Is your dog eating less? Is she gaining weight? Is he slowing down and can not walk as fast as before?
This is part of aging. As your dog ages, his eating habits and dietary needs will change too.
Katherine Kam, in “Senior Dog Food: Meeting Aging Canines’ Nutritional Needs” in pets.webmd.com, discusses what older dogs need in their diet to keep them healthy.
The senior dog
Here is a guide from veterinarian Fred Metzger, according to Kam:
1. Large dogs age faster than small dogs.
2. Overweight dogs age faster than lean dogs.
Here is another guide, this time from veterinarian Mark Nunez, says Kam:
1. Dogs are considered older when they have reached half of their life expectancy.
2. Small dogs live to 15-20 years.
3. Large dogs are considered older at about 6 years old.
4. Small dogs are considered older at 8 to 9 years old.
Special nutritional needs of senior dogs
Here are some tips from the vets on dietary requirements of senior dogs, said Kam:
1. They need low calorie diet to prevent obesity.
2. High-fiber diet is advised to improve gastrointestinal health.
3. Their energy requirement is lower, thus, they need less calories.
“ With a slower metabolic rate, older dogs are more likely to become overweight or obese,” says Kam.
Many dog food companies now offer senior dog food formulations, which Nunez recommends as an age-appropriate diet for older pets because they’re lower in calories.
4. It is always best for owners to feed food suitable to the stage of life of the dog.
5. If you have more dogs, choose food labeled as “multi-stage”
However, “You make some compromises when you do the ‘multi-stage’ diets,” Nunez says. “So they’re my second choice. But some people just can’t separate the foods. The puppy will get into the senior diet, and the senior dog will get into the puppy food.”
6. For snacks, give healthy, low-fat, low-sodium treats.
“Vegetables are great,” Metzger says. “Most dogs like carrots and apple slices.”
“But avoid grapes and raisins because they’re harmful to dogs,” says Kam.
7. Older dogs need more water.
“The body’s ability to maintain water balance is decreased as they get older,” Metzger says.
“It’s important to make sure that senior dogs have plenty of water,” says Kam.
Health concerns that affect a senior dog’s diet
Dogs with medical concerns need a diet plan prepared with the help of a vet or a vet nutritionist.
“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.
1. Dogs with a heart problem will need a lower-calorie senior dog foods to help manage the weight and diet with no salt to keep the kidneys healthy.
2. Diabetic dogs need a lower-fat, higher-fiber food, Nunez says.
“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,” Kam says.
3. Dogs with constipation need a higher-fiber diet.
4. Many senior diets have higher-quality protein sources to help maintain body weight and muscle mass without overworking the kidneys, says Kam.
Supplements for senior dogs
A number of older dogs experience pain due to arthritis and joint problems.
For this, they need glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate supplements but the supplements should be ones formulated by vets for pets, not for humans.
But Nunez stresses that pets will benefit more from slimming down to address joint problems and arthritis.
“People think glucosamine is the best thing, but the very best thing is weight management,” Nunez says.
What to when a senior dog does not eat
Older dogs have reduced appetite. The causes vary. They are:
1. gastrointestinal problems that bring on nausea, or
The first thing to do is to bring your dog to the vet.
“When a dog won’t eat,” Metzger says, “make sure your veterinarian rules out any underlying health problems, such as dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer.”
You can also add warm water, chicken broth, or a small amount of canned food in the dry food to make it more appealing to older dogs.
Natural food like boiled meat and vegetables are appealing to them too.
“That extra smell and that extra TLC can get the dog to eat,” Nunez says.
I personally give boiled lean meat like lean ground beef or pork, or chicken breast to the dogs mixed with boiled vegetables such as sayote (chayote), upo (bottle gourd), pumpkin, malunggay (moringa) leaves), among others. Please research for more healthy vegetables in the internet. We grate the vegetable so that it is easier to chew and digest.
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