What to feed a dog at each life stage

what to feed a dog

When it comes to knowing what to feed a dog at each life stage, it’s important to recognise that a dog’s nutritional needs are complex and change with age, just like ours do.

Simply giving your dog some meat, veggies and rice just isn’t enough –  they need a complete and balanced diet appropriate for their life stage.

Feeding puppies

Puppies require a diet rich in protein, calcium and calories for their growth and energy levels, so look for puppy-specific formulas and it is recommended to split their total daily requirements into three feeds.

For example, if they need 90g a day, then you’d feed three 30g meals.  Keep doing this until they are around six months old and I like to add in a good quality probiotic to support their developing gut.

Giant breeds

Giant breeds have very specific requirements, as they not only grow rapidly but continue to do so until 18-24mo of age. It is important that you talk to your Vet to discuss their specific needs and choosing the right formula to ensure their diet helps to keep them at the correct weight and so their bones and joints develop properly.


For most other breeds, after about 6-9 months of age, they move into adolescence and growth slows down, so reduce their meal frequency to two times a day. Your vet can assess their body condition to determine the exact amount you should be feeding and what to feed a dog based on your individual dog’s needs.


Knowing what to feed a dog as they move into adulthood can be tough, but it is at about 10-12 months of age your puppy can be transitioned onto adult food, which is lower in calories and fat. They can be fed once or twice a day depending on their individual needs.

Mature dogs

Mature adult dogs at the age of 6-7 years, experience a decrease in their metabolism and activity levels, so a diet that is lower in calories and higher in fibre can help to maintain their weight and digestive health. Consider adding Omega-3 fatty acids and other supplements that support joint health and cognitive function.

Senior dogs

A dog is considered senior when it has lived 75% of its breeds average lifespan. Reduced muscle tone, arthritis, dental disease, skin health and kidney function can be compromised, so a diet specific to this age group is important. And keep going with the supplements, they’re even more necessary.

Pregnant or lactating dogs

Pregnant and lactating dogs also have specific nutritional needs, as do dogs with certain health conditions or diseases.  It is important that you have regular communication with your Vet, or a Pet Food Nutritionist, to ensure you are feeding them a diet that is suitable if they have any health conditions or are pregnant.   F

Feeding treads

Finally, when it comes to treats, they should make up no more 10% of their required total calorie intake.   And choose one that is appropriate for their age – the mouth of a teething puppy is very different to that of a senior dog.  The Vitapet treat range caters for both puppies and adult dogs, so check out the options HERE.

See your Vet if you notice any changes

And importantly, if you notice any changes in your dog’s eating habits, stools or energy levels at any time, always seek the advice of your vet as a change in appetite can often be the first sign of disease.

Knowing what to feed a dog at any life stage can be tough with so many options on the supermarket shelf, and depending on your dog’s individual needs, so to learn more about different health issues, specific diets and what to feed your dog in more detail at specific ages, you can check out the range of articles in the Food and Nutrition section of this website.

About theAuthor: Dr Melissa Meehan is a highly experienced and respected veterinary surgeon with over 14 years experience. Dr Melissa obtained her Members in Small Animal Medicine through examination in 2008 and now runs her own veterinary ophthalmology service. 

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive a FREE copy of the E-Book “How To Keep Your Dog Happy And Healthy”

"*" indicates required fields

Looking for more dog tips and fun facts?

Get your paws on Lara Shannon’s best selling books ‘Eat, Play, Love (your dog) and World of Dogs.

Available in Australia, USA, UK and Canada.