In order to choose the right diet for your dog, it is crucial to consider age-appropriate nutrition. Nutrients in adequate proportion at the right age help keep dogs healthy as they have different nutritional needs as they grow older. Below is a guide to nutrients required at different life stages in a dog's life. But first, let’s look at the function of each nutrient.
Fats: Fats act as a source of energy and add texture and taste to puppy food. They also deliver fatty acids which are crucial to body functions and add to improving coat quality and support a healthy nervous system. Protein: Protein helps in the formation, development, and renewal of tissue, muscle, and skeleton. Essential amino acids are obtained from food and non-essential amino acids are derived from essential amino acids, both of which are equally important for your dog’s health. Minerals: Macro-minerals like calcium, phosphorous and potassium are vital for key body functions like healthy bone development, a strong nervous system, and muscle metabolism. Micro-minerals like manganese, copper, and iron are required to maintain healthy skin, blood, and coat.
Vitamins: Vitamins come in water-soluble and fat-soluble forms and help in fat metabolism, blood clotting, immune function and brain and liver health.
Puppyhood is a period when much importance should be placed on the need for the right nutrients for your puppy. As puppies grow, they need more calories along with high levels of vitamins, minerals, fats, fiber and protein. These nutrients help puppies grow healthily by supporting the immune system, minimizing potential obesity, reducing the risk of orthopedic disease, and promoting healthy skin and coat. A nutrient-rich diet builds tissue and bone density which are essential when a puppy grows older into an adult and then a senior dog. Of course, their precise need for the different nutrients varies on the size of the breed. Dietary fiber helps to support a puppy's digestive system and prevent gastrointestinal problems. Puppies also need more fat in their diet, around 8.5% because their bodies burn off heat quicker than adult dogs and thus need to work harder to maintain an ideal body temperature. Puppies need around 22.5% of calories from protein to grow well and promote good mental and physical well-being. Around 1% of a puppy’s diet should consist of the mineral, calcium. Large breeds require more calcium than smaller breeds in order to help their joints support healthy body weight as they transition into adulthood. Other minerals such as phosphorous, potassium, iron, manganese, and copper are also essential to strengthen a puppy’s cognitive function. Let’s look at vitamins. A puppy is unable to store water-soluble vitamins like Vitamin B, - Thiamine and Riboflavin. Hence, it is important to ensure that vitamin B is a vital part of your puppy’s daily diet. Take note that smaller breeds reach their adult height and weight by nine to twelve months so they need to switch to adult food by around ten months. Large breeds however, reach their optimum size and weight by eighteen to twenty-four months. Too little or too much of any nutrient can negatively impact your puppy's health leading to problems with the skeletal structure and weight. Do your research to choose a diet for your puppy that's suited to its size and life stage thus ensuring it receives proper nutrition.
ADULT HOOD It’s good to start switching to adult food when puppies are close to their adult size and weight. Small and medium breeds need more protein, vitamins, minerals, and fibre than large breeds, and since larger breeds attain adulthood at around twenty months, they need food with less concentrated fats. However, more attention needs to be paid to substances like glucosamine to help support healthy joints. A healthy adult dog’s diet must contain between 2 to 4% of both soluble and insoluble fiber to ensure the smooth functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. Its diet also requires 5.5% of its daily calories to come from fats and should contain 18 to 25% of daily dietary protein. The minimum requirement for minerals such as calcium and phosphorus for an adult dog’s maintenance is between 0.4 to 0.5% while the minimum requirement of Vitamin A in adult maintenance is 5000 IU/kg, Vitamin B1 is 2.5mg/kg, Vitamin B12 is 5.2mg/kg and Vitamin D is 5000 IU/kg.
SENIOR DOG As dogs grow older, they become less active, and most of the body's energy goes into rest and recuperation. While large breeds tend to age faster at approximately seven years, smaller breeds tend to age later at about ten years. A senior dog requires fewer calories but more protein and fiber. Since older dogs are prone to constipation, they need a daily intake of 3 to 5% of fiber. Dry food, helps to control gum disease and supports a good digestive system. A senior dog diet would require around 8% of fat and around 75 grams per 1000 calories of protein to keep them healthy.
Calcium intake should be increased to prevent orthopedic disease, while the rest of the minerals can be given in adequate proportion. In conclusion, to ensure a long and healthy life for your dog it is necessary to think about its health at every stage of his life, feeding him in an adequate and healthy way with the most suitable foods according to individual needs.