The Best Dog Food for All Life Stages

What do you feed a puppy? How about an adult dog or an older dog? Let’s discuss the best dog food according to your dog’s age.

If it were up to your dog, he’d be on a steady diet of pizza and cheeseburgers. Since those things aren’t good for dogs, your job as a pet parent is to pick healthy food made especially for canines. Choosing a food brand can be daunting enough with all the different choices out there. And what about type of food? And then there’s canned versus dry — which should you pick? Let’s break things down by the best dog food for all life stages.

What to feed a puppy

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When my Corgi, Nigel, was a puppy, I fed him the puppy food recommended by his breeder. It was a quality premium brand, and he liked it. He only ate dry kibble because his sensitive tummy couldn’t handle the canned version. Dry food has less moisture than canned, so Nigel was less likely to get loose stools with dry food.
Puppies are as different from dogs as human babies are from adults when it comes to what their digestive systems will tolerate. While Nigel had trouble with canned food, my parents’ Pomeranian, Monique, did great on canned food as a puppy.
Whether it’s dry or canned, what’s most important is that the food is made especially for puppies. “Puppies need more protein than adult dogs do,” said canine nutrition expert Mary Straus of DogAware.com, who added that, despite what some people think, high protein does not cause orthopedic problems in growing pups. “Too much calcium and overfeeding in general are the culprits there.”
The best way to feed a puppy is to use a food formulated especially for young dogs and to give the amount listed on the bag or can. Being a Corgi, Nigel would have eaten three times the recommended amount of food if I’d let him, but the result would have been an overweight puppy who may have developed joint problems. I had to deal with sad puppy eyes when he asked for more and I said no, but it was for his own good.

What to feed a growing dog

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Dogs in the age range of 6 to 18 months are ready for adult dog food. They need a lot of energy at this age, so a quality food with a good amount of calories is the best choice.
My friend, Jorge, feeds his 10-month-old German Shepherd a premium-brand kibble for adult dogs. Hemi is a bundle of energy, and Jorge finds it hard to keep weight on him. Hemi gets a big helping of dry food twice a day and is still hungry all the time. Dogs his age are very active and are still growing, so they usually have big appetites.
For some owners of young, growing dogs, money can be an issue. That makes dry food a more obvious choice. “Dry food is almost always cheaper than canned food, providing a comparable number of calories,” Straus said. “This impacts owners of large dogs more than those with small dogs, who may also have trouble getting through a bag of kibble while it is still fresh.”
Luckily, dog food manufacturers usually offer kibble in different sized bags. You can find bags starting at 5 pounds all the way up to 50 for some brands. If you have a small dog, you should buy a smaller bag. You don’t want to store dry food for more than 30 days because it starts to lose its freshness.

About the author: An award-winning professional writer and editor, Audrey Pavia is a former managing editor of DOG FANCY magazine and former senior editor of the AKC Gazette. She is the author of The Labrador Retriever Handbook (Barrons) and has also written extensively on horses as well as other pets. She shares her home in Norco, California, with a rescue dog named Candy.

 

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