Have you ever looked at dog food and wondered why some food was for specific life stages, while other dog food was made for “all life stages?” How can some dog food work for your dog’s whole life, while other foods are for puppies, adult dogs, and seniors? Here are some answers to your questions.

Setting Dog Food Standards

Dog food is analyzed by a non-profit organization that sets the standards for both animal feeds and pet food in the United States. This organization is called the Association of Animal Feed Control Offices, or AAFCO. AAFCO recognizes two nutritional standards when it comes to dog food, and the food must meet one of the two standards in order to be labeled “complete and balanced.” The two standards are “adult maintenance” and “growth and reproduction.”

What Do Dog Food Nutritional Standards Mean?

Dog food that is marked complete and balanced for adult dogs has to meet specific standards in laboratory analysis or in laboratory analysis and animal feeding tests. Once the dog food is approved, it has shown that it meets all the nutritional requirements an adult dog needs for long term use.

Dog food that is marked complete and balanced for growth and reproduction has to meet even more stringent standards in laboratory analysis or in laboratory analysis and animal feeding tests. Since this label is for dog food eaten by puppies and pregnant or lactating female dogs, there are higher levels of nutrients that are required for healthy growth and development. Once the dog food is approved, it has shown that it meets all the nutritional requirements puppies and pregnant or lactating female dogs need.

Since “all life stages” includes puppies and pregnant or lactating female dogs, dog food that has passed the nutritional requirements for “growth and reproduction” can be labeled as suitable for all life stages.

Dog food that does not meet the guidelines set by AAFCO cannot be labeled as “complete and balanced” food, and it should not be used as a long term food for your dog.

What Does Dog Food for “All Life Stages” Mean?

Dog food that is labeled “all life stages” means that your dog can eat the food his entire life. The dog food is “complete and balanced,” and it has passed the nutritional requirements for both the “adult maintenance” and the “growth and reproduction” standards set by the AAFCO.

Because it caters to such a wide range of ages and stages, dog food labeled “all life stages” meets the nutritional criteria for puppies, but it may not contain the higher level of nutrition that some puppy-specific dog foods have. On the other end of the age spectrum, dog food labeled “all life stages” may contain extra supplements for senior dogs, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, but the levels may not be as high as dog foods made specifically for senior dogs.

On a positive note, feeding your dog a dog food for “all life stages” means you do not ever have to change your dog’s food throughout his lifetime. Dog foods that are made for all stages tend to have multiple flavor choices you can mix and match, too, since there are not three life stage formulas to create with new flavors.

The Big Picture with All Life Stages Dog Food

What deciding to feed your dog an “all life stages” food, it is best to look at the labels and look at your specific dog. If your puppy is thriving on “all life stages” food, there is not much of a need for puppy specific food. If your older dog is doing well without additional supplements and a lower fat content, there is not much of a need for senior specific food. A date on a calendar may determine your dog’s age by years, but it does not determine your dog’s age by how he acts.

About The Author Kristen Sydelko

Kristen is the Web Coordinator at PetSolutions. She has over 5 years of experience working in the pet care industry, with many more years of pet ownership experience! When not at PetSolutions, Kristen enjoys spending time with her family (which includes an extremely spoiled Lab mix), crafting, and trying to decide when to set her fish tank back up.

comments (2)

  • I have had to switch my dogs food 3 times so far and it is no fun. I am going to try a "all life stages" dog food and see if that works better for them. Thanks for the tips.

  • Your choice of food to your pet dog is vital to their health, just be sure that they enjoy this food as well as this will give good health on them.

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