Nutrition for senior pets
A dog is considered to be a senior when he enters the last third of his life expectancy. Although each breed has its own average longevity, dogs around the age of 7 are becoming less active, and have a slower metabolism. Their nutritional needs change because they need fewer calories and fats and more easy to digest proteins. Providing these proteins are of high quality, they are essential for maintaining a dog’s general physical condition.
What type of diet does my elderly pet require?
A diet suitable for older dogs provides:
- concentrated high quality proteins
- a small amount of fat
- easily digestible carbohydrates, for energy
- essential minerals that protect the joints
- vitamins C and E and proteins to fight infections where the elderly body is more vulnerable
As he ages, a dog’s sense of smell and taste may decline and his ability to chew his food properly may also have become difficult. In this case, provide him with kibbles:
- that are small and easier to chew
- that have a high content of meat to stimulate his appetite
A specially formulated food for older dogs
The senior/mature dog foods sold by your veterinarian are formulated specifically for an older dog’s needs. This means that your dog can continue to enjoy his meals without missing any of the essentials required to keep him healthy.
Should you decide to change your pet’s food to a diet specially formulated for seniors do it progressively in order to avoid problems. Mix the new formula with the one you usually serve. Just a little at first, then steadily increasing the amount of new and decreasing the amount of old. Do this over a period of about a week to 10 days.
Feed your senior dog one to two times a day.
- If you are feeding your dog dry kibbles, keep them in a dry, clean place. A resealable package or an airtight container will preserve the taste of food and seal in the aroma.
- Food should be served at room temperature. Avoid serving food that is too hot or too cold. Because your elderly pet’s sense of taste and smell may have declined, room temperature food will seem more appealing to him.
- If you serve canned food, it can take up to two hours to reach room temperature after being taken out of the fridge. You can warm wet foods in the microwave very briefly but be sure to check the temperature of the food in several places as it can quickly become too hot!
- Prevent children from disturbing your dog while he eats. Your dog should be allowed to eat in a quiet place and away from where you eat. Larger dogs that may suffer from arthritis, may have an easier time to eat if their bowls are between shoulder and head level.
How much food does he need?
Be careful not to feed him too much – he is less active and therefore inclined to gain weight. You may follow the instructions on the packaging, but remember that each dog is different and yours may require a little more or a little less. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.
Make sure he has a bowl of fresh water at all times.
Older, less active dogs are prone to gaining weight. Overweight dogs are at increased risk for diabetes, heart and respiratory disease, and arthritis.
If you notice your dog has gained weight, you may want to try a specially formulated senior dog food that is lower in fat to reduce his caloric intake, but that still contains all the minerals and vitamins he will need for a balanced diet.