Ensuring Our Dogs & Cats Get All of the Nutrients They have to Thrive

With so many options within the pet food aisle, it can be hard to understand which diet to choose for your four-legged member of the family. The initial step is to consider your pet or cat's life stage because puppies and kittens have unique nutritional needs in comparison to adult or senior pets.

Stage One: Puppy and Kitten

Puppies and kittens require more protein to assist support their growing muscles and developing immune systems. They require the perfect balance of calcium and phosphorous to fuel their growing teeth and bones. DHA, an omega three fatty acid present in sources like mother's milk and salmon, is crucial for healthy brain and vision development. Keeping them on a recipe formulated for growth throughout this stage of the life can help ensure they're getting every micronutrient they require in just the best balance.

For large breed puppies, it is important that they don't grow too quickly; it can lead to painful soft tissue issues as a puppy and hang them up for health challenges such as arthritis or hip dysplasia later. Therefore, searching for a recipe that's designed for his or her unique metabolic needs is important for their healthy development. 

Because puppies and kittens often have smaller mouths and teeth than adults, finding the correct kibble shape and size can help make sure the young ones are able to consume the calories they require.  Additionally, I recommend that new pet parents introduce a variety of textures at the start of their dog or cat's life. A combination of dry and wet food can ensure a dog is adaptable should  any necessary diet changes be required in life.

Stage Two: Adulthood

Most kittens and small- to medium-breed dogs reach adulthood inside the first year, typically between 8-12 months. However, large breed dogs could grow until they're almost 2 years old. It's always best to consult with the vet to understand whenever your pet has reached the best developmental milestones to maneuver to a food formulated for adult cats and dogs.

During their adult lives, cats and dogs ought to be fed a recipe formulated for maintenance

The key to feeding within this life stage is the quantity within the bowl every day. The metabolism of every cat and dog can vary widely, so having an open line of communication with your veterinarian can help ensure your pet keeps a lean body condition to assist minimize other health problems that may plague them as they age. Over and over, research has shown that keeping a pet lean may be the one thing that can help them live a longer and better quality of life – who wouldn't want their four-legged to possess that?!?

Stage Three: Senior

According towards the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the organization that sets nutritional guidelines for commercial dog food, there are no specific nutrient ranges for any senior pet like you will find for growth and maintenance. However, there are key nutrients like Omega-3 essential fatty acids and protein are especially important as  support on their behalf because they romp and play to their golden years.  Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA can help to eliminate pain within their joints by slowing the arthritic process, keeping joint fluid production in balance, and also supporting heart health. Protein is important for maintaining a pet's muscle mass and keeping their immune system finely tuned, firing on all cylinders. Because our pets age more quickly than we all do, having consistent and regular conversations together with your veterinarian can help ensure you're providing the right recipe with the right nutrients in just the right balance.

Quality nutrition can not only make a visible difference in the appearance and level of activity of dogs and cats, but it can also assemble them for a long, vibrant and happy life and strengthen the astonishing relationships we tell them.

About RuthAnn Lobos, DVM, CCRT

Dr. RuthAnn brings a lot more than 15 years' experience in your pet food industry to her role as Lead Veterinarian with Merrick Pet Care. She loves sharing the power of pet nutrition with colleagues, pet parents and friends. In her undergraduate studies, Dr. RuthAnn pursued a pet science degree. She went on to receive her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) from Louisiana State University and have become a professional canine rehabilitation therapist. She's an avid marathoner and triathlete and proud mama to three active pups, Rigolets, Stella and Finn. To learn more about Dr. RuthAnn, we invite you to watch this video or browse the recent Q&A with her on the Merrick blog.