From puppyhood to the senior years, nutritional needs change, and can be supported through a diet that’s formulated for exactly the stage in life, and the demands that come with it.
Puppies can be likened to a house under construction, and we have only one chance to grow them right. The body is being built, the minerals stores of the body must be strong, and the breed of dog matters. For instance, in an article titled Why large dogs live fast—and die young, author Elizabeth Pennisi writes about a study from Colgate University that looked at tiny dogs “living a good 5 years—8 years longer than their much larger cousins, Great Danes. The most likely culprit? More harmful oxygen free radicals in fast-growing, fuel-burning puppies.”
Supporting Needs Throughout Life
There’s been a large focus on the microbiome and gut brain. The balance of healthy bacteria in the gut is affected by stress (pretty much all dog owners can point to a time when their dog had diarrhea due to stress), and there are ways to address this issue via diet and supplements. No generalization can be applied here because dogs have unique metabolisms, food sensitivities, and a microbiome that is unique to the individual. Exactly like we do!
Stress comes in a variety of ways. Not all of it is bad. Meeting new dogs, playing hard, seeing exciting things, chasing a squirrel – that’s stress. Being boarded, being ill, going to the vet, sensing your fear, or worry – that’s stress too. It comes in many varieties, and all of it can add up to needing to fortify the GI tract. Dietary changes affect the microbiome. It’s important that the changes are positive ones and geared to your dog specifically. We could suggest specific foods, but the fact is that what’s right for one dog can be the undoing of another. In general, fiber, prebiotics and probiotics have the biggest impact. They need to be used methodically.
The senior years should be supported with a diet that provides high quality protein (think eggs, fish, meats/poultry) and more of it rather than less. Of course, “more” is relative. Some diets are so full of protein that there’s no need to add more, but even in those cases, choosing those with high biological value is important. Senior dogs need a good amount of anti-inflammatory foods and supplements, always with an eye to any disease they might be dealing with. Joint support, omega 3 fatty acids, and an increased focus on anti-cancer nutritional strategies that were started when the dog was an adult should be of even greater focus in their senior years.
A study looked at ellagitannins, commonly found in items like raspberry and strawberry seeds, and its effects on cancer cells in a laboratory environment (cells in a test tube). They tested cervical carcinoma, and found that at a high concentration, the ellagic acid slowed, then stopped the test cancer. (The full study can be purchased (PDF or HTML) from Science Direct for $30.00.) Further studies were performed in people and showed positive results.
For Further Reading
K9Kitchen: The how and why of creating a balanced diet for a healthy dog. Step-by-step instructions as well as recipes.