What is Life-Stage Feeding and is it Important?

Just like us humans, dogs have different nutritional requirements based on their age. Puppies for example need more calories since they’re growing and their bodies are developing, while senior dogs may need fewer calories since they tend to be less active.

That said, there are dog foods deemed suitable for ‘All Life Stages’ by AAFCO’s nutrient profiles. This means you can feed them to all dogs from puppies to seniors and they will get the minimum nutritional requirements at the very least.

However, some dog food producers create age-specific food. We discussed the subject with Braeden Ruud, CEO and Founder of 5-star-rated Raised Right, a human-grade dog food company that works with veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker to make stage-of-life specific recipes for dogs.

What is life-stage food?

A life-stage diet is one designed to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs within a specific age group.

“When dog food companies are formulating their recipes to meet AAFCO’s requirements for a complete and balanced diet, they have two choices on how to go about achieving this,” says Braeden.

“One option is they can formulate stage-of-life specific recipes, which means they have a line of recipes formulated specifically for puppies and then another line of recipes formulated specifically for adult dogs.

“The other option, which is far more common, is they can formulate recipes for all life stages.”

What is an all-life-stage diet?

“Essentially, when a company formulates recipes for all life stages it means it is advertising that the same recipe can be fed to both puppies and adult dogs,” says Braeden.

“The problem with this is that recipes formulated for all life stages aren’t optimal as adult dogs don’t have the same nutritional requirements as puppies do.”

What are the different life-stage recipes?

    • Puppy Recipes: AAFCO defines these recipes as being formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for growth.
    • Adult Dog Recipes: AAFCO defines these recipes as being formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for maintenance.
    • All Life Stages: AAFCO defines these recipes as being formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for all life stages.

What’s wrong with eating an all-life-stage diet?

Dogs of different ages will require certain nutritional needs.

“If an adult dog is eating an all-life-stage diet for their entire life, they are getting far more calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and sodium than they need,” says Braeden.

“If a dog is eating an all-life-stages diet, they are essentially eating puppy food for their entire life. Recipes formulated for all life stages are equivalent to the nutritional levels of puppy dog food.

“While AAFCO’s maximum nutritional requirements are the same for both adult dogs and puppies, their minimum nutritional requirements are drastically higher for puppies.”

Can feeding your dog an all-life-stage diet raise health concerns?

“An example of how big this difference can be per nutrient is if you look at calcium, you’ll see that the minimum calcium requirement for puppies is more than double the minimum calcium requirement for adult dogs,” says Braeden.

“Many pet nutrition experts believe this is contributing to different health issues as too much calcium is associated with kidney and bladder stones, which both cause urinary issues which are very common in adult dogs.

“Another example is that too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and high blood pressure can cause heart issues.

“Such examples are why it was very important to us to have a line of recipes formulated specifically for adult dogs and then another line of recipes formulated specifically for puppies.

“We believe dogs deserve to be eating recipes that are formulated for the stage of life they’re in.”

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