The Evolution of your Dog from Puppy to Senior
Pet parents are forever concerned about what to feed their dogs, and when, how and with what food to transition their pups to an adult, and ultimately, to a senior diet. Not surprisingly, as with many questions about diets, there is no single or easy answer.
Here are some basics to first ground us:
- Small breeds (20 pounds or less when fully grown) mature faster and reach “adulthood” somewhere between nine and 12 months of age.
- Medium-sized breeds (between 20 and 50 pounds when fully grown) are fully mature sometime between 12 and 14 months of age.
- Large breeds (over 50 pounds when fully grown) may not be considered “adults” until they are somewhere between 18 and 24 months of age.
Even within the growth and development phase of life, the rate of growth varies, so puppies’ nutritional needs vary as well. Smaller breeds, for example, experience a rapid growth phase between eight and 18 weeks of age, whereas with larger breeds, this rapid growth phase may extend out to 24 weeks.
Puppy food has the highest nutrient content with added protein and vitamins to provide all that is necessary for their bones, muscles and joints to develop properly. It is important to make the necessary adjustments in their intake as growth rate slows, and to begin the shift to an adult food at the right time. Taking a “still-developing” dog off of a puppy food too early can have a harmful effect on proper development, but leaving them on a puppy diet too long can lead to early obesity. There are plenty of great brands to choose from when it comes to puppy food, but check with your veterinarian – who knows and understands your dog’s needs the best – to help with this transition.
At the other end of a dog’s life stage spectrum is what we call the “senior” stage. This stage also varies with the breed and size of the dog. Generally, small breeds reach senior status by eight to nine years of age, whereas the larger breeds are considered seniors by seven years of age. Some of the giant breeds attain their senior status by six years of age. Here again, we need to make adjustments in our dog’s diets, as a senior dog’s nutrient requirements change again. In this stage, there are many potential conditions requiring modifications, so having your dog thoroughly examined by your veterinarian on a fairly regular basis is an absolute must. Adjustments may need to be made based on heart, liver, kidney and endocrine function.
Many common diseases and conditions seem to affect middle age and senior dogs more frequently. If all is well with your senior dog’s physical exam and laboratory work (which I hope it is), then choose a premium, commercially available diet with high quality ingredients to meet their nutritional needs. The healthier the diet, the better.
There are some excellent choices – in both canned and dry varieties – in the supermarket for puppies, adult dogs and senior dogs. I personally feed my three senior dogs IAMS Dog Food, and they love it. One of the best things about IAMS Dog Food is that there are formulas specifically designed for a variety of life stages –puppies, adult dogs, mature dogs and senior dogs. It’s also made with premium ingredients that help keep dogs healthy through every stage of life, such as:
- Farm-raised chicken and beef for strong muscles
- Beet pulp and natural prebiotics to aid in digestion
- Antioxidants for immunity
- Wholesome grains for energy
- DHA in IAMS Puppy food for smarter, more trainable puppies
- Targeted calcium in IAMS Puppy Large Breed for developing joints
Regardless of what you choose, be sure to feed your dog a brand with high quality ingredients to keep him happy, healthy and active!