Just like us, the nutritional needs of our dogs change as they age including extra support for things like bone and joint health. Today, our Fairhaven vets talk about the needs of geriatric pets and what the best type of food is for senior dogs.
How will I know when my dog is a senior?
Not all dogs reach each stage of life at the same time. This will depend on a number of factors such as their breed and size. As a general rule of thumb, small dogs can be expected to live 15-20 years, while larger dogs usually live from around age 12 to age 15.
Bigger dogs age faster and are considered to be "older" around the time they turn 6, while small dogs generally pass into middle age at around 8 years old.
What are the nutritional needs of my senior dog?
When you are trying to decide what the best food is for your senior dog you will need to take into consideration their breed and any health concerns that they may have.
It is important to be aware of the calorie content of the food as your dog is more likely to put on extra weight as they get older. You can help prevent obesity by limiting how much food your dog eats as well and choosing a suitable food for a low-calorie diet.
The second is trying to make sure their diet includes high-fiber options. Constipation is painful in its own right, and it can lead to further gastrointestinal issues when it becomes severe enough. Maintaining gastrointestinal health is a common obstacle for older dogs, so the best dog food for senior dogs will have lots of fiber to help them stay healthy and regular.
How can my dog's food help protect their health as they age?
Senior dogs who are suffering from diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease are liable to require special diets that will help keep their condition under control. It is best to consult with a vet about your dog's diet if they are sick and you are concerned about the impact of their diet.
If your dog has a higher chance of developing heart disease then you may want to consider foods that are low sodium and low calorie.
Our Fairhaven vets recommend owners of diabetic or pre-diabetic dogs select dog food which slows the absorption of food. These special diabetic diets tend to raise blood sugar more slowly and reduce the chances of impactful health complications in dogs with diabetes. These diets are very low in fat and exceptionally high in fiber. We recommend talking to your vet who can provide dietary recommendations for your senior or otherwise diabetic dog.
As your pup gets older they may benefit from an increase in the quality of protein they eat. This helps senior dogs maintain healthy body weight without putting unneeded strain on their aging kidneys.
As previously mentioned, constipation is a common struggle for older dogs, the high amount of fiber present in the best dog food for older dogs helps to prevent constipation and keep their bowel movements regular.
What if my dog seems to have no appetite?
You may notice that your dog doesn't eat as much or as often as they used to but don't worry, this is completely normal. Causes for sudden appetite loss are hugely varied both in scope and severity. Your dog could be suffering from simple nausea brought on by gastrointestinal problems, or it could be suffering from the effects of cancer.
If your senior dog has suddenly begun to demonstrate an unexplained loss of appetite, it is best to speak with your vet and have them rule out any potentially serious causes including dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer.
Once serious medical conditions have been ruled out as the cause for appetite loss, another avenue for consideration is the simplest one—perhaps your dog is simply tired of its regular food. Adding chicken broth, some water, or a small amount of canned food to your dog's dry kibble supply may serve to make it more enticing. You could also try preparing a simple meal for your dog of cooked chicken and barley or cooked lamb and rice. These home-cooked meals are both nutritious and bland enough to sit well with them if your older dog is experiencing some nausea.
What is the best food for senior dogs?
This depends on the exact situation of your dog. In some cases, yes, the best option for your senior dog may be a medical prescription dog food. In other cases, simply switching to a healthy alternative regular food brand might do the trick. Please speak to your vet to see what they recommend.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.