Life Stage Care For Your Dog
We are often asked, how old is my pet in human years? The answer to this question helps us to guide your dog’s health care. Our own health care is often dictated by the stage of life we are in. We suggest the same for your dog to provide better care throughout their life.
Full physical examination by the doctor twice a year is the cornerstone of the health care for an adult stage dpg. If the doctor finds any problems they will be dealt with specifically. If your dog has to undergo any anesthetic procedure at this age a pre-surgical blood screen will be done prior to the anesthesia
Our senior friends are given twice-yearly examinations and once annually a total body function blood profile and a urinalysis are recommended.
Our geriatric dogs require the most individualized attention based on their health histories. We recommend biannual physical exams and once a year a comprehensive blood panel and urinalysis will be performed.
Pet Nutrition: Life Stages
Dogs and Cats Have Different Needs
Walk down the food aisle of your local pet supply store and you’ll see a wide variety of pet food products. Some are labeled for puppies or kittens. Others are for senior pets. There are also pet food products for more active pets or for overweight pets.
How do you choose the right pet food for your pet, and why are there so many different options?
Your pet’s dietary needs change over the course of his life, from birth to adolescence to adulthood and then to old age. A life stage diet 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. It’s always wise to discuss the best diet for your pet with your veterinarian at each stage of your pet’s life.
Specific Needs for Young Pets
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 vary according to breed. Small breed dogs need higher levels of these nutrients, while large breed dogs need less to control their growth rate. Medium-sized dog breeds are between the two.
Too little or two much of these nutrients can cause problems with your dog’s 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. According to veterinarian Cori Gross, who is a VPI Pet Insurance field veterinarian, kittens should be free fed, meaning food should be left available at all times.
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.
Gross said 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 your pet smarter. Ask your veterinarian for a DHA recommendation prior to adding it to your pet’s diet.
The Teen/Adult Dog Years
The recommended time to switch your dog’s diet to an adult food formula is ideal when your dog is close to his adult height, approximately at two years of age. Smaller dogs achieve this sooner, around one year of age.
The adult diet that is right for your dog will depend on his breed and level of activity. Feed your dog dry food 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:
- High-quality, animal-based protein for muscle maintenance
- Fiber for a healthy digestive tract
- Essential vitamins and minerals for the immune system
- Vitamin-rich fish oils for a healthy coat and skin and for overall health
- Healthy grains for energyLarge breed dogs may need food containing glucosamine and less fat than a medium breed dog to help maintain joint health.Our pets are living longer than they did several decades ago. They are better vaccinated and receive routine veterinary care.The Teen/Adult Cat YearsVeterinarians recommend feeding your kitten 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 earlier.To avoid overfeeding your cat, gradually mix the adult food with the kitten food. After two weeks, your cat should no longer be eating kitten kibble. Begin allowing free feeding only during breakfast and dinnertime. Eventually switch to measured portions of breakfast and dinner based on your veterinarian’s recommendation.
- Blend 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 calories.
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 furTaurine for healthy eyes and heart muscle
Our pets are living longer than they did several decades ago. They are better vaccinated and receive routine veterinary care. They also are getting better nutrition.A senior pet is one considered to be in the last third of his life. For instance, if your particular breed of dog has a life expectancy of 12 years, then it will be “senior” by age 8. If your 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.
Senior dogs need a diet lower in calories, protein and fat, and one higher in fiber, as most are not as active as they were. Obesity can become an issue. Kidney failure is not uncommon.
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.
Your senior pet may develop age-related health issues in the last year or so of his life. There are different food and supplements to address different problems.
Keeping your pet active and at a healthy weight will increase his lifespan and the time you get to spend together.
Your veterinarian can help guide you to make sure your pet has a quality of life as long as possible.
5 Reasons Life Stage Diets Help Improve Pet Health
Benefits of Age-appopriate Pet Food
By Lorie Huston, DVM
Balanced and complete nutrition is important for any animal. However, the nutritional needs will vary depending on the dog or cat’s life stage. For instance, the nutritional needs of a growing puppy or kitten are much different than the needs of adult dog or cat that leads a sedentary life. Conversely, as our pets age, their nutritional needs may change again.
Here are five reasons to make sure that your pet’s food is designed specifically for their life stage.
Puppies and kittens that are growing require pet foods with a higher protein level and a higher calorie count than most mature dogs and cats to meet their growth requirements. If these nutritional demands are not met, your pet’s growth may be stunted and/or your pet may become ill.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a fatty acid, has been shown to increase mental acuity in puppies. In fact, according to the results of some studies puppies eating dog food which contain DHA have been found to be more trainable.
Obesity is the most common nutritional disease seen in both dogs and cats today. One reason for this is improper life stage feeding. For example, a mature dog or cat – especially one that leads a sedentary lifestyle – may become overweight or even obese if fed pet food meant for puppies or kittens. Of course pets eating a food designed for adult maintenance can also become overweight if overfed, but the higher calorie levels in kitten and puppy foods will certainly contribute to the problem.
Female dogs and cats that are pregnant or nursing have higher nutritional demands than those that are not active reproductively. During the pregnancy and while nursing, the mother dog or cat is literally eating for more than one. If her nutritional demands are not met, her puppies or kittens may suffer from a lack of milk as a result. In other words, the mother dog or cat may be unable to produce an adequate amount of milk to feed all of her puppies or kittens. In addition, nutritional deficits may also lead to disease for the mother as well. For example, a calcium deficiency can lead to a serious disease called eclampsia, which involves tremors, seizures and even death for the mother.
Senior pets often have special nutritional requirements as well. Pets with mobility issues may benefit from a pet food that contains glucosamine and/or fatty acids such as DHA and EPA. Older pets may also suffer from illnesses such as chronic kidney disease or heart disease. In some cases, feeding the appropriate pet food can actually be an effective method to manage these diseases.
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is an important part of your pet’s health and vitality. A pet that is overweight or underweight may be experiencing an illness and may be more susceptible to disease and injury. Obesity is a complicating factor in heart conditions, arthritis, liver conditions and other ailments. We know the decision on what to feed and treat grows more difficult each day. There are literally thousands of brands available to the pet food consumer nowadays. Unfortunately, the majority of the marketing of some products is geared towards our human interests rather than what may actually be best for your pet. Please discuss your pet’s nutrition and diet needs with us so that your pet will be a healthy as possible.