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Lifestage Nutrition for dogs

Lifestage Nutrition for dogs

As published in The Pet Directory QLD, NT & WA Edition

Lifestage nutrition is the practice of feeding animals foods specifically formulated to meet their optimal nutritional needs at each stage of their life, (e.g. puppy, adult, senior). The concept of lifestage nutrition differs markedly from feeding a single product for ‘all life stages’ or ‘all-purpose foods’. All purpose foods are formulated with enough nutrients added to meet the greatest need, usually for growing and reproducing dogs. If this type of food is fed to adult or senior dogs, they are constantly provided with nutrients well in excess of their needs. Feeding foods designed to meet individual needs is preferred. This philosophy is the key to lifestage nutrition and preventative medicine. 

The Pet Directory Dog Article - Lifestage Nurtition for dogs

Rapid growth and development of bones, muscles and internal organs means that the right diet is especially important for puppies. A puppy’s nutritional needs are different from those of an adult dog. Puppies need relatively more energy, calcium and phosphorus than a grown animal. However, excess levels of certain nutrients may be harmful over time. Large breeds, for instance, grow very fast in the first months of life. If these breeds are fed a food that contains too much energy, they can grow so fast that skeletal problems may arise. Excess calcium may also initiate or complicate several skeletal diseases and bone deformities.

Sodium, calcium and energy are essential for good health but excess levels are unnecessary and may even be dangerous to your puppies health. The right balance of nutrients is crucial, as is feeding the right quantity to the new puppy. A good start is so important in helping dogs lead long and healthy lives. Ideally a specialised ‘puppy’ formula should be fed from weaning to 12 months of age.

Pregnant and nursing bitches should be fed puppy formulas free-choice during the last third of pregnancy and throughout lactation, as they have much higher energy & nutrient requirements at this time. Large Breed puppies i.e. those breeds with a mature weight of 25kg or more, require a diet which is specially formulated for proper growth and development of larger breeds of dog. This type of diet precisely balances and regulates the nutrients, especially calcium, phosphorous and energy, to levels best suited for the controlled development & growth of large breed dogs.

Foods for adult dogs should be specifically formulated for ‘normal’ weight adult dogs with average activity levels. Dogs are considered adults between 1 and 6 years of age. Compared to a food for pups, the adult food should have reduced calories to maintain a healthy level of energy without risking obesity. Protein should be controlled because excess has no benefit and may have a role in kidney problems. Minerals should be controlled to avoid initiation of skeletal, skin and kidney diseases. Salt should be reduced because of the role excess intake plays in hypertension, heart and kidney disease – problems which often go undetected.

Adult large breed dogs benefit from diets specially developed to support joint and cartilage health of dogs weighing 25kg or more. Ideally a diet for a large breed adult dog should be enriched with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health and fortified with the nutrient L-Carnitine, which helps turn fat into energy and supports lean muscles.

Often dogs become less active when exercise is restricted, or once they have been desexed. These conditions may make pets prone to obesity. Overzealous feeding practices can also contribute. A ‘Light’ food that is formulated with increased fibre to satisfy the dog’s appetite, but has reduced calories to maintain a healthy level of energy may be the food of choice.

Senior dogs are aged 7 years or older or 5 years or older if a large or giant breed. Lower levels of certain nutrients including sodium and phosphorus can help an older dog maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and help reduce the load on ageing kidneys. Because the ageing digestive system does not absorb food as well, it is important to increase the intake of vitamins. Increases of other nutrients such as essential fatty acids and certain minerals also help an older dog maintain soft skin and a shiny hair coat. In addition, it is well recognised that as a pet ages, their gastrointestinal system slows down. Ideally, a senior food should contain a slightly increased fibre content allowing the older pet to gently and naturally keep the gut moving. It’s important you take your senior dog for regular vet checks (every 6 months). This way, early disease signs can be detected and addressed accordingly.

In the last 10 years there have been significant advances in the nutrition of dogs. From foods that help clean your dog’s teeth to ones that help prevent stomach upsets. There are a multitude of options often making it hard for pet owners to select the best one for their pet. Remember, it is important to choose a food that meets your dog’s individual nutritional requirements based on age, activity level and general well being. Premium foods offer complete and balanced diets with good quality ingredients and controlled levels of minerals. If you still find it hard to make a decision, then consult your vet or vet nurse. They will be able to recommend the best food for your furry friend!

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