What Is The Best Senior Dog Food
When it comes down to it, there is no one best senior dog food. It is important to evaluate your own dog before making adjustments to his diet because every dog needs a different nutritional strategy. Just because your dog is a senior does not mean he needs senior food.
Many ‘adult’ or ‘all life stages’ foods may be as or even more beneficial than diets marketed for seniors.
Foods Not Safe For Dogs:
The most important thing to know when making homemade dog food for your dog are the foods they should NOT eat.
You can do a quick google search for an all inclusive list or buy a doggie cookbook for reference. Heres a list from the Humane Society of foods that can be poisonous to pets. Be sure to take the necessary precautions if you plan to start cooking for your dog, but also know, theres really not that much to worry about!
Here are some common human foods that should not be fed to your dog:
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Despite the best of intentions, sometimes changing dog food can cause digestive upset. Switching your dogs food too quickly may result in imbalances in her gastrointestinal flora . Dogs are notorious creatures of habit, so their digestive system may not always agree with a new food.
In order to help you help your pooch transition to a new food like a pro, weve curated five of our favorite products for canine digestive health. Each of these products has been hand-selected for pet parents who are changing their dogs food. We recommend you keep one or more of these products on hand when making the transition in the event your dogs tummy reacts with a vengeance.
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Alternatives To Commercial Senior Dog Food
You should be able to find a good commercial food to feed your senior dog, whether you continue to feed an adult maintenance formula, a senior food, or an easy-to-digest food. If your senior dog has a particular health issue, you will need to find a food that takes that issue into consideration. However, some people prefer to change their senior dogs diet to a raw or homecooked diet. Senior dogs are often better able to digest these foods than the food in a commercial pet food, so thats something for you to consider.
Ive used a homecooked diet for several of my older dogs when they began to lose interest in kibble as they got older. I think with a couple of my older dogs it added years to their lives. Its a lot of work, but it became a routine for me and I was happy to do it. I certainly fed my dogs lots of protein and gave them lots of calories. I have Setters. My dogs and the other dogs I know dont tend to be fat when they age. They stay very active into their teens and they use a lot of calories.
So, if you have a senior dog, think carefully about what you are feeding him. Remember that theres currently very little science behind the formulas for senior pet foods. Consider your dogs individual condition and what he needs. Most of the senior pet foods being made today have reduced calories and lower protein and thats not good for a lot of senior dogs.
What Causes Changes In A Dogs Coat Condition
Changes in diet can lead to changes in your dogs skin and coat condition, but the most common causes are season and life stage. As cold weather approaches, most dogs grow a thick coat to help keep heat in and cold air out. As the weather warms up, they shed their thick, heavy coat.
Most puppies are born with soft, fuzzy hair, but as they age, they grow a coarser coat. Pregnant or nursing dogs also might experience a change in coat condition or hair loss. And, just like humans, a dogs hair might thin out and become coarser and white as they reach their mature years.
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Preparation Of Our Homemade Diet
All of the information above might seem intimidating, but I assure you that making the actual meals for our dogs takes no more than 20 minutes of actual hands-on time.
First, we cook our complex carbs, whether theyre grains, legumes, or starchy vegetables.
While that pot is simmering on the stove, we cook the meat in a separate pan in coconut oil and ground turmeric. After its cooled a bit, we add chunks of meat to our food processor and pulse until theyre broken down into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces.
Then, we gather whatever vegetables or fruits we have in the kitchen , chop them up as needed, and toss them into the food processor.
We also add a few clean, crushed eggshells to the mix. A few pulses turns all this food into smaller pieces, making them more digestible for our dogs.
Finally, we add the cooled, cooked carbs to the food processor and do a couple more pulses to combine. Everything should have a finely crumbled texture by this point.
Since dogs have short digestive tracts, its crucial that you break down the food to increase its bioavailability that is, making all the nutrients in those wholesome ingredients more digestible in a dogs system.
I prepare enough food to last my two pugs an entire week. Its unbelievably easy, and I like knowing exactly what goes into their food. Friends will watch us feed our pugs and remark that it looks good enough for them to eat!
Choosing The Right Bowls
Every dog is different and has different habits. This is especially true for eating. Take a close look at how your dog eats. If your dog is a gulper, has trouble chewing or swallowing, or is limited in mobility, their bowl might need to reflect that.
