Your dog will shift to its golden years at some point, and this varies greatly by breed.
A common sign is if they start encountering vision problems, you witness a drop in daily energy, and your pupper starts to lose weight.
When this happens it’s time to start shifting their diet. Now, a great nutritional plan for your dog is a must, regardless of age. However, with older dogs in particular, knowing what to feed them is more important in ensuring they maintain their health.
Below we’ll dive into what’s the difference in diet for a senior dog and some tips on dietary changes you should implement.
Differences between senior dog food and regular dog food?
Now this doesn’t mean you walk into the pet store and ask for ‘senior’ dog food. Simply cause it doesn’t exist.
However, as your dog experiences physical and mental changes as they age, you’ll need to adjust their diet to accommodate.
This means creating diet plans that may be easier to digest, include necessary supplements to help with joint pain and muscle regenerations.
The golden rule in shifting your dog’s diet is:
· More protein to recoup their loss in muscle as they age
· More fat to maintain their weight
· More fiber to help with digestion
· A more appropriate calorie density that matches their activity levels
And, this means the following:
Just like humans, aging comes with muscle loss and as a result, working with your vet to find the right muscle mass required for your aging dog so it doesn’t impede mobility is crucial. Based on this, develop the right diet plan that ensures there’s extra protein to help with muscle maintenance as your dog ages.
Fruits and vegetables are your puppers best friend
As dogs age they are going to be more prone to issues such as constipation. As a result, be sure to add lots of fiber to their diet such as wheat bran, green beans (canned or fresh), and canned pumpkin.
Nutrients are needed!
Antioxidants do wonders in helping with aging. Nutrients such as omega-6 fatty acids (gamma linolenic acid and fructooligosaccharides), vitamin E, and beta-carotene can do wonders in boosting your dogs immune system, helping with their skin and coat as well as digestion.
You’ll often find these nutrients chock full in certain high-quality foods you buy for your dog, but nutritional supplements are also a good way of ensuring they get their required dosage.
Check with your vet for special dietary needs
Dogs with kidney disease for example need to switch to low-protein diets. As a result, be sure as your dog ages to check with your vet on any special diet plans they need to be on that help them age gracefully and keep their health tip top!
Old dogs are also generally more prone to dehydration faster. Sometimes this is cause of underlying conditions such as kidney disease, other times it may be shifts in their diet such as nutritional supplements causing them dehydrate faster. Either way, make sure your dog has easy access to water that is fresh, and cool to encourage them to stay hydrated.
How often and when?
When it comes to how often and the cadence of feeding as your dog ages, theirs a few nuances too.
As dogs get older, just like older humans, they start to move around less. A recent study found an older dog requires 20% less calories to maintain their weight compared to their younger self! This means they’ll start to put on weight if you’re feeding them the same volume from their younger years. Be sure to keep this in mind when doling out portions.
On the flip side, if you see your dog losing weight as they age, this could be a sign of a serious health condition. Be sure to take them to the vet for a check up if you start noticing they’re getting thinner while also being less active. Sometimes, a change in behavior that’s easy to notice is also whether they’re actively eating all the food you’re giving them.
In either scenario, dogs love routine so don’t disrupt their feeding times too much. Keep it to the routine they are used to but balance out the portions and check in on your dogs appetite as they age.
Raised feeding dishes are your best friend
Considering getting a raised feeding dish for your older dog as well so it’s much easier for him/her to reach meals. Bending their neck and displacing weight to their front legs can be challenging, and sometimes older dogs will rather not eat than go through this struggle. As a result, a raised feeding dish, regardless of whether your fido is big or small can go a long way in encouraging them to eat when it’s difficult.
What if your dog has no appetite?
This is quite common as your dog ages, sometimes their senses are lowered and the food in front of them just won’t be that appetizing.
A loss in appetite should always mean you check in with your vet to determine the underlying cause. Once you know the reason, if you need a booster to get your dog to eat, here’s a few suggestions:
· Use clear (low-sodium) chicken broth, this one always does the trick, is healthy and yummy!
· Kick off their meal by giving them their favorite treat in a small dose
· Low-fat cottage cheese, or sprinkle his meal with dried Parmesan cheese
· Scrambled egg-whites
Ultimately, aging is inevitable and though a change in diet is necessary don’t forget to ensure your dog still eats what it’s enjoyed. Throw in the occasional treat so that your pupper is happy while living through its golden years!