You wouldn’t give an infant the same food and toys you give a teenager. So why would you care for a puppy the same way you do for an adult dog? As our pets grow and change, so too should the products we use to care for them.
“There are several different life stages for dogs and cats, the most well-known being puppy or kitten, adult and senior,” explains Jen Beechen, vice president of marketing for ORIJEN and ACANA pet food. “There are other life stages that require different nutrition as well, like prenatal and postnatal stages for female pets. Each life stage requires unique, targeted nutrition for optimal health.”
Carrying pet products, like food, treats and toys, designed with specific life stages in mind can help customers avoid confusion and successfully navigate an increasingly crowded market.
“Inherently, customers want to do the right thing and provide their pets with a high-quality diet,” says Danielle Opetz, companion animal nutritionist at Fromm Family Foods. “Life stage-specific products take some of the guess work out and give them confidence that they’re feeding a complete and balanced diet that is right for their pet.”
Retailers can also build lifelong loyalty among their customers by acting as expert guides through every stage of their pets’ lives.
“Besides stocking these products, it’s important that retailers educate store associates about the importance of tailored nutrition for dogs and cats at different life stages,” says Susan G. Wynn DVM, DACVIM (Nutrition) and chief scientific officer at Instinct Pet Food. “When retailers combine the right life stage-specific product assortment with educated and helpful store associates, pet parents will get the best nutrition for their pet.”
Growing up is a lot of work and requires a lot of energy, which is why puppies and kittens need food that can keep up with that nutritional demand. On average, dogs are considered puppies until they’re about a year old while kittenhood lasts about six months.
“Puppies and kittens are manufacturing and organizing new tissue like bone and muscle, and if the nutrients to support that aren’t available, there are lifelong consequences such as permanent malformations,” says Wynn. “These demands must be met by supplying higher levels of many nutrients, especially – but not limited to – protein, calories and calcium.”
It’s also important to remind owners that different breeds age at different rates. For instance, large breed dogs like Great Danes or Labrador Retrievers, stay puppies for longer (up to 24 months) and therefore have different nutritional requirements than their small or medium counterparts.