As a dog ages, their bodies change and so do their nutritional needs. Older dogs are likely to become more sedentary, as their energy reserves exhaust more quickly. Also, they are more prone to bone-related injuries and oral issues including tooth decay and loss. So what’s the best way to ensure your senior dog remains healthy and strong as they age, the answer is simple: proper diet. Today we will explore topics related to the dietary needs of a senior dog.
When is a dog considered a senior?
There is a common myth that one year is equivalent to seven “dog years.”, but this isn’t the case for all dogs. Every dog will age at a different rate, depending on their size, genetics, and environment.
As a general rule, larger dogs age more quickly and have shorter life expectancies, while smaller dogs tend to age less quickly and have longer life expectancies. Again this is a general rule and doesn’t apply to all dogs or situations. If you’ve had your dog since a pup, you will know if they are a senior, and if you are unsure about your dog’s age range, your vet can help you determine.
High Quality food
While we may think cooking up some meat and random veggies is better than store-bought food, this isn’t exactly true. Cooking food for your senior dog won’t provide them with all of the nutritional content that they need. The truth is that older dogs need high-quality food dog foods, and there are several options available to you.
Missing teeth are common among senior dogs, but it doesn’t exclude your senior dog from consuming dry food. Most dogs don’t spend much time chewing or crunching on their food, instead, they tend to chew a few times and swallow the remaining pieces of food. The main benefits of dry food are tarter control for the remaining teeth and healthy gums. So you don’t necessarily have to abandon your dog’s dry food if he’s lost a few of his teeth due to old age. If your vet recommends a specific dry food, trust the vet and feed your senior dog based on this advice.
If your vet doesn’t recommend dry food due to the absence of several teeth, or if you’re uncomfortable, wet food is your next option.
Obviously, any dog can eat wet food regardless of how many teeth they may or may not have. Some people try to stay away from wet food because it’s more expensive, but that expense is worth ensuring that your dog has the nutrition he needs. Keep in mind that not all wet foods are created equal. Cheaper wet foods can lack nutritional value and can have excess sugar and fillers. While cheaper wet food is certainly better than just feeding your dog meat with a couple of random veggies, it still may not give your dog the precise nutrition he’ll get from high-quality or more expensive wet dog food.
Avoid Cooking for your senior dog
Making the occasional healthy or a seasonal treat is a great option for younger dogs but when it comes to senior dogs there are important considerations. Making your own dog food is a very specific science, and unless you know exactly what you’re doing, it leaves your senior dog open to nutritional gaps. Unless advised by your vet it’s best to avoid cooking food for your senior dog.
Characteristics of a good senior diet for dogs
The older dog will need a good, well-balanced diet that is lower in calories, higher in fiber and has adequate protein and fat. Older dogs are more prone to develop constipation, hence the need for high fiber. Older dogs tend to exercise less making them more susceptible to weight gain, which is why lower calories and lower fat diets are ideal. Lastly, kidney function can become a concern for older dogs which is why lower protein diets are great for senior dogs. For some older dogs, you can continue to feed them their regular food, but in a smaller quantity. Specially formulated senior diets are lower in calories and help to create a feeling of fullness
In general, if your senior dog has no medical problems, is not overweight, and is active, your dog may remain on the adult diet it is used to. If you have questions regarding which food to feed your senior dog, contact your vet.