Nutrition at different life stage
A balanced diet is a very important factor contributing towards health and growth of a dog. Their nutritional requirements vary from their stage and lifestyle factors. To understand their feeding details, let us categorize their age into three brackets- puppy or growth years, adulthood and senior dogs.
Puppy years- This marks the stage of dogs till the age of one and two years in case of large size dogs. This is the age where puppies show most of their growth, so their nutritional requirements are highest in this stage. They should be fed growth or puppy food which is formulated to be rich in protein and have higher levels of energy or calories. They should also contain fatty acids such as DHA to support brain and vision development. To support bone growth, the food should have optimum levels of calcium and phosphorus. Since young puppies’ stomach is too small to hold enough in a single feeding, they should be fed thrice a day. Care should be taken to give them easily digestible food so as to not result in stomach upset. Calorie intake should be monitored carefully because feeding them more results in overweight body conditions which have adverse health implications.
Adult dogs- This is the stage when a dog is fully grown and enters the maintenance period of life. Though different breeds of dogs need different level of nutrition, the one thing that remains same is that the quality of food should ensure a healthy skin and coat, optimal immune function and healthy digestion. For this they should be fed high quality protein, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and a healthy dose of antioxidants. In a few cases when adult dogs are working as guard, hunting, racing or are pregnant or lactating, then their nutrient requirements are higher. Care should be taken to feed all adult dogs highly digestible food for a healthy gut and overall good health.
Senior dogs- The age which dogs are considered senior varies according to breed size and also their fitness level. On an average dogs at 7 years of age and more come under this category. The internal changes that begin to happen in this age group are reduced metabolic rate, change in activity level, change in skin and coat, less efficient immune system, changes in oral and digestive health and more. The dietary habits of dogs at this age should be such that it should support optimal organ function and slow or prevent the development of chronic diseases. For this their diet should include enhanced levels of antioxidants, adequate levels of omega 3 fatty acids, less fat than before and highly digestible nutrients.