for large-breed puppy growth since feeding a diet appropriate for large-breed growth helps prevent orthopedic issues, obesity and other problems. Puppies are considered large-breed if their adult weight will be more than 50 pounds.
Young and Middle-age
Young adult and middle-aged cats and dogs (less than five to seven years of age), if healthy, require moderate amounts of most nutrients, including calories, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. If a dog or cat in this life stage is healthy, a diet formulated for adult maintenance is ideal for optimal nutritional value of its food.
Senior dogs and cats tend to be less active than their younger counterparts, but energy requirements can be higher or lower than young to middle-aged animals, depending on the age and the presence or absence of disease. In general, animals with chronic diseases require more calories to maintain their weight. Healthy senior animals may require increased dietary protein to help maintain lean muscle mass. However, the presence of disease can alter ideal nutrient requirements.
What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com
Pregnant Females
Reproducing females (either pregnant or lactating) require a diet formulated for gestation/lactation. Most puppy and kitten foods are formulated for reproduction in addition to being a preferred formulation for growth of a puppy or kitten. Kitten food should be fed from the time of breeding, while puppy food should be started mid-way through pregnancy. It is beneficial to look at the pet food label and see that a feeding trial for gestation/lactation has been performed on the diet because that indicates that the company has demonstrated that the puppy or kitten food is also safe and nutritional for reproducing females. This will be stated on the label in the nutritional adequacy statement. Large-breed dogs in gestation/lactation do not require a large-breed puppy food, but the puppies should be started on a large-breed puppy food as soon as they are weaned for the reasons mentioned above. This is due to the different nutritional requirements for gestation/lactation versus large-breed puppy growth.
A bag or can of food will indicate which life stage it is intended for in the nutritional adequacy statement on the back, and this can help owners choose a food that is appropriate for their pet’s life stage. Some diets are formulated for “all life stages,” which means they meet the requirements even for growth and gestation/lactation. These are the life stages that have the most demanding nutritional requirements. While “all life stage” diets are appropriate for adult maintenance, they can provide some excess nutrients and can be dangerous if a dog or cat is not healthy or has borderline renal disease or other systemic diseases or issues.
What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com
What are a Dog’s Life Stages, and What Foods are Available to Meet Them?
The first life stage is puppy. During this period a dog food rated for “growth” is needed because it is specifically designed for puppies and kittens according to the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials, which sets standards for pet foods in the United States). These foods have higher levels of protein, fat, calcium, phosphorous, sodium, and chloride, in comparison to adult dog foods, to support a young dog’s rapid growth, metabolism, and development.
Most veterinarians recommend that puppies eat dog foods rated for growth until they are around twelve months of age, but talk to your vet to determine what is best in your dog’s individual situation. Once a puppy has reached about 90 percent of its adult size, its growth rate slows and it can be switched to a dog food rated for “adult maintenance.”
Large breed dogs are at high risk for developmental orthopedic diseases (e.g., hip dysplasia), and feeding a food that maintains a relatively slow and steady growth rate can help prevent these potentially devastating conditions. In comparison to “regular” puppy formulations, large breed puppy foods have lower energy content and fat, slightly lower levels of calcium and phosphorous, and a very carefully balanced calcium:phosphorous ratio to maintain a healthy rate of growth. Don’t worry; dogs fed a large breed puppy food when they are growing still end up at their expected size, it just takes them a little longer to get there.
“Adult maintenance” dog foods are the appropriate choice for most adult dogs. Exceptions to the adult foods for adult dogs rule do exist, however. If your dog is pregnant or nursing or has other lifestyle or health conditions that change his or her nutritional needs, consult with your veterinarian.
There is no hard and fast rule as to when to make the switch to a “mature adult” food, but many veterinarians recommend that small dogs make the change at eight years of age, medium-sized dogs at around seven years, large breeds at six years, and giant breeds at about five years of age. The differences between an adult and senior food within the same product line are oftentimes not very great but are important. They may contain lower levels of fat to help prevent obesity, increased levels of anti-oxidants, or moderate levels of protein aimed at maintaining muscle mass while not overworking the kidneys. Mature foods should contain decreased levels of phosphorus for kidney health.
What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com
Six Signs It’s Time To Change Your Pet’s Food:
1. Dull, Flaky Coat
