What Health Problems Can Affect A Senior Dogs Diet
If your dog has medical problems in its later years, you may need help from a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to plan a proper diet. Older pets with specific conditions, like diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease may require special veterinary diets to assist in the treatment of their conditions, Metzger says.
Dogs with heart disease may need lower-calorie senior dog foods to help keep weight down as well as lower-sodium formulations.
The goal of a diabetic diet is to delay absorption of a food,” Nunez says. That’s important for dogs with diabetes. When foods are absorbed slowly, blood sugar tends to rise more slowly.
Lower-fat, higher-fiber foods are best for diabetic dogs, Nunez says. Consult your veterinarian about which type of food to buy.
Some senior dogs also have trouble with constipation, so a higher-fiber diet will help them stay regular.
Many senior diets have higher-quality protein sources than standard foods. This helps to maintain body weight and muscle mass without putting too much strain on the kidneys.
When Does A Dog Need To Switch To Senior Dog Food
Dog life-stage classifications can help you know when your dog is considered a senior. Depending on their breed and size, most dogs are considered to be mature adults between 6 and 8 years old. In most cases, a dog older than 8 years will move into the senior category.
While these age classifications can be helpful in guiding food choices, its important to remember that animals are individuals. Just because they reach a certain age does not mean they are necessarily old on a physiologic scale.
The aging process differs for each dog, and just like with people, it may look, feel, and affect them all differently. If your senior dog is healthy and maintaining a good weight, a new dog food may not be needed.
Your veterinarian is your best ally in determining when your dog is ready to transition to a senior diet.
Choosing The Right Food For Your Adult Dog
To help you choose the best food for your adult dog, take into account the following factors:
1. Your dog’s lifestage – choose a food made specifically for adult dogs.
Because adult dogs don’t need the same nutrients to help them grow as puppies, their diet contains fewer calories to help them maintain a healthy weight during adulthood.
2. Your dog’s size – choose food matching your dog’s size .
Size also plays a big role in meeting a dog’s nutritional needs. For example, smaller dogs have a higher metabolism, which means they need more calories in their diet than larger dogs. Since large, medium and small dogs have different nutritional requirements, choosing a dog food that matches your dog’s size will be the best way to keep your pooch healthy.
Large adult dog food
3. Your dog’s breed – different breeds have unique needs.
If your dog is a pedigree breed, or a cross-breed that strongly resembles a purebred dog, there are breed-specific diets available. Certain Superior Nutrition brands like Royal Canin, offer formulas designed to meet the nutritional needs of specific dog breeds. To learn more about these special diets, visit our article ‘The benefits of breed-specific dog food’.
4. Health requirements.
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Wet Food For Senior Dogs
Supplementing your senior pets diet with a wet meal is a great way to add additional hydration to their daily intake, as some senior pets can struggle to get enough water day-to-day, particularly in the summer. The high meat content of wet diets encourages palatability – so if your dog is struggling to eat their dry diet, offering some wet food alongside can help encourage eating. Note: Always consult with your vet if your senior pet has problems with their appetite or eating.
For optimal nutrition, feeding your senior dog a combination of both wet and dry foods in their diet can help them get the most out of mealtimes. To learn more about the beenfits of mixed feeding, visit our ‘What to feed your dog – wet or dry food?’ article.
As your dog progresses into their senior years, its a good to visit your local Animates Vetcare clinic to ensure you’re feeding your dog the correct diet for their for age, size, breed and any specific health needs.
What To Avoid In Senior Dog Foods
Amongst all dog foods available in the market, some are just straight-up low-quality formulas that can ruin your dogs health. Heres what you need to look for to avoid such dog foods:
- BHT and BHA: Both BHT and BHA have known carcinogens and should be avoided at all costs. Theyre typically used for preserving fats and can be found nearby fat-related ingredients in the recipe list.
- Meat by-products: By-products consist of all the waste or non-meat portions left from an animal. Since these have little protein in them, we advise you to avoid dog foods that primarily contain meat by-products and choose formulas that use real meat or meat meals.
- MSG: Monosodium Glutamate is normally used as a taste enhancer in different foods. But sometimes, it can trigger a dangerous allergic reaction in both humans and dogs. Thats why we recommend that you avoid any dog food with MSG in its ingredient list.
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Protein Restrictions In Senior Dog Food
Its a common myth that older dogs need protein restrictions to maintain kidney health and avoid kidney disease. In reality, it is the quality of the protein, not the quantity that should be monitored.
Kidneys are incredibly resilient organs. While they are one of the organs that can fail in their senior years, this can be attributed to several things, like pollutants, poor diet and digestion, dehydration, and genetics.
