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Ask Dr. Aziza: How Does a Dog's Nutritional Needs Change as they Age?

written by Dr. Aziza Glass

Play hard, sleep hard, dream hard: the life of a puppy is pretty amazing. Life is focused on exploring the world, forming lifelong bonds, and learning tricks and boundaries. As pet parents, we enjoy watching our puppies grow up, adorably stumbling through life’s obstacles along the way. We support them by making sure their health and all their developmental needs are addressed. This includes nutrition. In this article we’ll explore the nutritional needs of puppies and how they change as they grow into adulthood.


Puppies are tiny furballs of energy. Whether Great Dane or Chihuahua, puppies need specialized nutritional support to flourish. Consistent high quality meals support their developing bodies and keep blood sugar levels stable. Puppies also have a fast metabolism, therefore they need a sufficient amount of calories and meals to sustain their active lifestyles. Puppies need to be fed small meals 3 to 4 times a day when young, which slowly decreases to twice a day in adulthood.


Puppies grow fast. They reach maturity at about 10-12 months of age if a small or medium breed, and 18-24 months if a large or giant breed. This difference in growth rate impacts their nutritional requirements. To lower the risk of nutrition-related diseases, like osteochondrosis, controlling calories and calcium intake is essential. Growing puppies also have a higher demand for protein which steadily decreases as they near adulthood. Puppy diets are formulated to consider the developmental needs during growth spurts (or lack of). These diets are frequently divided into categories for breed size to make sure your developing puppy gets the specialized nutrition they require: toy, small, medium, large, and giant. The amount of food to feed puppies is determined by the caloric density of the selected diet and therefore, will rely on its designated feeding guide.


As puppies mature into adults, additional factors affect their ideal nutritional needs. For example, changes in lifestyle and health conditions affect what diets are most suited for the puppy. Is the puppy showing signs of a food allergy? Then switching to a novel protein diet like Freshpet Vital Beef & Bison or Vital Ocean Whitefish and Salmon will be best. Does the puppy have an upset or sensitive stomach? Freshpet Select Roll Sensitive Stomach & Skin Chicken Recipe is a great option for those suffering from gastrointestinal issues.


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Eventually, puppies grow into adults and a new phase of life begins. At this stage, a dog’s personality and lifestyle should be well established. Factors like a dog’s weight, activity level, and general health are easily identified.

As adults, certain diseases like obesity, diabetes mellitus, and allergies will be one of the top factors impacting diets and nutritional needs. Pet obesity is one of the leading chronic medical diseases affecting our pets. Obesity, a condition linked to a number of health problems, including diabetes mellitus, can result from failure to modify calorie intake to meet the current exercise level. Additionally, for the proper management and treatment of some medical disorders, such as osteoarthritis or kidney disease, specialized diets may be needed. Adjusting dietary needs to support a pet’s medical concerns leads to a well balanced diet and hopefully a great response to therapeutic treatments.


Like puppies, how much an adult dog eats will depend on the medical needs of the individual and the caloric density of the selected diet. If the dog is an ideal weight with no health concerns, then follow the designated feeding guide available on the nutritional label. If your dog’s goal is to lose or gain weight, consult with your veterinarian to determine the ideal daily portions based on your pet’s lifestyle and age.


When transitioning to an adult dog diet, make sure it is not abrupt. Any abrupt change to a dog’s diet can lead to gastrointestinal issues like vomiting and diarrhea. Instead, ensure a slow transition by proportionally adding a little more of the new food and removing the old in a period of 5 to 7 days.


As always, consult your primary care veterinarian if you need assistance on how to choose the best dietary strategy for dogs, especially those with certain health issues.

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