Date: 07/10/2019

Dogs have very specific nutritional demands for healthy growth and development. 

From puppies to old dogs, every life phase will bring with it different requirements of protein, fat, carbohydrates and other nutrients. As an increasingly developed niche, pet food specific to different age groups are considered to have great market potential.

However, special care must be taken with the ingredients to be used in this type of formulation so that the nutrients are available to be absorbed and used effectively by the dogs. 

In this blog post, we will know more about the nutritional demands specific to each stage of a dog's life and how this will be reflected in the formulation of animal feed. 

The nutritional needs of puppies

In general, a dog is considered a puppy until the 6th or 7th month of life, when it is still growing. However, some larger breeds can continue growing up to 1 year or more. 

Weaning, in which happens the transition from breast milk to other types of food, usually occurs between 3 and 4 weeks of life. This transition takes an average of 7 weeks. At this age, the animal, because it is growing, needs enough nutrients to support this fast evolution. 

The dog's diet needs to be balanced in order to provide enough energy for the dog's routine activities, keep the brain and body in full working order and support growth. For this, some key nutrients will have very specific functions in the dog's body and these must be present in the feeds of these animals. They are:

  • Proteins: they help in the formation of muscle tissues, as well as in the transport of substances, in communication between organs, in addition to strengthening the immune system. They may be of vegetal or animal origin, the latter being of high biological value because of the high digestibility. The stage of life in which dogs are puppies is the one that there is the greatest need for protein due to its growth.
  • Fats: they keep skin and hair healthy, and help in brain and vision development. They are also a source of energy, carry fat-soluble vitamins and have essential fatty acids.
  • Carbohydrates: they are a primary source of energy. Complex carbohydrates, such as those that make up the grains, are best digested when cooked. This rule is true for all stages of a dog's life.
  • Fibers: they are non-digestible carbohydrates, therefore, guarantee a good functioning of the intestine.
  • Minerals and vitamins: strengthening of bones, vision and growth, antioxidant activity, coagulation factors, among others.

All these nutrients mentioned above should be present in the diet of dogs not only when they are puppies, but throughout its life cycle. What will vary according to age is the proportion of each of them.

In puppies, formulations should contain the highest proportions of all the nutrients listed so that the dog develops itself and grows healthy.

In addition, the number of meals in this age group is higher. Between 2 and 3 months of life, 4 meals a day are required. Between 3 and 6 months, 3 meals a day. When the growth phase ends, this number drops to 2 meals per day.

Therefore, this information can be taken into account when planning the number of servings in a dog food package of the most diverse age groups.

The nutritional needs of adult dogs

According to the Merck Veterinary handbook, to be fed as an adult dog, the animal should have reached 90% of its expected adult weight.

The breed of the dog, along with its age and frequency in which it does exercises, will be decisive in deciding the amount of food eaten. For example, a dog that exercises a lot requires 20% to 40% more food than a dog that does not move a lot.

On average, an adult dog needs to eat at least 10% of calories per day from protein, 5.5% fat and 50% carbohydrates, including 2.5% to 4.5% fiber.

Therefore, when formulating feeds for dogs of this age range, this nutrient balance needs to be kept in mind.

One must also take into consideration the physical state of the pet food being produced. Dry foods have more nutrients per bite, so a smaller amount will be needed to meet the dog's nutritional requirements.

Canned products, on the other hand, have about 68% to 78% water. These formulations also have a greater amount of meat, fish, poultry and textured protein than dry feeds. This higher moisture content is ideal for dogs that have problems with the urinary tract.

In addition, canned formulations are also a good option for overweight dogs as the feeling of satiety is greater.

Another important consideration to highlight is that dogs can consume both animal source protein and vegetable source.

Protein quality matters more than its source. Therefore, it is possible to balance a vegetarian diet for dogs, considering that the formulations chosen guarantee all the essential amino acids for the development of the animal and that the proteins in it have high digestibility.

The nutritional needs of elderly dogs

In general, dogs that have already reached half of their life expectancy are considered elderly. Smaller dogs live on average 15-20 years, while the larger ones have a life expectancy around 12-15 years. At this stage of life, dogs need less caloric diets to prevent obesity, a recurring problem in animals in this age group.

In the case of snacks, they should be healthy, low in fat and sodium. Older dogs also need a greater supply of water, so canned formulations may be a good option.

If they have specific health conditions, dogs’ diet also needs to be adequate. For example, for diabetic dogs, a low fat, high fiber diet is preferred.

Fibers in abundance should also be part of the diet of dogs with constipation problem.

It is also common for older dogs to lose muscle mass. Thus, a formulation providing higher protein content is preferable. In these cases, around 75 g of protein is recommended for 1000 kcal daily.

Regardless of the age range of the dog for which a feed is being developed, it is necessary to choose high quality ingredients that will ensure the supply of nutrients needed at all ages.

Oils from animal sources such as poultry oils and pork fat using fresh raw material are great sources of fat for dog formulations. Because they are of animal origin, they have high digestibility and palatability, besides guaranteeing the fatty acids essential to the development of the animal.

As a protein ingredient, chicken protein hydrolysate is a great choice. Also of animal origin, it has all the essential amino acids and is an ingredient of high digestibility, ensuring a good absorption by the animal's organism, reducing the volume of feces.

In addition, the chicken protein hydrolysate is obtained by enzymatic hydrolysis, which guarantees a process free of toxic solvents, being environmentally friendly.


Dogs have complex organisms, so their nutritional needs vary according to their age group.

Therefore, it is possible to formulate different feeds that meet each specific age range. For it, it is necessary to know the needs of each age range to guarantee feeds that allow a healthy development of the animal.

Regardless of age, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fibers, minerals and vitamins should always be present in the dogs' feeding throughout life. Therefore, it is always necessary to choose quality ingredients that are capable of providing nutrients of high digestibility and that fulfill their metabolic functions.