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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > How Life Stage Dog Foods Differ

How Life Stage Dog Foods Differ


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When shopping for dog food, it is common to buy by the brand. Beyond the brand of the food, you should take into consideration the life stage of your dog. Life stages refer to the various developmental stages of a pet's life. For dogs it means puppy, adult, senior and for some dogs, a lower calorie diet for inactive or overweight dogs. It's extremely important to insure that your pet is consuming a product that is appropriate to their life stage. Feeding puppy food to an adult dog can result in excess weight gain. The same outcome may occur by feeding an adult formula to a senior dog.

Dog food life stage definitions

  • Puppy food
    Puppy age range is 1-12 months for most breeds. Large and giant breeds (55 lbs. and up) are classified as puppies for 0-18 months. Regular puppy formulas (growth formulas) contain extra protein and fat to encourage proper muscle and skeletal development. 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.
  • Adult food
    Adult foods contain moderate levels of protein, fat and carbohydrates for dogs ages 13 months and up. However, large and giant breeds are considered adult at a later stage, normally 13-18 months. Special high-energy foods (i.e. premium performance, high-energy, etc.) are designed for highly active adult dogs requiring increased calories.
  • Lite/reduced calorie food
    Products labeled "lite" are subject to strict industry rules and therefore must contain no more than 1409 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. If the objective is weight reduction, larger calorie reductions result in greater weight loss.
  • Senior food
    Senior dog age normally starts at age 6-7 years for most breeds. These foods have reduced fat levels and increased fiber levels to help older, more sedentary dogs maintain a desirable weight level. These foods also have reduced salt and phosphorus levels.

Are you feeding your pet the right food?
Find out the benefits of feeding a premium pet food the Specialty Food Information Center at PetSmart.com. 


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