Your Senior Dog
Age Appropriate Food
There is no one best food for an older dog. Every dog is an individual. Senior dogs vary in their genetic make-up, life style, history, and environment.
It is easy to become confused about deciding on the best food for your older dog. The most important thing is that the food consists of a good proportion of high-quality protein. A truly premium dog food will provide sound nutrition for your dog.
Like all living creatures, dogs need a combination of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water in a balanced diet that provides sufficient calories to meet their daily needs. The claim on a bag of dog food that it is a complete food means nothing unless the nutrients are in a form available for absorption into the dog’s systems. Premium dog food manufacturers make every effort to not only balance their food but also to provide the ingredients in usable form. This is especially important when feeding your senior dog, as their metabolism will have slowed down and will have more difficulty accessing the nutrients in their food if it is not easily digested.
Dog foods also must contain vitamin and mineral supplements in balanced concentrations. In a senior pet, the proper vitamin and mineral packages, made readily bio-available by the way in which they are processed, are necessary to keep the immune system strong and functioning.
Watching the Weight
Nutrition and exercise are intricately related when it comes to weight control. Try to keep your older dog exercising as much as they are able. If you notice a gain in weight, investigate one of the senior “light” formulas. They tend to contain ingredients that will make your dog feel full, even with fewer calories. Give your dog three or four smaller meals a day rather than just one or two larger meals. They will be less ravenous at mealtime and also will burn calories more efficiently if they are spaced throughout the day. If your dog has been accustomed to eating one large meal a day, introduce the several-meals-per-day plan gradually. Keep in mind that these several meals can add up to the same amount as was contained in one meal. The difference will be in the way the calories are used.
Keep your dog entertained with activities other than eating, and make him more dependent on verbal praise and physical contact than on “treats” for his daily rewards.
A gradual loss of appetite is not uncommon in older dogs. As a dog ages, their senses of smell and taste decrease, making food less appealing. A sudden loss of appetite may be a serious illness, check with your vet if your dog refuses to eat for more than a day. Appetite that gradually diminishes to a dangerously low level also may be a sign of a serious problem. Another source of discomfort may be your dog’s teeth and gums. If they seem to be avoiding food, or looks distressed while chewing, check their mouth. One way to increase the smell and taste appeal of food is to warm it. Of course, it shouldn’t so hot that it might burn delicate tissue in the mouth, either.
As a dog ages, they get lazier about chewing his food, and he may develop a preference for softer food. Adding unsalted beef or chicken broth will make the meal more appealing.
Although it is often said that a dog doesn’t need variety, senior dogs can sometimes contradict this. If your senior loses their appetite, try introducing variety to the diet. The same kibble mixed with beef or chicken, or broth, and a small amount of vegetables may revive their interest in eating. If you add variety, add it gradually in small amounts to avoid digestive upset.
What to Avoid
Grocery brands of food are not good for your dog — at any age. Although a younger dog may be able to get by on a lower-quality diet, an older dog definitely won’t. Although “premium” foods appear to cost more, they are more nutritionally sound. In the end, you won’t save money by buying a cheaper brand because your dog will have to eat more of it to obtain adequate nutrition and ultimately won’t be as healthy. You may end up paying more than the difference in vet bills.
Avoid feeding your dog table scraps, especially an older dog, any food that is different from their normal fare may cause gastro-intestinal upset. Food for human consumption can be excessively salty, which can be harmful to an older dog.
Remember to Drink Water
Water is the best drink for your senior dog. Many older forget to drink, or due to arthritis, they have trouble getting up and moving around so they avoid going to their water bowl. Even mild dehydration is bad for a senior dog. Thoroughly wash and re-fill your dog’s water bowl several times a day. Set out several water bowls in locations that your dog can reach easily. Deliver the water bowl to your dog if you notice they haven’t had a drink in a long time. Be certain that the water you give your older dog is clean and free of pollutants. Because an older dog’s kidneys may not be functioning as well as when they were younger, they won’t tolerate impure water. You may want to consider giving your dog filtered water.