As our pets age, vets will monitor organ function more closely than in younger years, and early signs can be seen through blood work and other routine tests.
To act preventatively, choose a diet that offers natural, fresh , and minimally processed animal proteins. Many commercial foods are heavily processed, which can denature the nutrients and make it harder for your dog to digest properly.
Minimally processed diets like raw, baked, dehydrated, or freeze-dried foods will leave more of the nutrients intact and in a more natural state. Most importantly, avoid heavily rendered by-products and foods that rely heavily on carbohydrates to provide protein.
We often turn to low protein diets as the answer to weight issues and calorie restrictions, but that isnt the most effective way to maintain an old dogs weight. Of course, animal protein does provide higher levels of protein and fat, which contribute to the food’s calorie density.
Best Overall: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food
As your pups muzzle starts to turn to silver, it becomes more important than ever to pay attention to their diet. Why? It helps to keep their weight in a healthy rangeand some evidence shows that nutritional supplementation can help maintain their cognitive function.
Blue Buffalo delivers on both counts. Formulated with protein- and fiber-rich chicken, it keeps your dog fuller for longer.LifeSource Bitsan exclusive blend of crunchy fruit and veggie pieces full of antioxidants and vitaminshelp boost your dogs brain and immunity.
This dry dog food from Diamond Naturals contains cage-free chicken, eggs, and oatmeal, plus chia seeds and quinoa for a blend thats high in protein and fiber and low in fat. Glucosamine and chondroitin help maintain healthy joints, while fatty acids and other vitaminsencourage a shiny coat. With added K9 Strain Probiotics, the good-for-your-pup bacteria, this dry food also promotes healthy digestion and weight control. Its made in the United States with imported ingredients.
Bigger dogs are considered seniors around age five or six years and tend to have a shorter lifespan than smaller dogs. That’s why its even more important to feed your large breed dog the right food.
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Older Dogs Need Fewer Calories
One of the most important changes to a senior dog’s diet isn’t related to the type of food, but the quantity.
A dog’s metabolism slows with age. This means the body burns fewer calories and needs less food to function. Many senior dogs are also less energetic, so they burn even fewer calories.
As excess calories are converted into fat, a slower metabolism is one of the main reasons why older dogs tend to become overweight. Weight gain can reduce your dog’s expected lifespan, increase joint pain, and generally make your dog less healthy.
It’s essential that you limit your pet’s food intake to maintain a healthy weight, either by using a low-calorie senior dog food or reducing your pet’s daily meals. If you’re not sure how to adjust your dog’s diet, take a look at our guide or ask your vet for advice.
You don’t want to underfeed your dog either, though. Too few calories can cause muscle loss, which may reduce mobility and make joints unstable. For this reason, you should closely monitor your dog’s weight and adjust his diet to maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise is beyond the scope of this article, but is another important consideration. Older dogs need less intense exercise, but should still have daily walks to help support muscle condition, provide mental stimulation and maintain a healthy weight.
Is It Necessary To Switch To A Senior Dogs Diet Once My Pooch Starts Showing The Signs Of Aging
For dogs, their dietary needs start to change as they get older and it is important to switch to dog food thats specifically designed for seniors to meet their unique nutritional requirements. Making the switch in time can put you at peace knowing that your dog is getting the best diet in this crucial stage of life.
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At What Age Is A Dog Considered Senior Or Geriatric
It really depends on the breed and body weight, says Fred Metzger, DVM, Diplomate ABVP. Large and giant breeds age faster than smaller dogs.
Metzger — who owns Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pa. and is an adjunct professor at Penn State University — tells WebMD that in addition to breed making a difference, overweight dogs also age faster than lean dogs.
As a rule of thumb, dogs are considered older when theyve reached half of their life expectancy, says Mark Nunez, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association from 2009-2010 and owner of a veterinary practice in Van Nuys, Calif.
In general, little dogs live to about 15 to 20 years of age, while bigger dogs live to about 12 to15 years.,” Nunez says. Bigger dogs are considered older at around six years, and smaller dogs become older at around eight or nine.
Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food
Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Chicken, 2. Poultry By-Product Meal, 3. Brewers Rice, 4. Whole Grain Corn, 5. Whole Grain Wheat
Keep your aging dog fun and active by giving her a diet that perfectly matches her nutritional requirements at this age. Packed with high levels of protein and other essential nutrients, this recipe has tons of amazing ingredients to help your dog feel satisfied, healthy, and happy during daily activities. Also rich in natural prebiotic fiber, the blend is a great addition to a sensitive dogs diet.
