‘Lifestage’ feeding is a relatively new term that means feeding your pet what they need at each stage of life. This blog should give you an insight into the interesting world of nutrition, help you to determine what stage of life your pet is in and how to tailor their diet to that stage.
Life stages are broken up into the following:
Kitten or Puppy
This is the first 1-2 years of life, the major growth period. The larger the adult weight, the closer to 2 years this will be. For example, a large breed dog will be in this stage for 2 years whereas a cat or small dog will only be in the growth period for a year. Sometimes, this is divided into ‘puppy/kitten’ (the first half) and ‘juvenile’ (the second half, roughly analogous to the human teenager phase).
This is from the end of the kitten or puppy stage and until their senior years.
In cats this is over 7-9 years old. In dogs, there is a bit more variation due to the big variation between breed life expectancy (small breeds have a longer life expectancy, so the senior period starts later than in larger breeds) but in general:
- Small dogs – this stage begins at 12 years old
- Medium dogs – this stage begins at 10 years old
- Large dogs – this stage begins at 8 years old
Pregnant or Nursing
This stage is obvious, but it is very important that it has its own category. In the last trimester of pregnancy, and throughout the lactation period, there is a much higher demand for calories on the bitch/queen. If she is not fed to account for this, then she can lose a lot of weight and she may not be able to produce plenty of high-quality milk.
Now you know which stage of life your pet is in, let’s move onto the nutrition side of things…
Puppy and kitten food is high in calcium and phosphorus which promotes good bone health. It is also high in calories which is needed for growing. These diets are perfect for a growing animal because they prevent any deficiencies and you know that they are getting everything that they need. They can also be used in the last trimester of pregnancy and lactation, as the extra calories make sure that Mum has all the energy she requires, and this diet gives her the extra calcium needed for milk production.
Adult food is a well-balanced diet that contains everything that a healthy adult cat or dog needs. This has fewer calories than the puppy/kitten food so that they can maintain a healthy weight. Neutered animals have lower energy requirements, so they may need to go on a ‘diet’ or “neutered pet’ food to maintain a healthy weight. It is worth the investment so that they don’t pile on the pounds during their adult life.
Senior food is usually reduced calorie but with a blend of vitamins, minerals and supplements to support the immune system and promote healthy kidneys and joints. The reduction in calories is because our senior pets are less active than they used to be, if we also reduce the calories this should reduce weight gain (and more importantly, excessive weight on old joints).
On a side note, for many conditions (such as liver or kidney problems) there are also specific diets. If your pet has any long-term conditions, ask one of our vets if they would recommend a diet to help manage the condition.
But the question you are all asking is – does it actually matter? Yes it does! The most important stage is the growth (puppy/kitten) stage; if you feed an inappropriate diet the animal will likely have stunted growth and some deficiencies. So, if you take anything away from this at all, feed your puppy/kitten right so they develop properly.
Maybe the question you should be asking is – why not? These diets are formulated to give your pet everything they need and support them in whatever stage of life they are in. If there is a diet better for your older pets, why not give it a try? Hopefully, you will see the difference it can make and never look back.
Our vets and nurses are always happy to discuss and recommend diets that would be best for your pet. Call us or drop in to discuss it anytime, we think nutrition is very important and will always make time to talk to you about it. Find your local Goddard practice here.