What Should I feed My Senior Dog?Carol Doyle BSc. VN DVM
Carol Doyle, BSc VN DVM
Carol DoyIe is a small pet veterinarian in a practice in Ashbourne, Co. Meath and is the human companion to her cats, Nala and Donal, two horses - Indie and Bella, and her dog Phoebe.
As a guest blogger and advisor, Carol shares her professional advice with pet owners, answering many of the questions that she gets asked regularly in-clinic.
What’s the Best Food for Your Senior Dog?
As our canine friends get older, they tend to gradually slow down, becoming less active, while their metabolism will also slow down, making them more at risk of excessive weight gain. As your dog reaches his senior years, he will also need some additional nutrients to help support his aging muscles and joints. In this blog post I want to help you find the best food for your older dog.
When will my dog become a ‘senior dog’?
Difficult as it might be to accept, our four-legged friends do reach their senior years a lot sooner than us humans do. While larger breeds may reach seniority at just six years of age, typically a dog is recognised as entering his senior years at the age of seven. While you might think your dog is still a puppy, but you will probably start to notice early signs of aging in your dog around this time.
Supporting your dog in his senior years
As a vet, one of the first things I recommend for older dogs is a review of their main diet as he enters his senior years. This is critical to helping to prevent age related obesity from developing. You might notice that he’s not running to the door as fast when you call ‘walkies’ or his jaunt in the park is taking a little longer than it used to. This slowing of his metabolism means that his daily calorie needs will be reducing, so adjust the type and amount of food that your beloved dog is getting in his later years is really import.
“As your buddy gradually becomes less active and continuing to feed a higher calorie diet can lead to a gradual weight gain that can lead to other issues such as osteoarthritis, diabetes or heart problems.”
What is the best senior dog food?
There are many different brands of dog food available, but for older dogs I recommend moving to a senior dog food formula. These will have been developed with lower calorie levels and a careful balance of other nutrients, such as essential fatty acids and antioxidants to support your dog’s ageing joints and immune system.
Your adult dog food will probably have a senior variety that you can consider, but if your dog allergies, a sensitive tummy or skin, a hypoallergenic dog food may be needed. I recommend choosing a food specifically developed for older dogs and which will:
- Contain fewer calories to prevent weight gain
- Be high in fibre to prevent constipation
- Have a moderated protein content to support age-related muscle wastage
- Contain Glucosamine and Chrondrotin to support the joints and age-related arthritis
- Have reduced phosphorus levels to promote good kidney health
- Boost immunity with added antioxidants
- Contain Omega 3 Fatty Acids to reduce inflammation and promote good skin health
How much should I feed my older dog?
Your dog will probably be used to being fed twice a day, although as they reach their senior years, they may prefer smaller portions more often. Always follow the recommended feeding guide for the brand you are choosing to feed, and use a digital scales to measure portion size for your dog.
As your dog gets older, he may find it harder to reach down to his food and might prefer a slightly raised bowl.
Weight & Body Condition
Monitoring your older dog’s weight and body condition score will help you to know if / when a change in food or activity is required.
A regular weight and BCS check is recommended at least once every three months. By regularly monitoring your dog’s weight you can quickly identify if there is any cause for concern, and allow you to take early action to prevent weight related problems from developing.
Petmania offer FREE in-store weight and body condition score checks for your puppy and can help you to track his weight and Body Condition Score.