Most bowls are a pretty standard shape and size, but some variations may actually improve your pets eating habits. Check out some of the unique food bowls to help your pet eat better.
|Messy eaters need high-sided dishes to avoid making a bigger mess than necessary.|
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Feeding Older Dogs: When To Consider Senior Dog Food
As your dog gets older, his dietary needs will start to change, and you may want to consider switching him to a dog food for senior dogs to meet his unique nutritional requirements. Whether your dog is just starting to enter his golden years or whether hes been sporting grey hair for a while now, heres what you need to know about senior dog food:
Feed For Organ Health
Other factors to consider are senior dog health problems such as heart and kidney disease. For both conditions, youll want a low-sodium food. But, that same 2011 study found that sodium levels in senior foods ranged from 33 to 412 mg/100 kcal. For kidney disease, youll want low phosphorous, but thats not even mentioned on any label. The 2011 study found phosphorous levels varied by threefold in the senior foods they examined, but were on average higher than their representative adult maintenance food.
Prescription diets are available for heart, kidney, and other diseases that take into account these nutritional needs. However, even those foods may have wide ranges of nutrients. Any dog food manufacturer should be able to provide these numbers to you on their website or with a simple phone call. While youre at it, ask them about the credentials of the people formulating their foods. If they cant provide either, thats clue number one that you should find another product.
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Should You Cook Your Dogs Food
Is cooking dog food at home really better for your pup? While there may be claims made to that effect, theres no hard scientific evidence to support it.
Owners are told by many sources that homemade food is superior to commercial products. However, there is no proof to support this claim, says Dr. Larsen.
Larsen cautions dog owners to be aware of fearmongering within the pet food industry. This is often driven by myths about ingredient quality. While there are no scientifically-supported benefits to homemade diets, whole ingredient-based diets are better in the long term. Commercial foods are made to be complete and balanced, adds Dr. Bartges, albeit not the most exciting of meals.
Think of it as eating the same highly processed food for every meal, day after day, for years, he affirms.
Put that way, feeding your dogs a variety of whole foods makes a lot of sense. In fact, there are a multitude of reasons why you might want to prepare homemade foods for your dog, according to Dr. Larsen and Dr. Bartges.
These include gaining control over your dogs diet, appeasing picky eaters, combatting food intolerance issues, concern over food recalls, or simply for the bond-building joy of preparing a home-cooked meal for your dog.
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Signs Its Time To Change Your Dogs Food
Choosing a dog food can be a painstaking process so much so that some of us stick with buying the same pet food for our dogs entire life. The truth is, says Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, we now know our pets dietary needs can and do change over time due to factors like their life stage, their overall health, and their activity level.
What Should An Owner Do When A Senior Dog Wont Eat
Its common for older dogs to have reduced appetite, Nunez says. Causes vary. For example, some dogs have gastrointestinal problems that bring on nausea, while others lose their appetite because of cancer.
When a dog wont eat, Metzger says, make sure your veterinarian rules out any underlying health problems, such as dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer. He also says that when dogs lose interest in dry food, adding warm water, chicken broth, or a small amount of canned food can make it more appealing.
Home-cooked meals can be enticing, too. That extra smell and that extra TLC can get the dog to eat, Nunez says. Some owners feed their dogs combinations of foods, such as cooked chicken and barley or cooked lamb and rice.
Pet stores also sell bottles of flavor enhancers that owners can add to food. Also, as a last resort, there are medications — appetite stimulants — that can help dogs eat,” Nunez says.
But these treatments should be used only after veterinarians have ruled out serious diseases, Metzger says.
Fred Metzger, DVM, Diplomate ABVP, owner, Metzger Animal Hospital, StateCollege, Pa., and adjunct professor, Penn State University.
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Best Probiotic With Fiber
Eliminate the fear of switching dog food by keeping a can of Fruitables Switch on hand. Touted as the just-right balance of soluble to insoluble fiber, Switch supports a healthy gut to ensure a smooth transition to your dogs new food. We love the transparency of this products, as its one and only ingredient is pumpkin. Pumpkin is safe for humans and dogs, and the pure pumpkin in Switch contains no additives or preservatives.
