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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Choosing The Right Food For Your Dog

Choosing the right food for your dog


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Most foods are available in specific formulations tailored to match your dog's age, breed, weight and activity level, called life-stage formulas. Most brands are divided by life stage into the following categories.

Most foods are available in specific formulations tailored to match your dog's age, breed, weight and activity level, called life-stage formulas. Most brands are divided by life stage into the following categories.

Dog food
Growth/puppy foods
Puppy foods are intended to be fed to growing puppies.

For small dogs, growth usually ends by 9 months of age and for giant breeds it can last until 18-24 months of age. For this reason, no single recommendation can be made as to how long to feed your puppies a growth diet.

Higher levels of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals characterize growth diets, which encourage proper muscle and skeletal development. This is necessary to meet the growing puppy's high energy and nutrient requirements.

Large-breed puppy foods are designed to optimize the growth rate, thereby reducing the risk of hip and joint diseases that can result from too rapid growth of large breeds.

Pound-for-pound puppies need as much as two times more nutrients than an adult dog. Be sure not to overfeed your puppy, as too much weight can predispose your puppy to orthopedic diseases later on in life.

Generally, the time to transition puppies to adult food is when they reach a 1 year of age.

Adult foods
Adult dog foods are intended to be fed to moderately active adult dogs. Most dogs will transition from puppy foods into adult foods, which are formulated for moderately active adult dogs.

They contain moderate amounts of protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates. Many adult diets come in two-piece sizes designed for smaller and larger dogs.

Special high-energy foods (i.e., premium performance, high-energy, etc.) are designed for highly active adult dogs requiring increased calories.

More sedentary adult dogs can be fed weight management formulas and older adult dogs should be fed senior formulas.

Lite/reduced calorie food: Products labeled "lite" are subject to strict industry rules and therefore must contain no more than 1,409 calories/lb. "Reduced calorie," "reduced fat" and "less active" labeled products are not subject to this definition and therefore may be higher in calorie content.

Lite foods are especially appropriate for weight loss and can be used for more sedentary dogs that require fewer calories. If the objective is weight reduction, larger calorie reductions result in greater weight loss.

Because reduced calorie dog foods suited for weight maintenance are higher in calories than light foods, they are better of more sedentary dogs than for weight loss in overweight dogs.

Your dog may transition into and out of these foods during certain points in his life. Your vet will help you decide if these foods are right for your dog.

Senior foods
As your dog ages, he may benefit from a senior dog food diet. Older dogs tend to be more sedentary and require fewer calories (i.e., lower fat)

These foods have reduced fat levels and increased fiber levels to help older, more sedentary dogs maintain a desirable weight level.

They also have reduced salt and phosphorus levels and generally contain higher levels of antioxidants and higher levels of glucoseamine, to promote healthy joints.

They have a moderate level of fiber, which helps prevent constipation and maintains gastro-intestinal health.

Again, because different sized dogs age at different rates, there is no one age to begin feeding your dog a senior diet. Generally 7 years is a good rule of thumb, with giant breeds starting earlier (around 5 years) and small and toy breeds starting later (around 8 or 9 years).

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15 Feb 2011 2:04 am

ammoseven said:

@ aj: Science diet is the best of the worst, good call on not using it. If the sensitive skin is a result of allergies then some hypoallergenic food would be the way to go. Blue Buffalo basics matches this criteria, isn't horrible like science diet, is sold at petsmart, and come in two flavors (turkey & potatoes and salmon & potatoes)

@ mariscalmo: I would suggest Authority/Nutro/Pro Plan Select/Blue Buffalo

20 Jan 2011 3:10 pm

a.j.sizemore said:

Hi I need some help I have a half rot half blue pit he is around 9 or so months and he has Sensitive Skin but I do not want to put him on science diet. Does anyone know if I should start him on adult food or stay on puppy food thanks.

15 Jan 2011 5:41 pm

mariscalmo said:

Iam a new dog owner of a puppy and im not sure what type of food to buy her or what type of treats to give her. Help... I would really appreciate the advise

09 Nov 2010 4:49 pm


I'm looking for a good food for my two rotties. I believe our dog have an allergy to Bill Jack. What is a good skin treatment dry dog food

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