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Food To Help Your Senior Dog Lose Weight

Nutrition for Overweight Senior Dogs

By Dr. Joe Wakshlag. November 12, 2012 | See Comments

  • expert or vet photo
    vet verified

    Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM

    Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

    Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

Food To Help Your Senior Dog Lose Weight

Feeding an overweight senior dog means finding the right nutritional balance. Here's what you need to know to find the best food for your senior dog.

Older dogs will need a different dietary routine than they did when they were younger, and this can be especially true for overweight dogs. If you’re starting to notice your dog’s muzzle going a bit gray and more huffing and puffing when your dog runs up the stairs, your buddy may be entering the next stage of their life.

When is a dog a senior?

Dogs hit their senior stage at different ages, depending on the breed. Larger dogs will usually be considered seniors when they reach 7 or 8. Medium breed dogs reach the senior stage usually a few years later, at 9 or 10 years old. Small and toy breed dogs are considered seniors at around 12 years old.

So what will happen when your overweight dog becomes a senior?

You’ll start to notice some changes in your dog’s body. These are natural results of getting older. Your dog will likely experience changes in their mobility, muscle mass, eyesight, cognition, and in gastrointestinal function.

All of these functions rely on nutrition, so here’s how to give your senior dog the best golden years by paying attention to their nutrition.

Muscle Mass Loss and Fat Mass Gain:

All senior dogs will lose some muscle mass over time, a condition which is called Sarcopenia. There’s not much to be done to stop this phenomenon, but higher protein diets have been shown to help diminish the effects of Sarcopenia. It may be more evident in a leaner senior dog, but it is also occurring in your overweight dog.

You’ll need to make sure your dog gets enough protein, and keep them on a lower fat diet. Here are guidelines to use when looking at dry and canned foods:

Protein in Dry Food Fat in Dry Food Protein in Wet Food Fat in Wet Food
24% or more 12% or less 8% or more 3% or less

Gastrointestinal Health:

As your dog ages, their gastrointestinal function will become less efficient. Your dog will experience a decrease in intestinal absorptive capacity, or how much nutrients your pet’s intestines can absorb. This can mean diarrhea and other gastrointestinal discomfort. Look for a senior diet that includes highly digestible ingredients, to allow your senior pet to get the most from their food.

Mobility:

Much like humans, dogs can feel the results of aging on their joints, and this is especially true for large and giant breed dogs and overweight dogs. Since most older dogs’ bodies don’t replace cartilage as quickly, they can have thin cartilage in some joints, which causes some of the pain associated with arthritis.

You can use prescription anti-inflammatories to combat the pain, but there are nutritional supplements that will work as well.

  • Fish oil added to your overweight senior dog’s diet can combat inflammation. Some dog foods already contain fish oil, but it’s typically not enough to see results. You can add ½ a teaspoon per 10 lbs of your dog’s weight to help them move around better.
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are other supplements that may help your dog sustain cartilage and slow its degeneration. Glucosamine and chondroitin can be given alone or together.

Other Changes:

Your overweight senior dog’s eye health and cognition will be affected as your dog ages as well. For these issues, the food and nutrition you can provide to your dog to boost their health will be the same that you'd give to a leaner senior dog.

As you can see, feeding your aging dog can be complex and knowing how to handle their weight is important. Though you can’t completely prevent the changes caused by aging, you can help keep your pal happy and healthy for a long time to come by providing the proper nutrients.

More on Dog Food and Nutrition:

What to Feed a Puppy
Feeding Your Active or Working Dog
6 Pet Food Ingredients That Burn Fat

This article was written by PetCareRx Consulting Nutritionist Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine. The information contained, however, is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian.

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