Why Pets' Nutrition Needs Change With Age

Cat eating food from bowl
When feeding your cat or dog, take his life stage and lifestyle into account so you don't over- or underfeed him.

For people and pets alike, nutrition and good (or not so good) health go hand in hand. Human and veterinary medical professionals have studied the health-nutrition link for more than 40 years, and they recognize that what — and how much — we eat may play a role in such unwanted health issues as hypertension, obesity, diabetes mellitus and cancer. Not surprisingly, they recommend that we cut back on calories and certain foods in order to decrease the risk of disease and improve our quality of life. For most pets, a healthy diet is tailored to the dog or cat's life stage and lifestyle.

What Is Life-Stage and Lifestyle Nutrition?

Feeding foods designed to meet your pet’s optimal nutritional needs at a specific age or physiological state — such as diets designed for maintenance (basic upkeep to support health), reproduction, growth or senior pets — is known as life-stage nutrition. Lifestyle nutrition, on the other hand, takes into consideration the physiological needs of pets with certain lifestyles, such as working/active or sedentary.

Life-stage and lifestyle nutrition both recognize the existence of an optimal nutrient range for pets. Your goal is to feed foods designed to meet your pet’s individual life-stage and lifestyle needs, while keeping him at a healthy weight. This approach is consistent with the goals of nutrition in general: feeding for peak health, performance and longevity. This is the key to life-stage nutrition­­ and preventive medicine.

Conversely, products manufactured for all life stages contain nutrient and calorie levels designed to meet a pet’s greatest biological need (usually growth or reproduction). In other words, when your adult or senior pet eats an all-purpose food, he’s most likely consuming more nutrients and calories than a less-active pet needs. Feeding your pet food that’s above (or below) his optimal nutrient range may result in obesity or weight loss, subpar performance and overall poor health.

Though some pet owners consider a “plush” Persian cute and cuddly, obesity has serious health consequences for our pets.

So just what should your pet eat? To get the answer, speak with your pet’s veterinary health care team. They can assess your pet’s weight, health and activity level and recommend a diet and feeding amount that's right for your pet. Ideally, this takes place before your pet has health problems. Often, nutritional needs associated with your pet’s breed, age and physiologic state are considered along with the goal of reducing various risk factors for disease — resulting in specific dietary recommendations.

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