Your beloved dog is getting older, and you may be wondering if there are changes you need to make in their diet to keep them healthy and nourished. After all, although genetics, gender, and breed significantly affect the lifespan of your pet, nutritious food will help them stay healthier and more active.
Pet stores are full of different dog food brands offering special diets for different breeds and ages, but what do aging dogs actually need from their diet? Let’s find out.
Changing Dietary Needs
It can be challenging to decide when your dog should be offered senior food because breeds age at different rates. Smaller dogs tend to live longer and age slower, as larger breeds are considered to age sooner. A good rule of thumb is that your dog can be considered old when it has reached about half of the breed’s life expectancy.
Because older dogs tend to be less active, they burn fewer calories, and you need to ensure you’re not overfeeding to prevent weight gain. Adding weight is a common problem for aging dogs and a reason for monitoring their diet carefully.
Also, changes I the metabolic rate may cause your dog to burn fewer calories, which means that excess energy is stored as fat. Therefore, your elderly dog may need a diet that has less fat and fewer calories.
However, sometimes senior dogs may start to lose weight, which may be a sign of health problems. Take your pet to the vet to figure out what’s wrong. For example, your pet may have dental issues and needs to change to smaller and softer kibble. Reduced appetite, difficulty chewing or swallowing, and decreased sense of smell and taste may also cause your dog to lose weight. Adding some fat to the diet may make it more palatable and add calories your dog needs to stay at a healthy weight.
Should You Feed Senior Dog Food?
If your dog is doing well with its regular food, you may not need to change its diet in any way since older dogs don’t necessarily need a special diet as they age. However, if your dog develops conditions like kidney or liver problems, they may need a specific diet prescribed by a veterinarian.
Still, dog foods that have been formulated for older dogs tend to take into consideration the effects of aging and provide nutritionally fit food for your pet. So if your dog doesn’t mind changing his food, it’s certainly worth a try to find something that may benefit him nutritionally as he ages.
Just be aware that not all dog food brands manufacture food that actually meets your pet’s nutritional requirements. Do your research and find a brand that has the correct dietary content while also being appetizing to your canine friend.
Treats should also be carefully considered, as snacks that are high in sugar or fat will only add to the weight problem. Older dogs may suffer from constipation, so offering some veggies and fruits that are high in fiber may help their digestion. A diet that is higher in fiber will also help glucose regulation. You can check which veggies and fruits are safe for your dog at Feeding My Pet.
Protein is also important for senior dogs, as they tend to lose muscle mass. Losing muscle tissue and protein reserves should be prevented by ensuring that at least 25% of calories come from protein. This will help your dog’s body to have enough amino acids for repairing tissues and energy metabolism.
You could also add vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure adequate nutrient intake. In addition, senior dogs suffering from arthritis can benefit from a daily glucosamine-chondroitin supplement.
Also, don’t forget that older dogs are prone to dehydration because of kidney problems or heart medication that causes them to urinate more frequently. Make sure your pet has enough fresh and clean water readily available, and it’s easily accessed.
Summing up – How to Feed a Senior Dog
As your dog gets older, you may need to adjust its diet. However, each dog is an individual, and you should always take that into consideration. Some dogs stay active and eat the same food to a ripe old age, while others may need changes in their diet earlier due to health reasons.
It’s always best to have a vet check your dog once or twice a year to see if there are health concerns or dietary changes that need to be made. With the correct diet, you may be able to help your dog live a longer and healthier life.