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.