What Ingredients Do Puppy Need vs. Senior Dogs?
Dog foods are often labeled according to a dog’s life stage. Each type of food is designed to provide the proper amount of protein, nutrients and calories for the body based upon a dog’s changing activity levels and metabolic functions. It is important for owners to choose the right recipe for each stage of maturity whether puppy, adult or senior to ensure their pet’s body is getting just what it needs at just the right time.
What Should a Puppy Diet Include?
Puppies grow quickly, and it is very important to provide their bodies with the right nutritional balance to ensure the dog grows to be a healthy adult. Puppy food is high in protein to promote bone and muscle growth, and provides active puppies with a source of energy. That protein should come from animal meat rather than plants, to ensure the body can properly metabolize and use that protein. The source of protein in the food should be listed as the first or second ingredient.
Puppy food is often high in calories to meet the energy needs of a growing dog. Puppies are active and their bodies are constantly changing, which means their bodies require a higher calorie count than adults and senior dogs. Those calories should come from protein and complex carbohydrates, which burn slowly, helping to regulate blood sugar.
When choosing a puppy food, be sure to examine the label and look for:
- Real meat protein as the main ingredient – avoid animal byproducts
- Complex carbohydrates from rice, barley, or oats
- Vitamins and minerals from plant-based ingredients
What Should a Senior Diet Include?
Senior dogs are far less active than puppies and adult dogs, which puts them at risk for weight gain if their diets are not adjusted with age. As dogs reach their later years their metabolism slows, body systems are less efficient, and the immune system has to work harder to fight off germs.
Food formulated for seniors will have less calories than adult dog food to account for metabolic and activity changes. However, in order to help dogs feel full, senior food is often fortified with fiber to make up for the lost calories. Senior dogs are prone to constipation, and the added fiber also helps keep the GI tract running smoothly.
Senior blends should also include glucosamine and omega fatty acids to help keep joints cushioned in old age. Many older dogs develop arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other joint disorders in this late stage of life. Glucosamine supports cartilage and omega fatty acids help keep joints lubricated, keeping older dogs mobile.
The next time you visit the pet store, scan senior food labels and look for:
- Low calorie count
- High fiber content
- Omega fatty acids
Always Choose Food Based Upon Age
A dog’s dietary need change at each stage of life. Young dogs should be fed puppy food for the first year of life and then they should graduate to adult food. Large breed puppies may need to consume puppy food a bit longer. Dogs should be fed adult food from about one year of age until they reach senior status. Large dogs are considered “seniors” at about eight years old, while small dogs don’t reach this stage until a few years later. Consult with a veterinarian before changing a dog’s diet, as every dog will have unique needs based upon size, weight, and health predispositions.