- Tasty pumpkin base is a flavor most dogs love
- Helps decrease the risk of loose stool or digestive issues when changing foods
- Made in the USA and developed by a veterinarian
- Easily replace 30 percent of your dogs current food with Switch when transitioning
- Can be used after transitioning for a daily fiber addition
Things to Consider
- Unused portion must be refrigerated after opening and remains fresh up to seven days
- Contains 4 calories per tablespoon
- Consult with your dogs veterinarian first if your pet has a medical condition or takes medication
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.
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Every Dog Ages Differently
Part of the challenge of knowing if and when a switch to a senior food is necessary stems from knowing when your dog has reached senior status. Dogs age at different rates, depending on their breed and size, with small dogs aging much more slowly than large or giant dogs.
That said, according to Pet Health Network, many dogs enter their senior stage of life at about 7 years old. Thats when dogs start to experience some internal changes, such as decreased activity or slower metabolism, even if theyre not showing outward signs of aging. Its also when dogs begin to develop health issues similar to senior humans, such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, hypothyroidism, kidney disease and others.
Many senior dogs with age-related health concerns can benefit from an appropriate food change. So if youre thinking about switching your dog to a senior food, talk first with your veterinarian your dogs overall health, body condition and any underlying medical conditions can determine which senior diet may best meet their nutritional needs.
What Should I Look For In A Senior Dog Food
As mentioned above, as your dog ages, the glucose metabolism in his brain may begin to change, which can affect memory, attention and trainability. Here are some of the most important things to consider when youre choosing a senior dog food.
Lower levels of fat and higher levels of protein:Your dogs weight is an important thing to pay attention to as he gets older, as extra pounds can have a serious effect on your dogs joints and cardiovascular system. Unless yours is a highly active dog, look for a senior dog food with slightly decreased fat and increased protein to help your dog maintain lean muscle mass and his overall health.
Enhanced botanical oils:Adding enhanced botanical oils to senior dog food can help older dogs think more like they did when they were younger. Proprietary research has shown that adding modified plant-based oils like coconut oil to an older dogs diet helps promote alertness and mental sharpness.
Omega fatty acids and glucosamine:Glucosamine and EPA, an Omega-3 fatty acid, can help support joint health and mobility, which is something your dog may struggle with as he gets older.
Antioxidants:Antioxidants can help support a healthy immune system, helping to shield your dog from outside threats.
Ready to choose a senior dog food for your dog? See all of our dog foods for older dogs here.
When To Start Feeding Your Adult Dog A Senior Dog Food
If your senior dog is healthy, in good body condition, and hes eating a good quality, nutritionally-balanced diet, you dont have to change his food to a senior dog food.
However, if your dog has a disease that is associated with aging such as arthritis, cancer, dental problems, diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease, then making changes to the diet might improve some symptoms or even slow the progression of the disease. You might be able to optimize the health of your dog and manage disease through dietary modification.
Every dog is different but, in general, the bigger the dog, the earlier it is considered to be a senior. Most dogs are considered seniors when they are 7-8 years old but it really depends on the breed, the size of the dog, and the overall health of the individual dog.
Once your dog reaches his senior years, having a yearly vet check that includes bloodwork is recommended so your veterinarian can catch any problems early. Knowing the status of your dogs health will also help you choose the best diet for your dog. Talk to your vet whenever you have questions about your senior dogs diet.
Nutrient Adjustments Are Needed For Senior Dogs
While some dogs may not need a change in the nutrient composition of their diet as they age, there are nutritional adjustments that may specifically benefit senior dogs, depending on a number of factors . Here are some of the most common:
Lower-calorie foods are often the way to go, because senior dogs tend to be less active than their younger counterparts. In fact, dogs’ activity levels tend to drop by as much as one-third to one-half as they age that means they do not need to take in as many calories. Portion control is key! That said, for those senior dogs who are losing muscle mass, a vet might recommend a diet higher in protein and calories.Finally, always consult your vet, who can help you determine what is right for your dog and make adjustments accordingly.
Check out this study for more reading on senior dog nutrition. Remember, there is currently no senior, geriatric, or mature dog food nutrient profile recognized by the Association of American Feed Control Officials . That means there is no guarantee that senior food will contain a certain amount of protein, fiber, or any of the nutrients mentioned here.
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