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Another very important factor of your pet’s food is the formulation for life stage. Every bag of pet food is made up of a different proportion of ingredients in order to serve different nutritional needs. It is very important that you consider your pet’s breed, age, size, and activity level when evaluating a pet food. Foods meant for different life stages often have different properties.

All Life Stages

This type of food is usually balanced to provide proper nutrition for animals of any age. Often, if a food label doesn’t say what life stage it is made for, then it can be fed to pets of all ages. For pets with no health issues or special considerations, these formulas are often a very easy way to maintain a healthy lifestyle from birth to senior age, without having to switch brands and formulas as your pet grows. Many of the higher-quality foods are suitable for all life stages because they are saturated with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. This means that your pet will reap the benefits of the food, no matter what their age, breed, or size.

Puppy or Kitten

Many times, foods for puppies and kittens are made with smaller kibble for smaller mouths. They often have a higher calorie content than adult foods in order to maintain the high levels of energy that most little ones possess. High-quality puppy and kitten formulas contain DHA, which helps support brain growth. A basic recommendation is that puppies and kittens can be switched to an “Adult” formula of food when they reach one year of age. Some pet owners also choose to switch to adult food when their pet has reached its adult size.  It generally won’t harm your pet to switch to an adult formula sooner or stay on a puppy or kitten formula for a bit longer. There are no strict parameters, and so the guideline for switching small or medium dogs and cats to an adult formula is some time between eight to twelve months of age.

Large Breed Puppy

The rules for determining a “large breed” dog are flexible and not set in stone. Most people consider a large breed to be a dog that will be over twenty-five inches tall at the shoulder or over 60 pounds at full size. Foods for large breed puppies usually have ingredients to support bone and skeletal health. It’s important for large breed dogs to grow at a slow, steady pace during their puppy stages in order to prevent hip and joint issues later on in their lives. Sometimes, regular puppy foods can cause large-breed dogs to grow too quickly, which can cause stress on the joints, especially the hips, and can lead to health issues as they age. Some dog owners decide to switch their large breed puppy over to an adult formula between ten and sixteen months of age, rather than at one year old.


Adult foods are made to provide complete and balanced nutrition for your pet for the majority of their life. For dogs, the adult life stage is generally from one to seven years of age. For cats, it’s just a little bit longer- it ranges from one year to about ten years of age. Adult formula foods are intended to help maintain your pet’s overall health by providing complete and balanced nutrition for every day of your pet’s life. All life stages foods have all the vitamins, minerals, and nutritional value required to support a healthy immune system, healthy skin and coat, strong bones, and proper digestion on a long-term basis. They don’t usually contain extra ingredients for special considerations, such as joint issues, urinary tract disorders, obesity, or dental issues. Adult formula foods are great for healthy pets who need their food simply to help them maintain their health. They aim to fuel your pet’s body to operate at peak performance (and cuddliness).



Because senior pets frequently develop dental issues, many senior foods often have smaller and/or softer kibble. Formulas for seniors generally have lower fat and calorie content, because many senior pets are less active and slow down as they age. To help with digestion, the fiber content in a senior food is usually higher than adult and puppy/kitten formula. Some foods for senior pets also have added glucosamine and chondroitin to combat arthritis pains and promote joint health.

After you consider your pet’s life stage, you will also want to think about special circumstances. Not all pets are built the same. Just like people, dogs and cats often have medical needs. If your pet has health issues, you should speak with your vet to see if medications are needed. Feeding a high-quality diet almost always boosts your animal’s abilities to fight disease, heal injuries, avoid chronic conditions, and maintain overall health. Upgrading the quality of your pet’s food may help prevent disease, but there are also some foods available that are meant to help pets with certain conditions.


