What exactly does “All Life Stages” mean?
We’ve been trained over the years by the pet food industry that you must feed a puppy “puppy” food, an adult dog “adult” food, and an old dog “senior” food. Now there’s this stuff called “all life stages” … what does all of this mean?
Let’s first start with some basic stuff. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) has two, yes TWO, defined profiles for dog food: “for growth” or “for maintenance.” They have established the minimum acceptable guidelines for each, and every dog food that is labeled as “complete” or “balanced” must meet these minimum guidelines. “For growth” foods are generally formulated for puppies and lactating momma dogs, and have higher nutritional requirements than “for maintenance” foods.
There is no reason that an adult dog couldn’t eat “for growth” foods for its entire life; it just doesn’t need to. Rather than create a slew of foods that include puppy, adult, senior, etc., some manufacturers have chosen to formulate their foods meeting the minimum requirements for “growth” and label them as “all life stages.” One reason to do this is to expand the varieties/flavors available without having to create various life stage formulas (puppy, adult, senior) of each…it widens a company’s product offering without tripling it, and it helps a manufacturer overcome the misconception that “puppy food is only for puppies.”
What about senior foods? Doesn’t my dog need that? Because there is no defined profile for a senior dog food by AAFCO, each manufacturer simply has to formulate their food to meet the “for maintenance” requirements, and then it’s up to the manufacturer to determine what would make it a senior dog food. Most senior dog foods add joint supplements and maybe make minor changes to the fat and protein levels, and then slap a label on it that says “senior.”
The best thing for you to do is READ THE LABEL. Because there are no standards, the type and amount of joint supplements added can vary as widely as the ingredient list itself. It is most important to find a food that is a high-quality food and best for your dog, and then consider what supplements your dog may need. Your dog doesn’t need a senior food just because he had a birthday.
As always, we’re here to help. It doesn’t have to be confusing. Stop by and we can help walk you through your options.