Life Stages of Dogs & Their Nutritional Values

What absurdity would it feel to hand a bowl full of veggies to a new-born baby? From your end you would be offering the best of nutrition, but what good is it if it does not even benefit them. Similarly, along with the best of nutrients, you need to keep a tap at the stage of life your dog is in, for it is only the right nutrition that will facilitate their growth. Anything less or more cannot do anything good for them, if not bad. Thus, we must be careful about feeding them the right nutrition with respect to their lifestage. As a dog parent it becomes an unsaid duty to maintain this feeding chart in your head, along with the best feed.

The bifurcation of a canine life within sub-groups has been a milestone in canine’s history of research. It changed the parameters of the canine's life longevity. Otherwise, Veterinarians were stuck to the orthodox "a dog is a dog is a dog" notion. This finding resulted in garnering more interest in the feeding plan of the canine’s body.

Majorly on the basis of their age, the nutritional requirements are divided among these three stages.

  1. Growing stage
  2. Adult stage
  3. Senior stage

 While this is the major structure of the division of nutritional requirements given and considered by dog specialising bodies. There are multiple other factors that can determine the changes ranging from the breed size, lifestyle, spaying or neutering status and individual metabolism of a dog. Needless to say, all these things are considered only when a dog’s body is disease-free, if not, a Veterinarian suggested diet is strictly recommended.

GROWING STAGE

A firm foundation results in a solid future. This fact holds true in every sphere, be it your dog’s life. If you hit the right chord while feeding your baby doggo, half of the job is done.
The right hit begins from the time you adopt your dog. It is highly recommended for you to get the doggo only after 2 months of its birth, unless the mother of the doggo is not there. What this ensures is that the dog is not devoid of its mother’s feed, as it has the health benefit unparalleled to any dog food.

God forbid, if the puppy can not get its mother’s milk, it is not recommended to feed them puppy food from the beginning as their digestive system is not well versed to digest the kibble sized food. So, cerelac is a great alternative to mother’s feed, it is light on the stomach and is ingested instantly.

After almost 2-4 months, you could actually separate the puppy from its mother and take it to your home. Again maintaining the light and digestible factors as constant, the source needs to be Vet tested, although there are multiple food options available under the puppy food category at pet stores online.

The nutritional value is kept higher than other stages of the dog’s life, as growth of bone, tissues, tendons have to be triggered at this stage. Additionally the daily activities have to be maintained & monitored closely. To help facilitate all these activities, the body requires more calories, proteins, fats and higher levels of vitamins and minerals.

As a general rule, it is recommended that for dogs aging between

2-3 months should be fed 4 times a day

3-6 months should be fed 3 times a day

6-12 months should be fed 2 times a day

This, of course, varies highly with respect to the breed of the dog. One can not keep on feeding a large breed dog, without keeping a check, as it would lead to cropping up of orthopaedic issues and obesity from the beginning. When we say they need more food and energy, we mean they need high quality food. A food having good bioavailability value along with high proteins, fatty acids and antioxidants is what we mean. Fatty acids like DHA helps maintain the brain and vision development and antioxidants support in building the immune system.

Smaller breeds do not have as much space in their bellies as the larger breeds, so there are high chances of hypoglycemic episodes (low sugar levels). Hence, in smaller breeds, it is prudent to feed more frequently than larger breeds.

ADULT STAGE

 

Adult dogs do not require extra nutrients to build the structure, nor do they need any less. They just need the right amount of nutrients to maintain the already built structure. Thus, this period and its subsequent feeding is called maintenance feeding. Some veterinarians even suggest a diet slightly below average; moderate nutrition, as problems like obesity and hips dysplasia hovers over them constantly.

As a general rule, make sure that it is possible to touch the rib of your pooch from beneath, this is the marker for a good & healthy structure of the dog’s body. High quality ingredients, along with high digestibility protein is required by the body to maintain a minimal amount of 34% of metabolic energy (ME).

The main focus should be to ensure a healthy skin, fur and immune system. Omega 3 and 6 ensures the longevity of good skin and fur and antioxidants strengthens the immune system. Otherwise there is no need to feed any extra or less at this phase of their life, unless we talk about a working dog or a lactating/gestation mother-dog or a spayed or neutered dog.

1. Lactation/Gestation

This period refers to the period when a female dog is either in heats or is pregnant. A female dog in heats constantly releases bodily fluids, that weakens the body if not adequately replenished for. And, it is a no brainer that a pregnant dog would require extra food, energy etc, as it is fending for two humans simultaneously.

From the nutritional aspect, it is only logical that the mother doggos be fed the same food as that of a puppy. As puppy food contains the required amounts of calcium and magnesium that suffices for bone growth and health. This diet regime should begin from the time the dog is pregnant till the weaning phase, as weaning also requires for the female dog to provide for sufficient milk. At this time nutrition is of utmost priority otherwise the female dog resorts to desperate measures to fulfill its needs like cannibalizing its own body. So keep sources like dog food online handy, in case you run out of stocks.

Once the dog is done with all this, she needs to be put back to the fat cutting diet to maintain the goodness of her own body. Veterinarians and dog specialists avoid suggesting supplementation to provide for a dog’s body. Pregnancy is one of such times when supplementation becomes imperative. The mother doggo is already carrying a baby,  she can not carry enough food to fend for herself and the baby. This lack of space in the belly leads to fulfilling the nutrient needs through supplements that can be encapsulated or injected easily. This, in fact, is a major reason why a lot of mothers lose their babies too.

2. Working dogs

Food is by far the only source of energy for our pooches, keeping the supplements aside. If the right food, along with the right quantity is not provided, dogs can neither be trained nor perform anything. Working dogs as mentioned in the article work on the threshold of food to focus, train, attack, or guard. Thus, this intense need for energy calls for high nutritional valued food. Although it could be the phase of their life where they require only a maintenance diet, owing to their duties they must be fed food that is high on nutrition.

3. Spaying and Neutering

As spaying and neutering is saving more and more dogs from abandonment, you should reward your spayed and neutered dog by caring better for them. It is recommended that immediately after the surgery, a dog should be fed half the amount of food as compared to its normal diet. Then gradually increasing the diet to cope up with the healing process, is suggested by Veterinarians all across. Once the body is completely healed, a neutered dog requires lower levels of calories as compared to an intact dog. Consequently on an average 25% of food is required by the body of a neutered dog.

SENIOR STAGE

It is a myth commonly believed that since the body has turned to the grey of its life, a senior dog does not need as much nutrition. This fact finds its rooting in the equation, that food equates energy. Since the body is less active, diseased and aged, there is hardly any food requirement. On the contrary, a senior dog requires equally as much protein, calcium, phosphorus and other nutrients; as the body might seem remote but is fighting innumerable internal battles. Your senior dog has only one armour to fight with, i.e its food.

Aging is highly subjective when it comes to your doggos. A dog could be thriving even when it is about 9-10 years old or could be disease-stricken at the age of 4-5 years. So, a pet parent needs to listen to the individual needs of its pet rather than going for a generic plan of order for its pet. This holds true for every phase of life and its subsequent nutrition.

Reading about the various phases and citing these symptoms in your pooches might help you. It is important to keep a track of quality, quantity and adequacy of life stages, so you can make an informed decision for your pets. There is no point if you feed your pet a meal that is not meant for them, however good that is in your opinion.