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The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) publishes yearly nutritional guidelines for pet foods. For years, these guidelines have included two major categories of diets: growth & reproduction and adult maintenance.
Pet foods meeting the adult maintenance requirements are only designed for adult animals, while pet foods meeting the growth & reproduction requirements are designed for puppies and lactating mothers. If a pet food meets all the nutrient requirements of both growth & reproduction and adult maintenance, that pet food can be considered nutritionally adequate for “All Life Stages.”
Previously, the guidelines for puppy food (growth) had the same nutrient requirements for calcium for all size puppies. This meant that some puppy foods were dangerously high in calcium for large and giant breed puppies. And since there were no specific guidelines for products marketed as "Large Breed", it was difficult to know whether the diet was actually appropriate for large or giant breed puppies.
To remedy this, AAFCO changed its guidelines to reduce the maximum level of calcium in diets intended for large and giant breed puppies. Starting in 2016, AAFCO guidelines require pet foods categorized for ‘Growth’ or "All Life Stages" to specify if they have met additional guidelines just for large and giant breed puppies (i.e., dogs expected to be more than 70 lbs at their mature adult weight).
Manufacturers will have up to 2 years to comply with these new guidelines but many companies are already including the statements on their products and/or on their websites.
Here's what to look for:
When reading the label of a puppy food or one formulated for All Life Stages, look for one of these two AAFCO statements to determine if the diet includes or excludes the new guidelines for growth of large breed breed puppies.