Good or gimmicky?

Your furkid's food no longer comes in just different flavours. Now, it's even formulated for the varying phases of your pet’s life. But this begs the question: Are life stage-appropriate foods truly necessary?
By Eugenia Liew
Published on Wednesday, 07 September 2016

Marketed as targeted formulas, life stage-appropriate recipes claim to supply the correct ratios of the needed nutrients for dogs and cats during each stage of their life. When you think about how babies have to drink more milk and our parents have to skip hamburgers, it makes sense that the same should apply to our furkids. However, life stage-appropriate pet foods are still coming under fire among pet owners, as many doubt whether such precise supplement of nutrients is necessary. Many paw-rents see 'puppy', 'adult', and 'senior' labels as nothing more than a marketing gimmick as the consensus is that the best diets are natural ones that mimic what Fido's and Puss' ancestors ate in the wild. And since wild dogs and cats have never had any special “puppy” or “senior” selections of prey, Fido and Puss shouldn’t need to be fed such specific foods, right?

New and Improved
Dr Kenneth Tong, veterinarian at Animal & Avian Veterinary Clinic, explains that single-formula foods work by relying on your furkid’s body’s natural ability to nourish itself. “Nature has its way to selectively acquire the nutrients it needs during its life stages, utilising, storing, and/or eliminating whatever it needs to,” he explains. Hence, it is not detrimental for Fido and Puss to simply eat the same, “balanced” food throughout their lives. It is, after all, how canines and felines survived in the wild.

But if modern research produces a potentially better option, why not explore it? Dr Brian Loon, veterinary surgeon at Amber Veterinary Group, shares that in veterinary science, it is already acknowledged that the nutritional requirements for the different stages in our pets’ lives vary, and as such, diets formulated for the specific life stages are important for precise nutrition. Dr Loon also warns that most “all life stage" diets are actually formulated to meet the minimum requirements set by pet food authorities, which means they are essentially puppy and kitten food (since they need the most nutrients and calories). These are usually too “rich” for the average adult furkid.

Measured munchies
Of course, Fido and Puss won’t necessarily fall ill if fed non-age-specific foods; they just may not be the healthiest. (This excludes furkids with special needs—including those that are pregnant, lactating, and/or have other illnesses—whose meals should follow your vet’s guidelines strictly.) 

By supplementing Fido's and Puss’ bodies with the most nutritionally suitable food, you can also help to prevent and/ or lower the risks of common age-related conditions like organ failure, obesity, and more. The long-term effects of eating nutritionally unsuitable food depend on the severity of the imbalance, and the individual furkid’s ability to adapt to the excess or inadequate nutrients. In serious cases, it can show up in the form of abnormal bone growth, poor eye and/or brain development, and overworked livers and/or kidneys.

For a breakdown on what nutrients your furkids need, as well as tips on crafting your own balanced diet for Fido and Puss, flip to Pet Bowl of our Aug-Sep 2016 issue!