Feeding Your Dog According to its Lifestage


In summary, there are three key stages when it is vitally important to support your dog by providing them with the appropriate tailored nutrition. These three lifestages include:

  1. Growth
  2. Maintenance (and there will be a difference in maintenance depending on whether your dog is neutered or not and depending on how active they are)
  3. Seniority

Further details on each of the nutritional lifestages are given below.


Puppies require a higher energy diet which will support their rapid growth rate in the early stages, as well as continuing to support their growth throughout adolescence. Their diets should support growth by using an adapted level of calcium and phosphorous to ensure strong skeletal development, whilst avoiding any risk of excess or deficiency. As puppies’ digestive systems are still developing, they are prone to digestive sensitivities, so also ensure junior diets are highly digestible, through select protein choice and with the addition of prebiotics.


For adult animals, the main nutritional aim is to provide a diet balanced in all the nutrients to help maintain good body condition, without resulting in excessive weight gain in your dog. High quality proteins and a balanced intake of dietary fibres support the digestive system. Antioxidants help to support natural defences and a blend of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids help to support hair and skin health.  For neutered dogs, many will risk weight gain due to a decrease in their energy requirements.  Therefore, a diet containing fewer calories, whilst maintaining good feeding volumes will become appropriate to help to maintain weight whilst controlling hunger. This may take the form of a light maintenance diet or a diet specifically for neutered animals as recommended by your vet.


As pets get older, their nutritional requirements change and so it is important to reassess their diet. Diets for the older animal should feature a reduced phosphorous content to help support kidney health, as well as a regulated protein content to support any muscle wastage your dog may experience with age. Antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals as natural defences may become less effective. The addition of glucosamine and chondroitin is also an important consideration in joint support.


Every dog will pass through each of the three stages, regardless of their size or breed.  However, the different stages last for differing periods of time depending on your dog’s breed and/or size.

For example, a large breed dog will have a much longer growth period than a small or medium breed and therefore will need to be fed a puppy food for longer.  Another difference is that smaller breed dogs take much longer to start the ageing process, so they will need to be fed a maintenance diet for longer before being introduced onto a diet designed for more senior pets.

We can notice that the ageing process takes place in two stages. A dog is considered to start ageing when it reaches approximately half its life-expectancy – 8 years for X-Small and Mini dogs, 7 years for Medium dogs and 5 years for Maxi dogs. At this stage, a dog is classed as ‘mature’.  While the ageing process starts to affect your dog’s physiology, initially there may be few outwardly visible signs.

Then, at around two thirds of its life-expectancy, a dog is considered ‘senior’ and you may start to see more obvious changes. For X-Small and Mini dogs this is at 12 years, for Medium dogs at 10 years and for Maxi dogs at 8 years. At this time, you may want to make some management changes to help support your dog’s quality of life, giving shorter, more frequent walks and using extra soft, warm bedding for example.

However, at ROYAL CANIN®, we understand that lifestages can be confusing and we would always recommend you seek professional advice if you are unsure of which lifestage food your pet requires.  Your vet or local pet-food retailer will be more than happy to help, or you can find further information on our website www.royalcanin.co.uk

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