As pet parents, it’s not uncommon to receive tons of information on the type of diets we’re supposed to give to our dogs. It can be especially confusing when it comes to puppy and senior dog diets - just what is the purpose of puppy food and senior dog food? When exactly should you switch to adult food and then to senior dog food? Can puppies eat adult dog food? Can older dogs eat puppy food?
Puppy Food vs. Senior Dog Food
As our dogs grow from puppies to senior dogs, their dietary needs change - much like how human babies and seniors don’t eat the same food as adults.
For one, puppies grow very fast, and thus have to eat healthily in order to build up bone and muscle quickly in order to have a healthy body and developed organs. On the other hand, adult dog diets are more focused on maintaining a dog’s body. Hence, good puppy food like ACANA’s often contains additional nutrients, sometimes as much as twice the daily nutritional requirements of an adult dog.
The proportion of protein and other nutrients can also differ greatly between puppy food and adult dog food - for instance, puppy food generally contains more vitamins and minerals and has a high fat content in order to give them the energy they need.
There’s also a difference between large breed puppy food and small breed puppy food as large breed puppy food is designed to slow your pup’s growth slightly in order to prevent symptoms of hip dysplasia - of course, this does not mean your pup’s final adult size will change. For added vitamins, minerals and probiotics, give Stella & Chewy’s Puppy Dinner Patties a try.
While puppy food is indeed important for puppies, they can still consume adult food safely, although they may miss out on some of the health benefits of consuming food formulated specifically for them. To make up for the health benefits they may be missing out on, try topping up their diet with other add-ons and supplements.
Puppy treats are also a great way to boost your dog’s diet as many brands of puppy treats also help improve your pup’s health. Wellness’ Puppy Bites are great for puppy training but also contain Omega-3 to help boost their brain and nervous system.
SENIOR DOG FOOD
As our dogs grow older, they tend to experience bodily changes that can affect the type of diet they require - for instance, they will likely begin to have a lower metabolism. Senior dog food is therefore made to help adjust your pup to their new lifestyle.
For example, senior dog food like Pet Cubes’ tends to contain fewer calories as senior dogs just don’t need to consume as many calories to maintain their weight. However, elder dogs also tend to lose their appetite, potentially as a result of a declining sense of smell or taste as they age. That's why many senior dog food tends to have a higher fat content to help increase palatability to ensure your dog's still able to enjoy their meals. Of course, too much fat can still lead to obesity - especially if your dog’s appetite doesn’t seem to have reduced much. Always consult a vet or pet nutritionist if you’re unsure of what diet your dog most requires.
Some research has also shown that senior dogs tend to require much more dietary protein than their younger counterparts. A large reason for this is that older dogs tend to lose muscle mass even with sufficient exercise - this may impair their immune system and their ability to respond to outside issues like physical trauma or stress. Hence senior dog foods like ORIJEN’s Senior Dog Food are great as they’re chock full of protein and nutrients!
It’s not recommended for senior dogs to consume puppy food as the nutritional differences are quite large. However, while senior dog food can be swapped for normal adult dog food to less negative impact, it’s typically not recommended as the benefits of senior dog food is great, especially as your dog will be more susceptible to health issues during this period of time. Hence, specially formulated brands of dog food will help to maintain their health. To further supplement their diet, you may also want to give Zeal’s Hoki Fish Oil Supplement a go - it helps enhance palatability and boost their overall health!
Other than changing their diet, senior dogs also may require a change in the type of dog treats they can consume. NRG+’s Active Ageing Treats are perfect senior dog treats as they are formulated to help target health issues that senior dogs may face.
Transitioning: Puppy to Adult Dog Food
Typically, puppies need to consume puppy food up to the point they stop growing, to ensure they’re receiving all the benefits of puppy food. Ideally, they should start transitioning to adult food once they reach around 80% of their expected adult size. Large breed puppies tend to take longer and hence should receive puppy food for a longer period of time, at around 15 months, and 18-24 months for giant breeds. Smaller breeds of dogs can be considered mature at around 9 months old.
Take note that the above numbers are estimates as different dogs grow at a different pace - your best bet is still to consult your vet.
Great adult dog food options include Wellness’ Dry Dog Food that is grain free and all natural, while being infused with the richest nutrients that adult dogs need in their diet. For dogs with sensitive stomachs, single-protein diets like the ones offered by ZIWI Peak are great as they reduce the possibility of allergy outbreaks by limiting the protein types used in your pup’s food.
Transitioning: Adult to Senior Dog Food
Generally, dogs tend to be considered senior around the ages of 6 - 10 years, but really, there is no specific time to transition your dog to senior dog food since it’s not just your dog’s biological age that determines their “seniority”. In ageing, factors like their breed, genetics and pre-existing health issues play an important role as well.
Instead, look out for signs that your dog might be undergoing some bodily changes and hence require a change in their meal plans:
- Duller and sometimes flaky coat
- Increased lethargy or weakness
- Increased weight gain despite consuming the same diet
- Stomach issues like chronic flatulence, frequent tummy rumblings or loose stool
However, the best way to tell when you should start giving your dog senior dog food is to check with your vet, especially during regular checkups as they will have a better idea of what kind of diet your dog requires. In fact, the above symptoms can also be a result of other health issues, so it's beneficial to give your vet a call before you make any large changes to your dog’s diets. If your senior dog is experiencing some loss in appetite, stir some Bone Broth into their meals to stimulate their appetite!
In the end, every dog is different and it can be difficult to tell when you should start transitioning your pup’s diets. Outside of checking in with your vet, keeping a close eye on how your pup is doing especially as they enter transition stages, will help to make the change go much smoother.
During the transition between food, take care to do so gradually in order to prevent upset tummies! A general rule of thumb is to replace 25% more of their old diet with their new one every 2 days. At the end of around 8 days, they should be plenty comfortable with their new diet.
If they’re still not comfortable with their new diet, whether it’s a loss of appetite or stomach problems, examine the type of food you’re transitioning them to. Aspects like the type of protein or the texture of the food (dry, semi-dry, etc) can affect your pup’s interest in their food as well as their digestive system. If your dog experiences prolonged stomach issues, make sure to check with a vet on further steps you can take!
Tammi writes articles about anything from data analytics to animal health, and loves doing the occasional craft. But most importantly, she loves hanging out and doing photo-shoots with her dog.