Life Stages and Nutrition
Shakespeare gave man seven ages, dogs and cats have to make do with three (or at most four) stages. These are youth (or growth), adult (maturity) and geriatric (post-maturity). The growth phase can be divided into youth and adolescence (teenager); this is particularly the case with large and giant breed dogs who have an initial rapid growth phase in common with smaller breeds, but then have a longer, slower period of growth before reaching maturity at a later age than small to medium breeds.
Nutritional requirements change in each life stage and correct nutrition will produce a healthier, happier and longer-living fur kid. The life expectancy of dogs and cats has increased over the years and whole many factors are involved, as discussed through the articles in this section. Improved nutrition plays a significant part here, helping animals to achieve their genetic potential in size as well as life expectancy. However, no pet diet, whether home-made, raw diets or commercially prepared, can provide the ideal diet for every animal every day of its life. This is mainly because no one can accurately predict all the changes that that animal will face, nor allow for every individual quirk of nature. A diet based on the average requirements of a group of animals at set stages of their lives, will be an improvement on nature's pot luck, over having to fend for lunch. Life expectancy for men and women in the developed world has increased through better provision of shelter, healthcare and above all, food! The same implications are there for your fur kids - provide a better diet and the body will operate more efficiently and last longer.
How old is your cat? Three years? Five? Seven? Nine? Eleven?
- At three years old, your cat is the equivalent of 28 human years;
- At five, that human equivalent is 36 years old;
- At seven years old, the human equivalent is 44;
- At nine, it’s 52;
- At 11, your kitty is the equivalent of 60 human years!
We investigate this topic in greater detail.
If only the medical, nutrition and veterinary industries and research adhered to this realization: Modern physics has taught us that the nature of any system cannot be discovered by dividing it into its component parts and studying each part by itself... We must keep our attention fixed on the whole and on the interconnection between the parts. The same is true of our intellectual life. It is impossible to make a clear cut between science, religion, and art. The whole is never equal simply to the sum of its various parts.
There is no binary figure or calculation that can tell you for certain the age at which your puppy or kitten is considered to be an adult dog or cat, or when they will themselves feel like an adult dog or cat, or be viewed as such by other dogs and cats. The development from puppy and/or kitten to adult is not necessarily linear, and it will pass through a range of stages that each individual dog and cat will reach at different points of their lives. We discuss their growth phase in general terms.
The senior (geriatric or post-maturity) stage follows on from the maturity phase and continues until death. In small breeds of dogs this phase begins around 7 to 8 years of age, at 5 years in large and giant breeds and 7 years in cats, if we consider modern day veterinary guidance. We discuss this life stage in greater detail.
Toy breeds, which often have tiny appetites and small stomach capacity, may also benefit from being fed a calorie-dense food but a careful watch should be kept on their weight and body condition score. We discuss these breed in short.
From a nutritional perspective, high-performance dogs include canine athletes, pregnant bitches and lactating dams. You might wonder why pregnant and lactating dogs rank along with athletes as high performance? As we’ll elaborate on in this article, pregnancy and lactation place extreme nutritional demands on a bitch’s body - more than at any other time in her life.
The adult phase is that time after your fur kid ceases to grow and before visual and physiological changes due to the ageing process being to appear. We discuss this phase of our fur kids in greater detail.
Your four legged friends’ growth phase starts at birth. During the growth phase the young animal has a higher requirement for protein, energy and calcium than an adult fur kid. The diet should also be high quality and easily digested. We discuss this topic in more detail.
You will agree that dogs and cats are different, and dogs have different dietary requirements than cats do. Unlike cats, which are true carnivores, and require a diet high on protein, dogs are more omnivorous and therefore require a diet lower in protein than cats do. We discuss the differences in more detail.