As the old saying goes ‘we are what we eat’ and when I think about this it makes a lot of sense. The food we put in our mouths helps to form bones, muscles, skin, hair and all the other parts of our bodies. This saying also holds true for our companions with four legs.
Now, with us humans, we live a long time compared to our pets so if we eat the wrong things, or not the most healthy choices we have the luxury of time to correct these poor food choices. When we think that our dogs and cats are full grown by 12-18 months (depending on their adult size ) and we take a full 16-20 years to become full grown, there is a real risk if our pets are fed the wrong things during their formative first year of life.
Puppies and kittens need more protein than adult dogs and cats. Bones, brains, muscles, organs and the immune system all need to be manufactured with this extra protein, so it makes sense that young animals need to eat food with higher amounts of protein. On the other hand, it also makes sense that mature animals (who are finished growing) don’t need high protein in their diet because they are just maintaining rather than growing their bodies.
Puppies and kittens need different ratios and quantities of nutrients, especially calcium in their food. Calcium grows healthy, strong bones as long as it is in the correct amount and as long as the calcium is balanced by the proper amount of phosphorus. Puppy and kitten foods have the right amount of calcium and phosphorus in the correct balance for growth. Adult foods have the right calcium and phosphorus in the correct balance for maintaining healthy grown bodies. These foods are not interchangeable.
Finally, puppy and kitten foods need to have the right amount of calories and be fed in the correct amounts to allow for proper growth. Too few calories prevent proper growth, and too many calories (especially calories from fat) allows animals to grow too fast leading to all sorts of problems.
So, the bottom line sounds simple: Puppy foods are for puppies, and kitten foods are for kittens. When these foods are fed in the right amounts for the right amount of time, your four-legged companions will have a great start to a long life.
Written by Dr David Kerr, DVM