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Dr. Tim’s Thoughts on Specific Life Stage Diets

Do older dogs and cats have nutritional needs that differ from younger dogs and cats, as a general rule? I don’t believe so. Many dog food companies and veterinarians will tell you that a dog is a senior once he or she turns seven years old, and at that point they’d be better off with a senior diet – but it’s not that cut and dried. Every dog and cat is different. For instance, I ran two dogs that were ten years old in the 2009 Iditarod and they finished strong. Were they on a senior diet? No – they simply ate as nature intends for a highly active canine to eat. Is the “Senior Diet” marketing, pure and simple? Heck yes!

My belief is that specific life stage and senior pet diets are pure hype. The best way to feed a dog, regardless of their age, is a diet that consists of a minimum of 26% protein and 16% fat. A dog’s metabolism is naturally geared to respond to these percentages, so accordingly I recommend an “All Life Stages Diet” as opposed to a diet that addresses a perception rather than a reality.

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Of course you’re going to notice your companion slowing down as he or she ages, and we’re all a little sad when we acknowledge that Buster just can’t get on the bed anymore without a boost. But does that natural aging process warrant a diet change? No! Those fat and protein requirements remain the same, and barring any liver or kidney issues or diabetes, as diagnosed by your veterinarian, there is no need to buy into a specific life stage diet.

And while it seems like a convenience and a time saver to feed your dog a senior diet that contains glucosamine and chondroitin and all the other built in supplements, the fact of the matter is that the amount of those supplements in the feed is not adequate to address any issue; it is cost prohibitive and simply “window dressing” for the vast majority of pet food manufacturers. If your veterinarian recommends a supplement, give a supplement; it’s the only way to ensure your pet is getting a useful dose.

The same goes for cats; the higher the overall protein and fat the better, which logically lowers the carbohydrates in their diet. And again, if there is a medical issue that develops with the cat, then it may be medically prudent to adjust the amounts of protein and fat in the diet; but as a rule, the more digestible a protein is, the better a dog or cat can handle it – medical issue or not.

The specific life stage diets are pure marketing by pet food manufacturers, who grasp onto a human trend and apply it to dog and cat nutrition. Are there some human trends in diets that can relate to dogs and cats? Maybe, but you shouldn’t anthropomorphize the dog and cat diet based on our own. A dog is not a small person, and the cat is not a small dog. Feed your pets the way they are meant to be fed, and you will have a healthy animal no matter what their age.

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Sandi Wolf    08.17.11

We live forty minutes from Charlotte, NC. I bought a bag of Chase for our nine adults and three growing kittens in TJ Maxx in Gastonia, NC.

They nearly tore the bag open before I could put the food in a storage container. When are you planning on offering your product in the Carolinas? We are thirty minutes from Rock Hill and Fort Mill, SC.

I buy Royal Canin, Wellness, Nutro, etc. from http://www.pet flow.com that is based in NY and NJ.
They ship cases of canned food and bags of dry food to me. The service is excellent for someone with many pets. I also buy small amounts in local Petsmart. Cats love one food for months and then crave something new. Therefore the smaller bags are a test run o as to consider buying an larger size.

Looking forward to your reply. thank you.

Sandi Wolf
Lake Wylie, SC
Phone # 803-831-7914

Steven Heimerl    08.17.11

Very interesting comments. This is pretty much what I have believed for a long time. People anthropomorphize way too much. I’ve no MD or DVM behind my name, just a dog owner who researches dog and animal behavior, what and how to feed them etc, etc. For what its worth: I feed Kinesis to my 11 year old Sheltie and half Kinesis and half Pursuit to my 17 month old Doberman. Both are neutered males.

phyllis griffin    08.17.11

My 11 year old cocker developed first pancretis and then liver problems. He seems to be coming around on an antibiotic. He wouldn’t eat or drink for a few days and his billruben was pretty high, along with yellow eyes. His eyes have cleared up and his urine is mot quite so yellow. I am feeding him your kenesis grain free food. I’m wondering if it is too high in protein at 32%. Should I go with something less in protein and if so what. Thanks for your help phyllis

admin    08.17.11

Hi Phyllis; I don’t believe the protein content is a worry with your dog as much as the fat content can be. There are many reasons for a liver flare up like you describe and an ultrasound is very helpful to define it better, especially if it recurs. Also look at the treats you have been feeding as we have seen this issue with recalled jerky treats.

Im new here and have a question :) - Page 2    08.17.11

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