Age-appropriate diet is not just a fancy

Every day, many times a day, I see, help and hear from people who are trying to choose the best and most suitable diet for their cocker spaniel. And I agree, it can be a challenging process, especially when you are just a pup parent, not a qualified canine nutritionist.

There is so much choice and promises out there that a pup parent can end up with a headache, feel confused and then grab the most appealing bag or go down the home-made cooking route.

The problem is that the chosen diet cannot just sound right, it needs to be right for your dog. And this includes his age.

Nowadays you can often come across dog formulas made to suit everyone, from puppies to seniors, little dogs and giant breeds, pregnant dogs and dogs who seem to have all sorts of issues.

That is why you need to remember that first and foremost the food you choose must be age-appropriate.

Puppies have very different needs to grown-ups or their mums. They need more protein, so they can grow nicely and never feed hungry. Yet the protein must be balanced to prevent rapid development and associated problems. They need certain amount of calcium and phosphorus to develop healthy bones. Yet their little bodies cannot regulate how much they’d absorb, so the quantities must be precise and different from the adult ones. The puppy diets are more nutrient-rich compared to the formula fed to adults and seniors because the grown-ups have their own energy requirements. If you feed an adult diet (or the diet that is marked as “maintenance diet”) to a puppy you will be running the risk of nutrient deficiencies and health issues – as a result.

On the other hand, feeding a puppy-appropriate diet to an adult can cause several physiological problems from mild digestive upsets to obesity. More over, feeding an adult dog a diet that contain more than 32% protein has been shown to lead to territorial aggression, anxiety, restlessness, reactivity and sleep disturbances.

The size of your puppy also matters. The small and medium puppies are usually given different amounts of protein and calcium in comparison to large and giant breeds because big pups need to develop at a different rate to avoid problems in the future. Even the kibble size can differ depending on the breed.

Help your cocker spaniel puppy grow healthy and joyful by feeding him a commercial complete balance diet formulated for puppies or the “growth stage”. You can continue feeding him the same diet as his breeder did as long as the diet is safe, complete and balanced, and made by a reputable manufacturer who put it through control feeding trials and had it FEDIAF (AAFCO) approved. Or you can gradually switch to the diet of your choice 2-3 weeks after you brought your puppy home, as long as the puppy is doing well physically and emotionally. Then you can continue using the food for the first 12 months. After your puppy’s first birthday gradually move him onto an adult formula.

If you ever have doubts or questions, always consult your vet, nutritionist, and a food company’s customer care for advice. You can also learn about cocker spaniel diet from my book, which has a chapter dedicated to breed-specific nutrition (and is more like a short nutrtion course rather than a generic read, but it does put you in control over the situation)



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