Nutritional Needs of Your Dog - Part 1

We are kicking off another series on our Petnet blog and will be taking a deeper look into proper dog and cat foods and specialty diets. Walking down the aisle at your local pet store can be intimidating given the wide array of foods available for your pets, but there are guidelines that should make it easier to pick the right food for their needs.In this series, we will look first at age and breed related nutritional needs and then examine special diets designed for specific health issues such as allergies, IBD or kidney/liver problems.

Loving your dog means many things, but the most important way to show your love is safeguarding their health through proper nutrition with the food you feed them. Each stage of life has different nutritional, caloric and even textural needs.

Let’s start with puppies. Puppyhood can last anywhere from 9-10 months for small breed dogs to 2 years for larger giant breeds. Smaller dogs grow faster and reach their full growth much sooner than the larger breed dogs. You might be feeding smaller dogs puppy food for a shorter length of time, but it’s still important to feed them puppy food so they get the added nutritional benefits.Puppies are growing fast and furious, their bodies burn through a lot of calories each day and need a more calorie dense food. They also need more amino acids, minerals, protein and fat to fuel their growth than adult dogs. You want their food to contain proper amounts of nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids to promote healthy coat and skin. For instance, a food containing too much of nutrients such as calcium or phosphorus can cause rapid growth which can lead to problematic orthopedic issues in large breed dogs. Puppies also have tiny little puppy teeth, so the kibble needs to be appropriate for their ability to chew and eat it.

Once your dog reaches adulthood, the focus of your food selection should be a well-balanced diet, minimal people food, managing their weight and addressing any potential health issues with good sound nutrition. Your selection base widens greatly, although recently there has been positive research into the benefits of a native food diet or one that concentrates on foods found within your dog’s natural origins. For instance, a Labrador’s native food choices would focus on fish since they originated in Newfoundland. In our Breed Series, we offer appropriate suggestions based on the breed origins.And finally, we get to senior dogs. The age your dog becomes a senior also depends on their size but works the opposite from puppyhood. Large breed dogs are considered seniors at a younger age than smaller breed dogs. Senior status is reached somewhere between 5-6 years old for large breeds and 8-9 years old for smaller breed dogs.

Seniors also have special nutritional needs. The recommended protein requirements of seniors has seen a revision in recent years and it is now recognized that senior dogs need higher levels of protein than adult dogs. (In the past, the exact opposite was recommended-- that Senior’s eat lower protein foods). Seniors, because they are less active, tend to gain weight which is bad for them on many levels. Thus it’s most important to make sure that you are feeding your Senior the proper amount to keep them trim and healthy.  It is also worthwhile finding a high quality food with natural ingredients, including vegetables and fruits for a higher fiber content to help with gastrointestinal issues. Senior dogs can also benefit from foods with added joint supplements and with a softer texture for their more sensitive teeth.

You can now see why it is critical for dog parents to read their dog’s nutritional food labels and understand the appropriate levels of nutrients, protein and fats for your size and age dog.

If you are a multi-dog family, keeping track of this becomes a challenge. There are Multi-stage or All Life Stage foods in the market that you can examine and see if they meet your family’s needs. One rule of thumb is to buy the best food that you can afford to give your dog the best possible nutrition and the healthiest life.Additional Readings:

https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/senior-dog-food#1

https://www.nomnomnow.com/learn/pet-nutrition/senior-dog-food-guide

https://www.petmd.com/blogs/nutritionnuggets/jcoates/2012/may/special_nutritional_needs_of_puppies-23692

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-feeding-fundamentals/

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