As your dog goes through this change of life, it’s likely that his diet also needs to change.
Just like us, dogs start to slow down as they get older. As they enter their golden years, you’ll notice that your pooch would rather cuddle on the couch than play catch all day.
A change of activity won’t be the only change to your senior pooch. His body, fur, immune system and digestion will change as well. Because every dog is different, each dog will age differently. But no matter what changes your dog goes through as he ages, he’ll need some extra support from you. And one of the best ways to help him is to ensure he’s getting a balanced diet for his needs.
Just as you would with any dog, you should gradually switch your senior dog to a new diet that will support him as he enters this stage of his life. This diet needs to be formulated to fit with your dog’s changing nutritional needs and eating habits. Here are some important points to remember when it comes to senior dog’s dietary needs.
Managing Food Intake
Senior dogs slow down, as does their metabolism. He doesn’t need the same caloric intake as he did when he was chasing squirrels all day long. Your pooch may even put on some weight as he gets older. That’s why changing your dog to a lower calorie diet can be a good idea.
You’ll notice that most senior dog food formulas offer lower calorie counts per servings, as well as boasting increased essential fatty acid and antioxidant levels to support joints and immune systems.
Calories are particularly important during the senior years, not just because of a lowered activity level, but also because of mobility issues. Less movement means a greater chance of obesity. In older dogs, the extra weight causes more stress on joints.
Keeping your senior dog properly hydrated helps his overall wellness and health. Senior dogs are prone to kidney disease; and perhaps he has to take diuretics for heart disease, which can cause dehydration.
To do your part, water should always be fresh, cool and readily available to encourage your dog to drink more. You can also place more water bowls around the house, so H20 is always where he needs it.
Loss of Muscle
Some older dogs can lose muscle mass, even if they remain active. The best way to combat the loss of muscle is with increased levels of dietary protein to help build and maintain muscle mass. However, determining how much protein your senior dog needs is tricky. Your best bet is to meet with your veterinarian—they will be able to better determine how much protein your dog should be eating.
Because you can’t buy your dog dentures, you need to look after your dog’s senior teeth. As they age, dogs are more susceptible to periodontal (dental) disease. This means that large or hard kibble or treats are hard to chew. Choosing a softer food helps make meal time a lot more comfortable.
Amy Tokic is the Editor of Petguide.com, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.