Life Stages of Pet Nutrition

Throughout their lives, the nutritional needs of animals change. Some changes are obvious, such as the need of kittens and puppies for extra ‘building blocks’ to grow successfully. Others may be less obvious, such as the need of an older dog or cat for a diet that avoids excessive amounts of certain nutrients, such as phosphorus. It is important to recognize that by feeding pets according to the life stage they are at will help them maintain good health throughout their lives

Depending on the age of the cat or dog, the pet will have varying requirements for specific nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus and protein. Puppies, kittens and reproducing dogs and cats need extra nutrients for growth and may develop problems if these are not present in the correct amounts. On the other hand, large-breed puppies may develop problems if too much of certain nutrients, such as calcium, are provided. Between seven and ten years of age, the physiology undergoes changes that are generally described as age-related. This leads to an increase in the prevalence of dental disease, obesity, cardiac and kidney disease, which means that it is important to make sure that the diet does not exacerbate this tendency 20


Small dogs develop into adults faster than dogs from larger breeds: small dogs are fully grown at the age of 10 – 12 months, while larger dogs can still be considered puppies for a year and a half, even up to two years. There are individual differences in growth and development. Puppy food must have plenty of energy, plenty of protein and a correct ratio of calcium and phosphorus. Adult dog food does not contain enough nutrients for puppies, so it is important for puppies to have food meant specifically for puppies.

Adult dogs

When it comes to adult dogs, the most important goal can be considered to be a sufficient intake of nutrients in relation to their activity levels, and also the prevention of excessive weight gain. The protein, fat and mineral requirements of adult dogs are different from their requirements as a puppy. For adult dogs, as far as nutrition is concerned, the emphasis shifts more from growth support to maintaining the body’s energy/protein needs, in order to support energy consumption and restoration.

Aging dogs

Dogs over 7-10 years of age are usually considered to be aging dogs. In larger breeds, the aging process can begin slightly earlier; and in some individuals, the aging process can begin earlier due to illnesses or other reasons.  When dogs start to age, their performance levels decline slightly, due to a decline in their oxygen-carrying capacity, for example. At this stage, it is important to monitor the amount of exercise, as well as the amount of food that the dog gets. There are physiological changes that are related to aging, such as a mild decrease in activity levels. This should be taken into consideration when planning the amount of food to be given to the dog. In addition, some individuals can have special needs related to certain illnesses/breeds, the significance of which will be highlighted as the dog becomes older.

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