Diets rich in essential fatty acids are a key component in keeping a pet’s skin healthy, and therefore his or her coat, in tip top shape. Many pet foods are designed with skin and coat improvement in mind. Look for a diet containing both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to make your pet’s coat shiny and bright in no time.
2. Lethargy/Weakness
If your pet had recently undergone a stressful event, illness, or surgery, he may understandably be a little worn out. Diets with high levels of antioxidants can help boost the immune response to accelerate your pet’s recovery and get them back on their feet in no time. Remember: a pet who is suddenly acting lethargic and weak should be evaluated by a veterinarian before making dietary changes.
3. ‘Senioritis’
Depending on the size of the animal, pets are considered middle-aged to senior around 5-7 years. And as our pets age, their nutrient requirements change too. Senior diets, for example, are generally lower in calories but higher in fiber, and often have supplements specific to this lifestage such as joint support and antioxidants. AAFCO does not have requirements for senior pets, however, so look for a food labeled for “adult maintenance.” This is because an “all life stage” food is formulated with kittens and puppies in mind. It will also deliver too much fat and nutrients your senior pet does not require. In fact, the pet food could even be harmful to a senior pet.
What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com
4. Hefty Midsection
It doesn’t take much for a pet to wind up with some extra weight on their frame — and this is particularly noticeable with small pets. If your pet needs to lose a few inches, a diet specifically designated for weight loss will ensure that they still have the proper amount of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals while ingesting fewer calories. These diets take advantage of the latest research in pet weight management to ensure your pet is on their way to a healthier weight in no time! If your pet is extremely overweight or obese, however, it’s best that you consult with your veterinarian for a therapeutic nutritional solution.
5. GI Disturbances
Chronic flatulence, loose stool, or rumbly stomachs can be the result of food intolerance or the low quality of food that you’re feeding your pet. Some pets simply don’t tolerate certain diets or ingredients as well as other ones. GI upset is an inconvenience to owners as well as being uncomfortable for your pet. If this is an ongoing problem for you, ask your health care professional to diagnose the problem. The solution may be as easy as switching to premium food or a sensitive stomach diet that’s right for your pet.
6. An Itch that Won’t Quit
Allergies are common in pets, and food is just one of several possible causes. Regardless of the cause, though, allergic pets may benefit from a low-allergen diet that reduces the amount of potential allergens they are exposed to. Your veterinarian can recommend either a prescription diet or an over the counter sensitive skin diet, depending on your pet’s particular needs.
What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it informative.  When Jake and Maggie were puppies, our vet recommended we get them on Purina Pro for puppies.  Eventually, as they got older, we switched to Stella and Chewy’s Raw Coated Kibble Beef.  I also bought the Stella and Chewy’s Meal Mixers to add to their food but Jake picked up weight quickly on those so I stopped.  Check out one of my older posts “Purina Pro Plan “My Plan Dog and Cat Food Selector” at https://twoadorablelabs.com/purina-pro-plan-my-plan-dog-and-cat-food-selector/ which might help you as well.  We have never given the dogs human food and rely on fruits and vegetables for a fun treat or one of my dog treat recipes.  On the daily, we give them Dental Chews by Get Naked ordered through Chewy.com and treats from Ava’s Pet Palace – use code “twoadorablelabs” at checkout for “Free Shipping”.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at twoadorablelabs@gmail.com or comment below.  Enjoy!
More pet related topics on the blog:
I’m Bobbi Jo, a lab-lover who took my passion for animals and dogs and turned it into something bigger.  When I adopted Jake and Maggie, my love for them became the driving force behind Two Adorable Labs, and my blog was born.  My hope is to not only share them with the world, but to help educate others on the importance of animal health and well-being.

Two Adorable Labs has become a collection of all that I love.  I’ll send one post each week on things that bring me joy on animal health, home decor, and food recipes for humans and our furry friends.  I hope you enjoy these posts and much as I do creating them!

What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com
What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com
What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com
What Are The Nutritional Stages Over A Dog's Lifespan? | www.twoadorablelabs.com

I love hearing from all of you and do my best to respond to each and every one of you.  I always enjoy your comments, feedback, and suggestions so keep them coming!  If I’ve posted a recipe (for our human and our furry friends) and you try it, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @twoadorablelabs and use #twoadorablelabs​.

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Love, Jake and Maggie

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