Just like human beings, the nutritional needs of dogs change at different stages of life.
Growing puppies need a food that can keep up with their metabolic demands and support an ideal rate of growth. This means more fat and protein are required, and their vitamin and mineral intake must be carefully balanced to avoid excesses and deficiencies (either of which can lead to growth and development issues).
Once a puppy becomes an adult, their metabolism starts to slow down. They don’t need as much fat, protein, and calories as puppy food offers—in fact, eating puppy food during adulthood can lead to weight gain and obesity. Adult dog food is balanced to meet the needs of a full-grown dog and help them maintain a healthy weight.
During their senior years, a dog’s metabolism usually slows down even more. Also, older pups may develop arthritis, digestive issues, or other health concerns. Senior dog foods take this into account by providing food that is less calorie dense—so your older pup can eat enough to feel full, while still receiving the right number of calories and proportions of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Senior pet foods also commonly contain “extras” like the building blocks for glucosamine and chondroitin, to help support joint health, or probiotics for digestion.
Every dog is an individual, so you can always check with your veterinarian on exactly what they need. If appropriate, you can also consider specialized options like large breed food for puppies or adults, or weight management recipes.