Today's premium petfood aisle is filled with lifestage
foods. While some assert that kitten, puppy and senior foods
are more about marketing than nutrition, these formulas
represent the efforts of premium manufacturers to develop foods
that best meet the needs of pets throughout their lives.
Many dog and cat foods on the shelves are labeled 100%
complete and balanced for all life stages. By altering the
amount fed per pound of body weight, pet owners can deliver the
right amount of nutrition for each life stage, but with
lifestage-specific petfoods, additional calories for growth,
minerals and protein targeting critical areas such as joints
and sight, are already a part of the formula.
A pet's dietary needs change over the course of his life,
from birth to adolescence to adulthood to old age. A lifestage
) is one that is tailored to meet the different nutritional
needs as your pet ages. Dogs' and cats' nutritional
requirements are quite different from one another.
Puppies need nearly four times the energy than adult dogs,
and they need extra protein to help build new tissue. So an
energy-rich diet including protein, fat, calcium and
phosphorous is important during this phase.
Puppies' needs also vary according to breed. Toy and small
breed dogs need higher levels of these nutrients, while large
breed dogs need less to control their growth rate, and
medium-sized dog breeds are between the two. Too little or two
much of these nutrients can cause problems with canine skeletal
structure and possibly lead to obesity.
Kittens, due to the small size of their mouths and digestive
systems, can't eat much at one sitting. Their food should be
high in easily digestible animal protein and other important
nutrients, such as fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, and
taurine, an amino acid found in chicken and fish sources. They
are developing their immune system and adequate protein is
essential for the development and ongoing maintenance of a
nimble defense system. Kitten foods are also slightly higher in
certain minerals like calcium and phosphorus for bone growth
According to veterinarian
Dr. Cori Gross
, who is a
field veterinarian, there is evidence suggesting that
adding DHA-an essential fatty acid that improves brain
development and is mandatory in human baby formula-to puppy or
kitten food can actually make animal's smarter. The special
fatty acid is thought to help with the development of vision
and the brain.
The recommended time to switch a dog's diet to an adult food
formula is ideal when the dog is close to his adult height,
approximately at two years of age. An adult diet that is
tailored for this dog life stage will depend on the breed and
their level of activity. Many veterinarians recommend that a
dry food diet is best to help keep his teeth healthy-and for
larger breeds, to provide more caloric density.
While some dogs may require special diets due to medical
issues, the average small or medium breed dog should eat food
containing, according to Gross:
- High-quality, animal-based protein for muscle
- Fiber for a healthy digestive tract;
- Essential vitamins and minerals for the immune
- Vitamin-rich fish oils for a healthy coat and skin, and
for overall health;
- Healthy grains for energy; and
- Large breed dogs may need food containing glucosamine and
less fat than a medium breed dog to help maintain joint
Veterinarians recommend transitioning kittens to adult food
at about nine months of age. Cats tend to put on weight after
they are spayed or neutered, which occurs at six months or
Holistic petfood blogs often suggest blending dry cat food
with canned food for a well-rounded meal. Cats are strict meat
eaters, or carnivores, so the food should contain a high level
of easily digestible protein. Fat is also important for needed
Adult cat food should also contain:
- Vitamin A, from liver, kidney and other organ meats, and
niacin for healthy growth;
- Essential fatty acids for healthy skin and fur; and
- Taurine for healthy eyes and heart muscle.
Dogs and cats are living longer than they did several
decades ago. They are better vaccinated and receive routine
veterinary care. Therefore, they also are getting better
A senior pet is one considered to be in the last third of
life. For instance, if a particular breed of dog has a life
expectancy of 12 years, then it will be "senior" by age eight.
If a cat has an expectancy of 18 years, then it would be
considered "senior" around age 12.
Of course, some animals remain healthy and active well into
their old age. Others, however, undergo physiological changes
that can be impacted through diet.
Obesity can become an issue. Kidney failure is not uncommon.
Senior dogs need a diet lower in calories, protein and fat, and
one higher in fiber, as most are not as active as they
Senior cats do not need a reduced-calorie diet as they
maintain their energy needs throughout adulthood-obesity risks
greatly decrease after age 10. Senior cats still need a high
amount of protein. They don't necessarily absorb fat as well,
so they might need more digestible fat in their diets for the
same amount of energy.
Both senior cats and dogs can develop dental issues and can
begin to lose teeth, making it more difficult for them to eat
hard kibble. For senior cats or cats with certain medical
problems such as bladder problems or obesity, Gross recommends
that most if not all calories come from canned food.