Dog food: Dr Danni Dusek explains what to feed your puppy, adult and senior dog


Like many Aussie families in 2020, the Rossers increased their headcount by one furry friend and with the new addition, comes a lifetime of responsibility.

For mum Jenny, as well as ensuring their newest member, 10-week-old miniature pinscher Rusty, feels comforted and loved, getting her nutrition requirements right for this early stage of life has been a priority.

“At the moment we know she needs a special puppy diet for the next 18 months … then it will change as she gets older,” Jenny says.

Rusty is only 10-weeks-old but already a loved as a family member by Adam, Jenny, Lyla, 9, and Max Rosser, 7. Picture: Dylan Robinson
media_cameraRusty is only 10-weeks-old but already a loved as a family member by Adam, Jenny, Lyla, 9, and Max Rosser, 7. Picture: Dylan Robinson

Understanding the importance of a balanced diet appropriate to your dog’s age will give them the best chance of being happy and healthy, says PETstock vet Dr Danni Dusek.

“This is because their nutritional needs continue to change over their lifetime,” she says. “Feeding inappropriate or unbalanced diets can lead to many health problems in our canine family members.”

So what are these stages and what should you know?


Dusek says the puppy stage is arguably the most important nutritional stage of a dog’s life. “Their nutrition must be tailored to support their growth, their developing immune and digestive systems, as well as brain and muscle development,” she says.

“It is really important the diet our puppies are fed is also appropriate to their size in order to support an appropriate growth rate. Small breeds will complete their growth at around 10 months of age, whereas large or giant dog breeds can continue to grow to up to two-years of age.

“Having the right balance of vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus is vital to support healthy bone development and mineralisation.”


“Adult desexed/neutered dogs require a significant decrease in calories as compared to when they were growing puppies,” Dusek says.

“It is important we feed an appropriate diet for this stage of life to ensure they are getting the right amount of calories to minimise the risk of becoming overweight but without missing out on important nutrients. Supporting their dental and joint health is also important for their overall health and longevity.”

Rusty will thrive on a diet specific to her age. Picture: Dylan Robinson
media_cameraRusty will thrive on a diet specific to her age. Picture: Dylan Robinson


The age at which your dog reaches its senior years differs depending on their size and increases their risk of kidney disease, dental disease and osteoarthritis.

So feeding them a diet targeted to this stage of life can help manage or reduce the risk of these disease processes, according to Dusek.

“Older dogs also often have a reduced sense of smell, so ensuring they are fed a senior diet that is designed to have a stronger smell can be important,” she says. “Senior diets are often more easily digestible to make absorption of nutrients easier for an ageing body.”


Dusek says there are potential risks associated with feeding the incorrect diet for a particular stage of life.

“For puppies, it can include problems with growth and development, such as musculoskeletal disease due to inappropriate bone mineralisation or growth rates,” she says.

“Adults may be at increased risk of obesity and dental disease or deficiencies in essential nutrients.

“If our senior canine family members are fed a diet that does not cater to their age, they may have more strain being placed on their ageing kidneys, less support for joint health and hence more significant disease faster.”

Dusek says that medical conditions — including kidney, dental, liver, gastrointestinal, urinary, skin, endocrine and joint disease, as well as obesity — can also alter the dietary needs of your canine and that if you are unsure, speak to your veterinarian about what diet is going to be the most suitable to maximise their nutritional health.

*Pet advice supported by PETstock


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