Urinary Health

Cats are prone to urinary tract issues. Sometimes, minerals build up in the urinary tract, causing crystals or stones to form. These are extremely painful, and can usually be identified because the cat is urinating way more frequently than normal. Some cats even start going to the bathroom outside of the litter box. Veterinarians do not know for sure what causes crystals to occur. Cats evolved from their ancestors who lived in the desert. In order for them to survive in a dry climate, cats developed the ability to concentrate their urine in their bodies so that they could absorb the extra water for hydration. Some vets believe that when cats’ bodies go through this process, it can cause urinary crystals or infections. Hydration is the key to avoiding urinary tract issues. In general, cats should have plenty of water available at all times, but cats who suffer from crystals or frequent urinary tract infections especially require a constant supply of clean water available to them all the time. It has also been suggested that cats that struggle with urinary issues should be fed wet food formulas because they have a higher moisture content than dry foods. If you feed your cat a high-quality premium food, chances are that the food already includes nutrients that support a healthy urinary tract. Some cat food brands have a specific urinary health formula to help improve any urinary tract issues. Those foods have ingredients that are meant to support healthy urine PH levels and have lower levels of minerals known to increase the likelihood of crystals, such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Many foods also contain cranberries, because they are rich in antioxidants that help prevent issues in the urinary tract. Sometimes urinary tract formula foods do not have a great First Five because many of them are manufactured by large name brands. Even if your cat has urinary issues, you cannot simply pick the first urinary health formula off the shelf. You still have to check the label and make sure that it is a nutritious food. In some cases, it might be more beneficial to choose a complete health formula or raw food, which inherently contains the components that support urinary tract health.


Dental Health

Your pet’s dental health is more important than you might think. Oral care is crucial to the overall health of your pet because the condition of your pet’s teeth and gums often indicates how the rest of their body is functioning. Bad breath is often ignored but can be a symptom of a number of more serious issues. For example, when combined with other symptoms, such as increased urination and thirst and a sweet-smelling breath can indicate diabetes. If your pet’s breath smells like urine, it could be an indicator of kidney disease. Yellow-tinted eyes and foul-smelling breath can indicate liver issues.

More often than not, bad breath is caused by the overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth, also known as periodontal disease. These bacteria release toxins that damage teeth and gums, which can lead to pain and tooth loss. If the bacteria reaches any cuts or wounds in the mouth, your pet can develop many different types of infections, including, but not limited to, an infected jaw bone, which requires surgery to fix.


Allergy Formulas

Allergies are just as common in pets as they are in people- if not more so. Food allergies in pets often manifest themselves as rashes, itching, hair loss, paw chewing, and skin licking. Studies have shown that food allergies account for 20% of all vet visits related to pets with excessive itchiness.

Food allergies in pets can also cause ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing issues, and runny eyes. If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you seek medical attention from your vet. While the allergy itself might seem insignificant to a pet owner, your pet’s allergies are very uncomfortable to them and can cause pain and a lot of health complications. For example, pets who scratch a lot at itchy skin can cut themselves and develop skin infections, animals with severe diarrhea can become dehydrated, and frequent untreated ear infections can lead to hearing loss.

Skin and Coat

For your pet, having a healthy coat is about more than just looking good. Many times, the reason that a dog or cat emits a foul smell, has flaky skin, or sheds all over the place is because the animal’s skin and coat are not in optimal condition. In many ways, the condition of a pet’s skin and coat can be an indicator of the overall health of the pet. It is rare to find a dog or cat in perfect health whose fur is falling out and whose skin has rough scaly patches. Generally, when a pet has a skin condition it is a visible, outward sign that there is something hidden and problematic happening on the inside.

Many pets on diets without enough healthy fat suffer from dry, flaky skin. Sometimes this occurs when  a dog is on a low-fat diet to lose weight, or if the food that a dog is eating has the incorrect percentage of fat in it. Low-fat diets can lack important vitamins and minerals that the skin and coat need to prosper. While obesity is an issue for a lot of animals, there are common skin and coat issues that are consequences of feeding a low-fat diet on a long term basis. If your pet is eating less than the recommended daily amount of healthy fats, you should likely consider providing them with supplements to make sure their skin and coat do not suffer.


There is obviously a lot to consider when choosing the right food for your dog or cat. Every animal is an individual, and as the pet food industry grows, companies are making more and more formulas to suit the myriad needs of our pets. Perhaps what is most important is that pet owners become educated and more involved in their pets’ nutrition. It is no longer acceptable to simply grab a bag of food off the shelf at the convenience store and move on without understanding the effects it may have on your pet. Feeding your pet to support its optimal health requires a lot of attention to detail and thoughtfulness. However, do not get discouraged because, with a few small adjustments to your routine, your dog or cat can live a very long, happy, and healthy, life as your loving companion.