How Your Pet's Nutrition Needs Change with Age
A new survey released by Iams found that only 10% of pet owners take the age of their cat or dog into consideration when determining which formula to feed their pet.
Just like babies with the transition from milk or formula to regular food, pets' meals need to change as they age to suit their dietary needs.
If you feed your puppy or kitten with food that's too advanced, he or she is likely to not get enough nutrients to grow well. Conversely, older pets that are fed food for a younger animal can suffer from kidney problems or simply get fat.
Here are a few guidelines to feeding your pet correctly:
Puppies and Kittens
Puppies need high amounts of fat, calories and protein. They also need a lot of calcium and phosphorous to grow strong bones. Kittens also need calcium and phosphorous, though less than dogs because they grow less (ditto for small dog breeds), but they should get plenty from specifically formulated kitten food. Beware: Excessive quantities of both minerals can be detrimental. Do, however, ensure your kitten is eating fibre as this helps to expel hairballs and improves stool quality.
As dogs and cats get older, they need a little less protein and fewer calories. Dogs are considered to be middle-aged between eight to 24 months depending on their size. The larger the dog, the sooner it reaches maturity.
The foods for middle-aged animals are known as maintenance foods but most have too many calories since most dogs don't get the exercise they need. If this is the case, it may be a good idea to feed your dog a lighter version of their normal food to prevent them from getting too overweight, which will be detrimental to them, even if they are considered to be a young animal. Too many calories for a middle-aged dog can lead to diabetes and joint issues.
However, a cat's protein needs do not decline as they age, so ensure your cat gets adequate animal protein intake to maintain healthy muscle mass and metabolism. Sufficient protein ensures cats' taurine needs (which support heart health) are met.
The Baby Boomers of Pets
The age at which your pet hits old age depends on its size. Dogs tend to be old-aged at anywhere from 6 to 10 years old, again depending on their size. The bigger the dog, the younger they are considered to be old.
At this age, pets should be moved on to senior dog foods as these have more fibre, so they feel fuller, and less protein, since they're no longer growing and developing muscle.
In fact, too much protein at this age can be hard on a dog's kidneys but if you can cut it down you may even actually extend your pet's life. Instead of meat, find brands with more corn or wheat. You will probably also want to feed older dogs less food too because their metabolism has slowed down and you'll prevent weight gain. As they age, supplements can help. Glucosamine for joint health and omega-3 fatty acids for joints, heart health and the immune system are recommended but it is advisable to speak to your vet first. These can also be beneficial for cats but less so since cats are lighter and don't impact their joints as much.
Cats should shift onto a senior diet between the ages of 9 and 12. Make sure your cat isn't getting too much fat in their diet or he or she will gain weight, especially coupled with less activity.
Very old cats have a tendency to become emaciated. If so, you'll need to ramp up the calories they're getting. Foods specifically designed for mature cats have higher calories but in the same amount of food, so the cat does not have to eat more.
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