Schedule Regular Wellness Exams
Just as with people, regular health checkups become increasingly important as dogs grow older. Most experts agree that senior dogs should be seen at least once every six months. The purpose of these wellness exams is to do three things:
During a typical wellness exam, your vet will ask a variety of health-related questions in order to build a snapshot of your dogs medical history. These questions often focus on your pups regular behaviors and whether youve observed any recent changes that may indicate a developing health concern.
During this checkup, vets typically check a dogs body for tumors, signs of pain, or arthritis. In addition, your vet will assess your dogs overall appearance and body condition, scanning his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth for irregularities as well as listening to his lungs and heart. A routine checkup may also include the following battery of diagnostic tests.
Does My Senior Dog Need Minerals
As we age, we are told we should get rid of the salt in our diets. Thats only partially true for dogs. People tend to consume higher sodium levels than dogs and to suffer from high blood pressure more often. Most commercial dog foods supply more sodium than dogs need, but dogs, like people, prefer some sodium in the diet. Still, dogs with hypertension, heart problems, and kidney problems usually need a low-sodium diet. In addition, these conditions may make it difficult for the dog to excrete excess sodium fed in his diet. Decreasing, not eliminating, sodium is usually a good idea for any senior, as long as the dog will still eat the diet.
Unlike people, most dogs dont seem to suffer from osteoporosis, at least not if theyve been maintained on a balanced diet with adequate calcium in earlier years. Thus, senior dogs eating a commercial diet do not need calcium supplementation.
Old dogs are more prone to dehydration, often because of health problems such as kidney disease that cause them to urinate more frequently, or because theyre taking medications such as diuretics for heart disease. Making sure the water is fresh, cool, and readily available can help encourage a dog to drink more.
In the end, it comes down to both quantity and quality of life. Never forget that while dogs must eat to live, many also live to eat, and sometimes we must make compromises. Remember the dogs motto: Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask whats for lunch.
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Best For Constipation: Royal Canin Small Digestive Care Dry Dog Food
If your pup has a hard time going on your walks, dry food thats high in dietary fiber is your best bet to help them get things moving again. This food from Royal Canin is made with easily digestible proteins, primarily from chickens, and has added prebiotics to help the good bacteria in your pups digestive tract flourish. The kibble is also smaller in sizethis variety is intended for pups up to 22 poundsso it’s a good choice for larger dogs, too, because its easy for them to chew and digest. Those who tried it say that even their picky pups gobble down a bowl of this food.
Our best overall pick is Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Dog Food , which is formulated with protein- and fiber-rich chicken to keep your dog fuller for longer. If you’re on a budget, we recommend the Diamond Naturals Dry Senior Dog Food Formula .
How Do I Determine My Dogs Ideal Weight
Keeping your senior at ideal weight can help you significantly extend your pets life.
A 14-year landmark study found that
Dogs fed to ideal body condition lived 1.8 years longer than their overweight litter mates.
Thats nearly 2 extra years of life
Just for keeping your dog close to her ideal weight based on her Body Condition Score. This process is explained in the following short video.
Remember, every dog is different. If youre feeding the recommended amount, but your dog is not losing weight , you may need to make some adjustments.
Talk to your vet if youre unsure of your dogs ideal weight and body condition.
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Look For A Senior Dog Food That Is Similar To Their Current Food
If your brand does not offer a senior version, look for senior dog foods with similar ingredient and nutrient profiles. For example, if your dog has always eaten a chicken and rice kibble, look for a senior dry food with similar ingredients.
If your vet has suggested a different formulation, brand, or variety, take a closer look at the ingredients and make your selection based on your dogs unique needs.
Iams Proactive Health Mature Adult Dry Dog Food
Top 5 Ingredients: 1. Chicken, 2. Ground Whole Grain Barley, 3. Carrot, 4. Dried Plain Beet Pulp, 5. Natural Flavor
One of the main reasons to recommend Iams ProActive Health Mature Adult Dog Food is that it delivers almost every nutrient a senior dog could need. From protein sourced from real chicken to antioxidants, prebiotics, and more. The food ensures that your dog gets all the amino acids they require to remain muscular and active.
Besides that, the formula also contains prebiotics that improve gut health and enhance nutrient absorption. The recipe is enriched with nutrients that support bone health and keep the joints functioning properly. Antioxidants in the food also help strengthen immunity, and fibers improve digestion.
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At What Age Is A Dog Considered A Senior
It turns out there’s no medically agreed upon definition of what is considered a senior dog. Every dog is different, but size and weight are major factors. Generally, dogs that grow to a giant size have a shorter life expectancy, and we deem them senior at an earlier age, around 5 or 6. Small breeds tend to live longer and may not be seniors until age 8 or 9.
Still, many dogs are very healthy even when they reach these age ranges. In the future, genetic testing might tell us more about how and when the ‘senior’ period begins.