How Old Is Your Dog? Ensure It Gets Age-Appropriate Diet. These Are 6 Vital Nutrients

By Dr Makarand Chavan

What should you feed your dog? Does the food you’re giving is meeting its nutritional needs? Are you feeding him is according to its age?

As our knowledge of the relationship between diet and health continues to advance and as the range of foods available for dogs continues to expand, it’s more important than ever to base feeding choices based on their nutritional requirements according to age.

Just like human beings, the dietary needs of your dog also change depending on the life stage. A growing puppy has different nutritional requirements from those of an adult dog, a pregnant dog and a mature dog. As a pet parent, it is important to take account of these changes and adapt the dog’s diet accordingly to ensure your dog is leading a healthy life.

A healthy and happy dog requires proper nutrition in both regular food intake and rewards. All dogs need six vital nutrients, including adequate water, protein, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and carbohydrates. All these elements directly contribute to prolonging your dog’s life expectancy. Nutrients in enough proportion and at the right age help keep dogs healthy hence when choosing the right diet for the dog. Hence while choosing the diet for dog, it is very important to consider the age, activity level, breed, gender and the right mix of all these six nutrients.

From Mother’s Milk to Full Meals

Until the puppy is about four weeks old, all it needs is the mother’s milk. During this period, puppies can be weaned for a period of one or two weeks. You might be surprised at the amount of food puppies need to maintain their rapidly growing bodies. A puppy needs about twice as many calories per pound of body weight as a normal adult dog. They also require more proteins and fats than adult dogs.

The weaning process, wherein the transition from mother’s milk to other types of solid food happens, usually occurs till 7 weeks and hence, the weaning puppy needs more nutrition to support this shift.

All the nutrients are essential to provide enough energy to the dog for its daily routine, keeping the activities high and support growth. However, the proportion of the nutrients required at different stages of life varies accordingly.

Additionally, the number of meals fed to a puppy is higher than an adult. The animal requires 4-5 meals a day at the age of two and three months while, three meals should be given between three and six months. When the growth stage ends, the number of meals should be dropped to two.

Nutritional Requirements As Per Breed

Breed plays a large role when deciding how often to feed your dog. Common large breed dog requires more food and more calories per day than medium and small breed dogs. A healthy dog diet of an adult dog must contain fibres between 2 and 4%. Both soluble and insoluble fibres are essential for the smooth functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. An adult dog’s diet must also contain 18 to 25 percent of daily dietary protein.

Dogs who by now have reached their half life expectancy are considered elderly or aging. Smaller breed dogs, usually live upto 15-20 years while larger once have life expectancy of 12-15 years. So, at this stage, the dogs need less calories in their diet to prevent obesity. Specifically, they need about 20 percent fewer calories than the average adult dog.

Ageing dogs have a significantly different nutritional requirement as compared to adult dogs as they have a slow metabolism that comes with age. Ensure you choose a diet which is complete, balanced and full of nutrition. The addition of meat (cooked or raw), vegetables or fish provides a change of taste in everyday repetitive food for the dog. A high-quality protein diet is more important for dogs at this stage of life as it’s easily digestible. It is recommended to reduce phosphorus content in foods to slow down the progression of some diseases.

To ensure a lasting and healthy journey of a dog, it is vital for a pet parent to think about the health of the dog at every stage of its life, feeding it in an appropriate and healthy way with the most suitable foods according to individual needs. A well-fed dog will be a robust, healthy and long-lived companion.

Dr. Makarand Chavan (BVSc & AH, MVSc) is Vet Physician & Surgeon, Dogs & Cats Veterinary Clinic, Mumbai.

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