golden retriever puppies on a field of grass and flowers

Nutrition

Dog food and nutrition for all ages

All dogs need a complete and balanced diet to thrive. They require about 40 essential nutrients in the right form and amount to deliver complete nutrition. Water is the most vital nutrient for life. It is required for your dog’s digestion and regulating their body temperature so make sure they always have access to clean water. Protein, fat and carbohydrates are essential components of your dog’s nutrition and help supply them with the energy and nutrition they need for a healthy life. Finding the right diet for your dog depends on their age, breed, neutered status and lifestyle.  

Puppy nutrition 

If you have adopted a puppy, note that they have different nutritional needs from adult dogs. Puppy growth is fast in the first few months. They need a balanced diet of specific nutrients: fats, proteins, minerals, amino acids, and vitamins. Calcium and phosphorus are also essential nutrients for puppies to form healthy bones and teeth. 

Puppies are sensitive to smells and textures but have a less well-developed sense of taste. If you’re feeding your puppy kibble - texture, shape and size suitable for your puppy’s size help make it more palatable to them. Puppies also have sensitive digestive systems, so make sure to feed them safe, high-quality food to avoid stomach upsets. It’s also best to split their recommended food portion into small meals throughout the day. Royal Canin’s feeding guide recommends the following: 

  • Small breeds: up to 4 months - 3 meals a day, 4-10 months – 2 meals a day 

  • Medium breeds: up to 6 months – 3 meals a day, 6-12 months – 2 meals a day 

  • Large or Giant breeds: up to 6 months – 3 meals a day, 6-15 months 2 meals a day 

Switching to an adult diet too early can alter a puppy’s development and have negative long-term effects that carry on into adulthood.  Monitor your puppy’s healthy growth to determine if your puppy is on track with its ideal weight and help identify potential nutritional or health problems earlier, facilitating intervention before a puppy’s health is compromised.  

Recommended: 5 ways science is giving puppies a healthy start at life

Feeding adult dogs 

Dogs reach full growth at around one to two years, depending on the breed. Small dog breeds mature faster than large breed dogs like Labrador Retrievers. If your dog is transitioning from puppy to adult dog food, consult your vet for the required nutrition, feeding amount and schedule based on your dog’s breed and ideal weight. Experts recommend mixing the puppy food and adult food with a 75%-25% ratio, gradually increasing to 50% each food, 75-25 adult and puppy food until fully transitioning to adult food.  

Large breeds and very active dogs will eat larger quantities. Most dogs do not limit their intake if offered excess food so be sure to weigh out portions carefully and feed in one or two meals per day. There is an upward trend in pet obesity, so make sure you understand and monitor your pet’s ideal weight

Senior dog nutrition 

Every dog is different, but they are generally considered a senior dog when they are in the last 25% of their expected lifespan. At this life stage, it is common for dogs to show physical signs of ageing and behavioural changes. Their nutritional needs will change too, and you may need to transition to a senior diet. Dogs at this stage may also develop health conditions like kidney disease, osteoarthritis and dental issues and need specific diets based on their medical needs. Reducing calorie intake, avoiding nutrient excess, and carefully controlling food portions may help reduce the risk of them becoming overweight or obese. Consult your veterinarian for a specific diet to meet your senior dog’s unique needs.