From the bouncing bundle of puppy love to wise matriarch or patriarch, each stage of your dog’s life brings fresh challenges and rewards – all of which are better faced with a good diet. From a puppy’s energetic demands, to the unpredictability of adolescence, to self-assured adulthood and finally the comfortable pace of old age – providing the right diet for each stage will keep them functioning at their best.
The stages of a dog’s life are roughly:
Puppyhood: ± 1 – 6 months
Adolescence: ± 6 – 18 months
Adulthood: ± 12 months – 6yrs
Old age: ± 6 years +
Though it is important to remember that dogs age at different speeds depending on their breed and size.
No matter what stage of life you’re feeding for, always ensure there is ample fresh water available for your pets and feed the correct amount of food by confirming quantities on the pet food packaging.
Puppies need a diet conducive to growth. This means high protein, enriched with the correct amounts of vitamins, minerals and fats. Puppies also eat a lot more during the day to facilitate rapid growth, so feeding more often is recommended (3 – 4 times a day). Most dog food manufacturers offer a specific formulation for puppies – and sometimes even for differing breeds – for a time when protein, calcium and phosphorous levels are more critical and much in demand. Most importantly, buy food that’s of the highest quality that you can afford, so that your puppy gets exactly what he needs for the right start to life.
Adolescence through to adulthood
Your dog’s adolescent months can be trying as your dog tests limits to establish boundaries. Often filled with inattentive hyperactivity and curiosity, this is the time to remain firm in your training – and use of your pet’s daily ration of food can be used creatively with positive training methods to define these boundaries. It is also the right time to transition from puppy food to adult food as your dog’s body begins to reach maturity. Some brands even offer a transitional food specifically for adolescence. It may be a case of trial and error when it comes to finding the right food for your dog, but thankfully there are many options out there to suit you and your dog’s individual needs (such as their level of activity, breed and size). And if the time comes to move over to another brand always make a gradual change, introducing the new food bit by bit over a few days to avoid a gastrointestinal upset.
At this stage, your once lively and energetic dog begins to slow down and often prefers to rather bathe in the warm sun for most of the day. As the transition occurs dietary needs change and a diet suited to a slowing metabolism becomes necessary. Low calorie, high fiber diets assist in maintaining a healthy weight and aids digestion. Certain geriatric foods also contain additional supplements to alleviate symptoms of arthritis and joint pain, which are common in aging dogs.
Feeding your dog correctly for each life stage has benefits not only for your dog but for you too. A happy, healthy dog saves you expensive visits to the vet and aids in achieving a longer, fuller life. And while choosing the right dog food brand can be tricky with so many options to choose from, it’s reassuring to know that there is a mark that sets foods apart – brands that commit to making safe, nutritious foods, manufactured to international standards have chosen to join the PFI (Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa). So, look out for the PFI logo on the packaging or confirm membership via the PFI website (www.pfisa.co.za) to rest assured that you are feeding the best that you can afford.