A lot has been learned about how dogs age and what it takes to keep them healthy at any age. A greater awareness has led to a wide range of products that are helping dogs to live longer, more active lives. The foods we give them every stage of their lives contributes a great deal to this goal. And an excellent senior dog food can help your old dog stay healthy and active.
When dogs reach their senior years, some of the changes they undergo will be pretty evident. They stop being as energetic and may not want to do the things they always used to. They may also tire a lot faster. Once they start to slow down, they start to put on weight.
Some dogs stop playing with their favorite toys. If your dog used to fetch the ball until you can’t throw it one more time and he suddenly stops, it may be due to sensitive teeth. Dental care becomes an even more important issue once a dog becomes a senior. Joint pain can also be slowing your dog down.
Another common issue in dogs that are older is that they begin to have problems digesting their food. Since older dogs are also more prone to a number of health issues, you should never assume these symptoms are due to age. In fact, more frequent trips to the vet are recommended.
Is Your Dog a Senior?
Some dogs begin to get gray hair when they age, just like humans do. But this should not be your gauge for determining your dog’s real age. It really depends on his breed and weight. Generally, larger breeds age faster than smaller ones and they have a shorter mortality. That means a big dog might be considered a senior when it is seven or eight years old while a small dog may not be until it is ten or twelve years old.
There are several senior dog foods on the market but they may vary in the recommended age. Some are for dogs over the age of seven while others are made especially for small or large breeds. The first thing to look at in a senior dog food is the age frame and whether it is made for your breed of dog. Then you can start to look at individual ingredients and what they will do for your dog.
Grains and Meat Byproducts
There has been a lot of talk about pet foods that contain grains and meat byproducts, and how bad they are for dogs. In reality, meat byproducts are often a good source of protein. Grain is also not unhealthy or dangerous to pets. Instead of worrying about the list of ingredients, it is more important to get the amount of protein and other nutrients that your senior dog needs. A good quality of dog food will meet the minimum standards of 10% protein, 5.5% fat, and 2.5% crude fiber.
Some ingredients to look for include:
· Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) – FOS is a type of probiotic that aids in digestion. You will often see this ingredient along with beet pulp in senior food that makes digestion easier for older dogs.
· Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate – Many people are familiar with glucosamine and chondroitin because they have used supplements to help them with joint problems. When listed as ingredients in dog food, it has been formulated to provide senior dogs with the help they need to enhance joint flexibility and joint health.
· High Protein – Experts used to believe that aging dogs didn’t require the same amount of protein in their diets as they did when they were younger. We now know that a high protein ratio is important to senior dogs, too. It helps to maintain muscle mass to keep them strong and active.
· Beta-Carotene and Vitamin E – These ingredients help to enhance immunity in older dogs and prevent them from developing health conditions that can speed up the aging process.
· L-Carnitine – L-Carnitine is one of the amino acids that occur naturally in the body. In dog food, it helps with weight maintenance and boosts energy.
· Dental Care – It is still debatable as to whether kibble is better for dogs’ teeth. Those that also contain Hexametaphosphate (HMP) help remove tartar buildup every time your dog eats for better dental health.
One of the most important things to look for in senior dog food is good taste that dogs want to eat. Older dogs sometimes lose their appetite or become finicky about what they eat. Chances are good that if a lot of other dog owners have had success, you will too.
When you do find the right senior food for your dog, make the switch gradually. Start by adding 1/4 of the new food on the first day, 1/2 the second day, 3/4 the third day, and then only the new food on the fourth day. This will prevent your dog from having digestive problems that can occur when to changing to any new food.
Once your dog has been introduced to the new senior food, you should expect to see gradual improvements to his energy levels and interest in the things he used to enjoy. You will be surprised at the difference the right senior dog food will make!