Age-Specific Foods for Dogs and Puppies

Dogs and puppies have various nutritional needs based on factors like age, breed and size. What food you serve your dog also depends on his weight and activity level. The following information about dogs and puppies will guide you through the food selection process.

Appropriate Foods for Puppies

Do not feed your puppy scraps from the table or over-feed him. A puppy needs a delicate balance of food sources to support his developing body. Feed your puppy a well-balanced food that consists of nourishing ingredients, such as:

  • A high protein level; at least 25 percent
  • Vitamins and minerals like calcium
  • Essential fatty acids
  • All-natural ingredients
  • Dry kibble appropriate for your dog's size

Food Sources for Different Types of Dogs and Puppies

Today, there are breed-formulated foods available at pet stores. These are made with special ingredients appropriate for adult dogs and puppies.

Small breeds

  • Feed a small dog food made with tiny bits of kibble.
  • A food for a small breed dog will be high in protein able to adapt to his growing body, energy level and size.
  • There are some feeding considerations you need to make for certain small breeds. For example, Chihuahuas are prone to low blood sugar and require eating several small meals a day.
  • Switch dogs less than 20 pounds to adult food at when they are approximately 12 months old.

Large breed puppies

  • A larger dog needs a well-balanced food source to help him develop at a good pace, but not too fast.
  • The food needs a good balance of protein and fat, and be low in calories.
  • Some foods for large breed dogs are made with special levels of calcium and phosphorous to support healthy bone development.
  • Large breeds may need to keep eating puppy food until 2 years of age.

Medium and large dogs

  • Specially-formulated foods for medium and large breeds may prevent orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia.
  • Some commercial foods that are over-supplemented with proteins and minerals may result in poor developmental health and obesity in canines.

Dogs that develop orthopedic problems benefit from low-calorie diets; here's a sampling of breeds prone to hip dysplasia:

  • Basset Hound
  • Chow Chow
  • Great Dane
  • Golden Retriever
  • Pug
  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard

Food Considerations for an Older Dog

It's important to maintain your dog's weight as he ages. What you feed him can control, or prevent, the development of certain diseases. Adapt your older dog's diet to meet the change in his metabolism and activity level, too.

Senior dogs benefit from food that's low in calories, and has the proper level of proteins, nutrients and antioxidants. Seek the following:

  • An older dog needs to eat highly digestible proteins to strengthen his bones and still build his muscle mass.
  • Adding a supplement to your dog's food is appropriate when he has a health condition like arthritis.
  • Prevent damage to your dog's body tissue: look for Vitamin E and beta-carotene in food. This helps ward off free radicals that speed up the signs of aging.
  • Foods with antioxidants bolster the immune systems of middle-aged and senior dogs.
  • Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids help an aging dog maintain a healthy skin and coat.