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Age-specific and Breed-specific Diets

Puppies and kittens should be fed diets appropriate for growth until they reach skeletal maturity. For cats and small and medium-size dogs, this typically means feeding a diet for growth until approximately 1 year of age. For some large- and giant-breed dogs, skeletal maturity may not be achieved until closer to 15–16 months, and it is important to support a giant-breed puppy’s growth accordingly, aiming to maintain a lean BCS and avoiding excessive calcium intake.104,105

Energy requirements can vary as pets age, but there are no specific nutritional requirements set by AAFCO for mature, senior, or geriatric pets. Thus, pet owners and veterinarians should not feel compelled to automatically change a pet’s diet once it reaches a certain age. If an older dog or cat is doing well with its complete and balanced adult maintenance diet, it is perfectly appropriate to continue feeding that diet until a medical condition prompts otherwise.

This becomes especially true when considering that there is no consensus among different pet food manufacturers about what should constitute a “senior” pet food. Significant variability has been documented among pet foods marketed for senior dogs.103,106 Although certain companies have their own standards, this is not true across the board. Thus, practitioners should use caution with the recommendation to feed any senior or mature diet to a cat with CKD who will not readily accept a veterinary therapeutic renal diet. This may result in unintentionally feeding excessive phosphorus to the patient.

Some pet food companies market breed-specific diets. These diets may be designed to accommodate certain breed predispositions (e.g., a lower-calorie food for an overweight-prone dog breed) or the kibble may be shaped in a way to help prehension. Ultimately, nutritional recommendations should be made based on the individual pet and the specific nutrient profile of the diet.

These guidelines are supported by generous educational grants from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., Purina® Pro Plan® Veterinary Diets, and Royal Canin®.