Dogs undergo a lot of changes as the age, including the nutrients they need for good health. A lot has been learned about the medical and nutritional needs of dogs today. As a result, they are living longer and enjoying more of the activities they love even in old age. Physiological changes occur in dogs as they age, creating different dietary needs than those they had as a puppy or young adult. A dog nutritional supplement may help your dog by boosting his diet for his health needs. This is especially important for dogs that have already undergone changes in behavior or who are exhibiting signs of physical discomfort.
Many of the changes that dogs go through as they age are the same as those for humans. They may have a lack of energy and have joint problems caused by arthritis. A decrease in activity and a lowered metabolic rate makes it easier for dogs to put on weight. Too much weight will add to the problem by putting more stress on achy joints. Others may lose their appetite, preventing them from eating anything you give them. This may be due to digestive problems or from sensitive teeth and gums.
Senior dogs may become chilled easily and have trouble sleeping. They are at greater risk of dental disease and of developing health conditions such as heart disease or kidney failure. Their vision may become compromised and they might have a loss of balance that causes them to have problems getting around.
Special Nutritional Needs of Senior Dogs
If joint problems are an issue for your senior dog, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements that are specially formulated for dogs can help. Dasuquin® is a good choice. This supplement is available as a prescription from your vet and the dosage is determined by your dog’s weight. Improving the dog’s mobility can help a great deal in weight management.
Older dogs need a diet that is higher in protein and fiber and contains less fat. Less fat usually means it is lower in calories. A number of dog foods on the market are specially formulated to provide seniors with the right balance of protein, fiber, and fat.
Fiber and Digestion
Many dogs begin to have difficulty digesting their food as they age. An increase in fiber will aid in digestion. Getting the right balance between fiber and the other essential nutrients is even more important. Too much fiber in the dog’s diet will interfere with his ability to absorb any nutrients.
Protein and Lean Muscle Mass
Protein is needed to help maintain muscle mass and keep organs and the immune system functioning well. While many experts make the argument that animal byproducts are not good for pets, they are actually a good source of protein for your dog. Just keep in mind that dogs naturally prefer a meat-based diet.
Fat and Weight Control
Helping your dog lose weight is one of the most significant things you can do to improve his health and increase longevity. As mentioned above, senior dog foods often contain less fat to help control weight. But every senior dog isn’t overweight and may not require the same reduction in calories. In fact, many experts recommend keeping things just the way they are unless your dog is slowing down or exhibiting signs of aging or of a health condition.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have become increasingly important in people’s diets as a means to boost immunity. They can also help a dog who has a comprised immune system because of age. This is one supplement that you won’t get an adequate supply of from your dog’s food. Instead, use a supplement with krill oil or other fish oil recommended for dogs.
Dogs with Diminished Appetite or Dental Issues
Experts disagree on the benefits of dry dog food as a means of keeping dogs’ teeth tartar-free. Canned food may be a better choice for senior dogs because they are often higher in meat protein and lower in carbohydrates. They are also easier for dogs with dental problems to eat. An overlooked benefit of canned food is that it can make dogs feel fuller than kibble. That means you can help your dog eat less without feeling guilty.
A good alternative is to add some canned food to your dog’s kibble. This is one way to give your dog something new to tantalize taste buds without the expense of feeding canned food only. Some dog owners add some eggs or milk to their dog’s food to help get them to eat. Broth is another option that will also help to soften dry food.
What to Consider for Your Senior Dog’s Diet
Every dog is not the same and different dogs have different dietary needs. If your dog becomes less active, doesn’t eat, or exhibits any new behaviors, start by eliminating any physical causes. Have your vet do a complete exam to determine if there are any underlying health issues. In addition to getting any needed treatments, this will also help determine if you need to make any adjustments to his diet.
For example, a dog that has low kidney function may need a diet that contains less protein and less phosphorus. If he has eye problems, giving him carrots as a snack will provide him with eye-healthy vitamins B, C, D, E, and K, along with a long list of minerals. Find out what you are dealing with and work with your vet to develop the best approach to nutrition for your senior dog’s optimal health.
Never give a dog a supplement or medication that is made for humans. Only those that are specially formulated for dogs will provide any benefit and keep your dog safe.