Your dog's nutritional needs will change as they get older. You may need to start thinking about things like bone and joint health or weight management. Today, our Nashville vets share some helpful information about nutrition for geriatric dogs and what the best dog food is for senior dogs.
When Does My Dog Become a Senior?
All dogs age at different rates depending on the size and breed. As a general rule of thumb, small dogs can be expected to live 15 to 20 years, while larger dogs usually live from around 12 to 15 years.
The larger the dog the quicker they reach old age. You can expect a large dog breed to be considered older by the time they are 6 years old. While small dogs generally pass into middle age at around 8 years old.
How can I be sure to meet the nutritional needs of my senior dog?
When you are trying to decide what the best food is for your senior dog you will need to take into consideration their breed and any health concerns that they may have.
Weight starts to pack onto your pup more easily as they age. This means that it's a good idea to start watching their food intake more closely by the time they are middle-aged. You can help prevent obesity by limiting how much food your dog eats as well and choosing a suitable food for a low-calorie diet.
The second is trying to make sure their diet includes high-fiber options. Constipation is painful in its own right, and it can lead to further gastrointestinal issues when it becomes severe enough. Maintaining gastrointestinal health is a common obstacle for older dogs, so the best dog food for senior dogs will have lots of fiber to help them stay healthy and regular.
How does diet affect a dog as they age?
Senior dogs who are suffering from diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease are liable to require special diets that will help keep their condition under control. It is best to consult with a vet about your dog's diet if they are sick and you are concerned about the impact of their diet.
For dogs that have a higher risk of heart disease, you may want to ensure a diet of reduced sodium and calories.
Our Nashville vets recommend owners of diabetic or pre-diabetic dogs select dog food which slows the absorption of food. These special diabetic diets tend to raise blood sugar more slowly and reduce the chances of impactful health complications in dogs with diabetes. These diets are very low in fat and exceptionally high in fiber. We recommend talking to your vet who can provide dietary recommendations for your senior or otherwise diabetic dog.
As your pup gets older they may benefit from an increase in the quality of protein they eat. This helps senior dogs maintain healthy body weight without putting unneeded strain on their aging kidneys.
As previously mentioned, constipation is a common struggle for older dogs, the high amount of fiber present in the best dog food for older dogs helps to prevent constipation and keep their bowel movements regular.
How should I handle changes in appetite?
A change in appetite as your dog becomes older is completely normal. You will likely start to see a decrease in the amount of food they'd like to eat. Causes for sudden appetite loss are hugely varied both in scope and severity. Your dog could be suffering from simple nausea brought on by gastrointestinal problems, or it could be suffering from the effects of cancer.
If your senior dog has suddenly begun to demonstrate an unexplained loss of appetite, it is best to speak with your vet and have them rule out any potentially serious causes including dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer.
Once serious medical conditions have been ruled out as the cause for appetite loss, another avenue for consideration is the simplest one — perhaps your dog is simply tired of its regular food.
You could always try making their dry food more appealing by adding wet food or broth to it. You could also try preparing a simple meal for your dog of cooked chicken and barley or cooked lamb and rice. These home-cooked meals are both nutritious and bland enough to sit well with them if your older dog is experiencing some nausea.
What is the best food for senior dogs?
This depends on the exact situation of your dog. In some cases, yes, the best food for older dogs may be a medical prescription dog food. In other cases, simply switching to a healthy alternative regular food brand might do the trick. Your vet will be able to provide recommendations on which food might work best for your aging pup.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.