Much like humans have different dietary needs from being a newborn baby through to older adulthood, dogs also have different nutritional needs at the different stages of their life. A puppy will have different nutritional and dietary requirements compared to adult dogs, pregnant dogs, and senior dogs. As a pet parent, you’ll need to understand these changes throughout your dog’s life and adjust their diet when it is necessary.
What Do Dogs Need From Their Diet?
The first step is to be aware of the basic nutrients that every dog needs from their diet. All dogs, regardless of their breed or age, need an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and water to be able to thrive. Protein is essential for providing amino acids, and fats both make food more appetizing along with providing a range of nutritional benefits including maintaining healthy skin and coat and digesting fat-soluble vitamins. Dogs are omnivores and require a balanced mix of meat and vegetables to provide a healthy diet. Carbohydrates are essential for a dog’s energy needs, and vitamins and minerals are required for various chemical reactions in the body. Finally but also most importantly, water is essential for almost every bodily function.
Nutritional Requirements for Puppies:
Until a puppy is around four weeks old, their mother’s milk will provide all the nutrients that they need. Around this age is when most puppies begin to be weaned, which usually takes around one to two weeks at least. Puppies often need quite a lot of food in relation to their size since they are growing rapidly. In fact, puppies need to eat around twice as many calories as a normal adult dog per pound of their body weight, and typically require a higher amount of proteins and fats in their diet compared to an adult dog.
Although puppies do need to eat a lot, it’s important to ensure that they remain a healthy weight as they grow. To do this, avoid allowing them to have access to food all day and instead feed meals that have been measured out to ensure that they are getting the right amount. The ideal way for a puppy to eat is little and often, so if you have a puppy who is under six months old, they should be getting 3-4 meals per day. By six months, this can be reduced to twice a day.
Nutritional Requirements for Adult Dogs:
As anyone who has had a puppy will know, the baby stage goes by very quickly. Dogs grow up fast, and at around a year old, they will typically be ready to switch to an adult diet. At this point, you might decide to switch your dog from puppy kibble to a more nutritionally balanced raw food diet. If you have brought your puppy up on raw food, making the switch to an adult diet will not be difficult. However, if you want to feed adult raw dog food and your dog is used to commercial foods, it’s important to be careful when making the switch as you do not want to upset their stomach. Bella & Duke offer a range of helpful advice and guidelines to follow when switching your dog to adult raw dog food. You can choose to make the switch gradually or see how your dog responds to a straight swap with their first meal of the day as they start their new diet. Bella & Duke also make switching to a raw diet easy with a range of tasty, prepared and tailored meals that you can order for your dog.
Your adult dog’s dietary needs will be based on a number of factors including their breed, size and activity level. Active dogs tend to need more calories to keep up with their energy levels, along with higher amounts of fat and protein. Keep an eye out for signs that your dog may be underweight or overweight to determine if your dog is eating a healthy amount of food. Underweight dogs tend to have very visible ribs, pelvic bones, and vertebra, while on the other hand, if you can’t feel the ribs at all, your dog may be overweight.
Nutritional Requirements for Pregnant Dogs:
The importance of pregnancy can’t be overlooked when it comes to nutritional changes throughout a dog’s life. If you have a female dog and plan to let her have a litter of puppies, it’s important to ensure that you get her nutritional needs right to keep both her and her puppies healthy. Pregnant dogs require a special diet as typically they will gain around 15%-20% of their usual weight during pregnancy. This weight is usually gained by around the fourth week of pregnancy, at which point you should increase her meal sizes. Bear in mind that if your dog is carrying a large litter of puppies, there will be less room for food, so it may be necessary to feed her smaller meals on a more frequent basis compared to two larger meals each day.
For a pregnant dog, high-quality protein is one of the most important elements in her diet. You should feed protein that is easy to digest and provides the right amount of essential amino acids. Along with supporting the health of the mother, the protein will ensure that the puppies form healthy, strong tissue while developing. Remember that these special dietary needs will not end when your dog gives birth to her puppies; she will be lactating for up to seven weeks and may require even more food that’s rich in healthy fats and animal proteins in order to help with milk production.
Nutritional Requirements for Older Dogs:
Just like humans, elderly dogs tend to require a different diet compared to that of when they were younger. Older dogs tend to have less energy to burn than younger dogs and a slower metabolism, which can lead to a serious risk of becoming overweight if their diet is not adjusted accordingly. It might be difficult to think about the fact that your dog is ageing, but accepting this and adjusting their dietary needs is essential to ensure that your dog remains healthy and happy during their golden years.
Older dogs tend to require fewer calories due to their slowed metabolism and reduced need for exercise. Typically, an older dog will require around 20% fewer calories compared to when they were younger. Older dogs also tend to be more prone to digestive problems and therefore will benefit from a diet that is rich in fibre. And, the need for high-quality protein in your dog’s diet becomes even greater during these later stages of their life, both for building up protein reserves and because it is easier to digest. Some older dogs suffer sensory loss, which can affect their appetite. If you have noticed that your senior dog is less interested in their food, you can try to encourage them to eat by heating up their meals or tempting them with different foods to try.
Regardless of their age, dogs need some basic nutrients and plenty of water to stay happy and healthy. Whether you are getting a new puppy or adopting an older dog, an awareness of how your pet’s nutritional needs change throughout their life is crucial. Signing up for dog insurance may prove beneficial, especially if your furry friend becomes sick or injured since it can help pay for the expense.