The time we have with our cats and dogs will never be long enough. But just like us, they grow old and their habits change. Understanding our pets’ life cycle allows us to enjoy each stage and cherish every moment with them.
Our pets’ life stage is one of the most important factors in their overall wellness and health. As they grow, their bodies change, and so do the nutrients from their food—such as protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Knowing what to expect with your pet’s different life stages won’t leave you surprised when they start showing signs of odd behavior. But before we dive in, first thing first.
Your pet’s nutritional needs
Good nutrition is the cornerstone of lifelong health for our pets. One of the most important feeding fundamentals to remember is that dogs and cats do not have the same nutritional requirements. Cats are obligate carnivores, while dogs are considered omnivores. Dog food lacks some of the essential nutrients cats need (the opposite may be true as well).
In general, dog food may have a combination of meat, fruits, and vegetables. On the other hand, cats need a higher amount of protein in their diet. Both cats and dogs break down protein during digestion and absorb amino acids from it. Dogs require 10 essential amino acids while cats require 11 proper growth and development.
Besides the nutritional component, taste is a big difference between dog food and cat food. Cats may not appreciate some elements found in dog food. Meanwhile, dogs may enjoy cat food because of its high protein content, but that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for them. Plus, protein levels in cat food might upset your dog’s stomach, so best to keep it out of reach.
Your pet’s life stage
Now that we’ve covered your pet’s nutritional needs, here’s a brief guide on what to expect as your pets move through different stages of life.
Puppies and kittens
The most crucial stage of growth is the puppy/kitten stage. Feeding them properly will avoid stunted growth and deficiencies.
Both puppies and kittens need food higher in calcium and phosphorus, which help good bone health. But for the first four to five weeks, it’s essential to let puppies and kittens nurse for as long as possible. They get essential protection from germs through antibodies in their mother’s milk. If their mother isn’t around, milk replacement formulas, commercial or homemade, would suffice.
By the fourth or fifth week, puppies will start getting their teeth, and the weaning process will begin. Puppies may eat solid food at about 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 weeks old. They become mobile at this age and will start to explore their environment. If you see your puppy sampling food from their mother’s bowl, it’s usually a sign that they are ready to try solid food.
On the other hand, kittens usually start weaning from three to four weeks old, taking two to three weeks to complete. This is the time to start setting out moistened food for them. Kittens typically have sensitive tummies so a longer food transition period is recommended. By the time your kitten is five to seven weeks old, they are ready to get nutrition from solid food.
Adult cats and dogs
Adult pets require a balance of protein, vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, fibre, and carbohydrates. Their diet should have just the right amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight.
For dogs at this stage, the food they need will largely depend on size and breed, and to a lesser extent, how regularly they exercise. Ensure you’re not overfeeding or underfeeding by keeping portion sizes consistent, which helps maintain your dog’s ideal weight.
Meanwhile, cats are creatures of habit so getting them into a fixed feeding routine as soon as they reach adulthood is most effective. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet that’s ideal for ALL cats, but they do need food that’s high in protein. Cats break down amino acids faster than dogs, but they’re also unable to make their own. Their bodies’ metabolism does not adjust the rate of protein breakdown (like other animals do), so they consistently need a high amount of protein in their diet.
Senior/mature pets have no medically clear definition. The label ‘senior’ or ‘mature’ generally refers to dogs older than six to eight years, but it depends on the dog’s breed. For example, smaller breeds are considered seniors when they are 10 to 12 years old, but bigger breeds become seniors at five or six years old.
Senior or mature dogs usually require reduced fat and calories but with a blend of vitamins, minerals, and supplements. This is to help their immune system and promote healthy kidneys and joints. Some may need more protein in their diet because the protein stores of a senior dog run out more quickly than those of younger dogs. Dogs start to lose muscle mass as they age—just like us—but extra protein may supply the amino acids to help make up for that loss.
Cats mature between 7-10 years while senior cats are generally classified as ‘senior’ between 11-14 years old. Like dogs, cats use less energy as they age so they won’t need as many calories to keep them going. Plenty of cat food is formulated with protein that’s easier on a mature cat’s stomach and gentler on their teeth.
What we recommend
Made for all life stages, earthmade products are easily digestible and nutritious. It’s naturally made without using artificial preservatives.
Dogs run the gamut of ‘I want to eat everything’ to ‘eating isn’t fun,’ but earthmade Free-Range Grass-Fed Lamb Adult Dog Food is brimming with tasty protein, iron, and essential nutrients that they can’t say no to. It boosts your dog’s vitality, strength, and energy. With added rosehip for coat care, manuka honey for antioxidants and healthy digestion, and kiwi for vitamin C, it’s great for both adult and senior dogs.
It also has glucosamine, which helps support joint health and slow down the progression of arthritis, and chondroitin, which improves mobility in your senior pet’s arthritic limbs. It’s an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids for a more robust immune system and enhanced brain development.
Cats can be picky eaters but not with earthmade New Zealand Mackerel Cat Food. It’s an ideal addition to their diet as it’s rich in omega-3 and -6 fatty acids that can lessen allergic reactions and develop better skin and coat, to name a few. It’s high in antioxidants, vitamins A and E, and kiwi for vitamin C. Kiwi also contains a good amount of fibre that can help with digestive issues and hairball control.
You can browse our other protein options here.
As always, speak to your vet when making major changes in your pet’s diet. They can guide you with what’s best for your pet inside and out.
Each stage of your pet’s life has its own challenges but it also comes with joys and experiences to remember. Make every moment count and be proactive in supporting them as their health and needs change.