Help Your Senior Dog Maintain a Healthy Diet
They may always be your furry babies, but as your dog gets older, their diet needs change. To make sure that your best pal feels great in their golden years, here are a few healthy diet and nutrition tips for senior dogs.
When is a dog considered senior?
The age that your dog becomes a “senior” is largely determined by their breed and weight. In a WebMD article, Dr. Mark Nunez, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association from 2009-2010, “little dogs live to about 15 to 20 years of age, while bigger dogs live to about 12 to 15 years.” He further explains that a dog is considered a senior when they reach half of their life expectancy. For larger dogs this around age six, and for smaller dogs, it occurs around eight or nine.
Fat and calorie considerations
Like humans, dogs metabolisms slow as they age. For many dogs, the result is weight gain and risk for obesity. To help your pup maintain a healthy weight, choose foods with lower, healthy fats and fewer calories. While not all fat is good for dogs, especially cooked fat like grease, fats like omega-3s (commonly found in fish oil) can be a great addition to your dog’s diet and may help curb joint inflammation and arthritis.
In contrast, some older dogs may get thinner as they age. This weight loss could be the result of a decreased sense of smell or taste or even issues chewing related to gum or tooth decay. In this case, the AKC recommends a diet higher in fat to improve the palatability of the food and calorie intake.
If there are no underlying health issues and your older dog turns their nose up at dinner time, you might consider trying a new flavor of dog food or make dry kibble more enticing with warm water, chicken broth, or a small amount of canned food.
If you’ve heard that protein is bad for older dogs because it overtaxes their kidneys, the AKC says not to ignore this myth. In fact, the club actually recommends that a minimum of 25 percent of calories in a senior dog diet should come from protein. This increase helps support your pal’s immune system and the ability to repair tissue.
Who doesn’t want to share treats with their faithful companion and best friend? However, many commercial dog treats are filled with calories and can undo all of the hard work you’ve done to provide your dog with a solid diet.
A PetMD article suggests rewarding your dog (no matter the age!) with fruits and veggies, such as seedless apple slices, blueberries, pear slices, carrot pieces, or even frozen peas.
Senior Dog Foods
There are several dog foods on the market specifically designed for senior dogs. Many of these are lower in calories and include antioxidants, as well as omega-3, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate supplements to help you take the guesswork out of feeding your aging pup.
Just as aging in humans varies from person to person, the same goes for dogs. Make sure to check with your veterinarian when choosing the best diet for your dog.