Every dog is different, but one thing they all have in common is that they get older and slower.
As they age, we worry about how much weight they might gain because of their lower energy levels, or the weight they shed due to loss of appetite.
So, what is the best thing to feed an old dog? How do you deal with changes in their eating habits and dietary needs?
Read on to learn more about the nutritional needs of senior dogs and other factors to consider when choosing the right food for them.
We also talk about what and when to feed your old dog.
Signs of Aging in Dogs
Truth be told, there is no medically agreed-upon meaning what a senior dog is.
Every dog is different, but one major factor when considering a dog’s life stage is their size and weight.
Generally, dogs that are larger in size have a shorter life expectancy, and we consider them seniors at about 5 or 6 years. Small breeds are considered seniors at around 8 to 9 years.
Some signs of aging in dogs include vision problems, weight loss or gain, skin issues, bad breath, excessive drooling, and dental symptoms.
But aging dogs are different from geriatric dogs, which are those at the end of their senior period.
A geriatric dog will suffer from some of the following issues:
- memory loss
- loss of appetite
- confusion and irritability
- loss of muscle mass
- increased urination or urinary incontinence
- impaired mobility.
Nutritional Needs of Senior Dogs
The requirements of older dogs when it comes to nutrition are certainly different from a young adult.
It is evident in their loss of appetite, loss of muscle mass, and the many other changes that are going on in their body.
This is also why some dog food products are marketed towards young adults, while others are for senior dogs.
A senior dog’s diet differs in terms of nutritional needs, digestibility, texture to cater to dogs with dental diseases, joint supplements, and added antioxidants.
Here are some nutrient adjustments needed for senior dogs.
Less Fiber and Carbs
Because fiber can be difficult for some older dogs to digest, some commercial diets designed for seniors tend to be lower in fiber.
However, if your dog has certain intestinal issues, fiber can be a useful nutrient.
Higher or Lower Fat
Senior dogs are prone to obesity as they become less active. This means they need lower fat content in their food.
But if your dog is getting thinner due to a lack of appetite, a diet that is higher in fat is recommended.
The protein stores of a senior dog turn over more rapidly than in younger dogs, and like humans, dogs can start to lose muscle mass as they age.
This is why protein is necessary, to help them make up for the loss and to keep them stronger and mobile.
There is no need to restrict dietary sodium unless your dog is dealing with a heart or kidney disease.
One study of commercial senior dog foods found that the sodium content ranged from 33 to 412 milligrams/100 kilocalories.
AAFCO’s minimum for sodium in dog foods is 20 milligrams/100 kilocalories.
Other Considerations for Senior Dog Diets
Aside from your dog’s nutritional needs, there are other factors to take into account when choosing the best dog food for senior dogs.
Kibble Shape and Texture
The shape and texture of your dog’s food make a difference as they affect the gums and teeth. Kibble texture can help create a brushing effect to help promote dental health.
If your dog has a sore mouth or missing teeth, they will need wet food to help them take in enough calories to maintain their weight.
Senior dogs may have a reduced sense of smell and taste, so make sure that their food is appealing.
You can try mixing wet and dry food, choosing aromatic foods, and warming the food to increase the smell.
Senior dogs who have gastrointestinal issues and trouble with digestion may benefit from foods that use a blend of different fiber sources.
The way the ingredients are prepared, or ground, can be important to improving digestibility.
What and When to Feed Your Senior Dog
Your old dog will appreciate familiar routines that they are already comfortable with as they did back then.
However, if they’re having a hard time eating at their age, try to feed them several times a day in very small portions.
Otherwise, keep feeding them at the time they expect.
Much older dogs gain weight over the years since they are not as active anymore.
If your dog is one of them, dole out less food to compensate for fewer calories burned.
Sometimes, dogs get thinner as they age because they don’t eat as much anymore due to diseases. Talk to your vet about how much food they need.
If you are concerned about your senior dog being overweight, we recommend IAMS ProActive Health for Adult Senior Dogs.
It includes a grain formula with no plant-based protein boosters. It has chicken, ground whole grain barley, ground whole grain corn, and ground whole grain sorghum.
IAMS Mature Adult derives the bulk of its meat protein from fresh chicken.
You can also mix it with the IAMS ProActive Health wet dog food to make it look more appealing to your dog, or use this canned product on its own if your dog has dental issues.
On the other hand, if you want to help your dog to get their appetite back, we recommend Wellness Core’s Natural Dry Dog Food for Seniors.
Its savory flavor will bring back your dog’s love for food and will keep their whole body healthy.
This protein-rich kibble has no grains, meat by-products, fillers, or artificial flavors.
Feed Your Old Dog Nutritious Healthy Food
As your dog’s muzzle begins to turn grey, you might be worrying if their current diet is still appropriate for them.
The requirements of older dogs in terms of nutrition are far different from young adults.
They begin to lose their memory, decrease their energy levels, have dental diseases, appetite loss, and other medical conditions.
Some dogs need higher fat content in their food to make up for their weight loss due to appetite loss. Others need less fat because of their inactivity.
Regardless, provide your dog with high-protein, low-carb, digestible, and delicious dog food to keep them happy and healthy!