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Everything you need to know about senior dog food

Brown dog eating advice
© Shutterstock

As a dog gets older, just like with humans, their body and their daily activity levels change.  As a result, it could be time to introduce senior dog food into their lifestyle.

By Dawn Parrish

These days, dogs can live to a ripe old age. Contributing factors include better medical care and improved vaccines, not to mention healthier nutrition. As our dog’s age, they go through several physical changes and as a result, their digestive systems require different nutrition.

What is the definition of a senior dog?

A canine is usually considered to be an “older” dog when he reaches the third period of his life expectancy, depending on his breed. As our pets age, they might look to take life at a slower pace. As they approach their old age, more visible changes are apparent too. Your dog’s physical appearance will change and his digestive and immune systems will alter too. Senior dogs have less stamina and can often have joint pain. As a result, he will probably not want to exercise. Because of this lack of mobility he can gain weight which in turn, places increased pressure on his joints.

Small breed dogs like Chihuahua, terriers and the toy Poodle, tend to mature sooner but then appear to age slower. Hence, smaller dogs are classed as senior dogs at around 10 to 12 years of age. In contrast, a larger breed dog will be categorised as elderly at 7 to 8 years. As a dog gets older, his metabolism will slow down. Similarly, he will need to be fed fewer calories than for a younger, energetic pet.

What is a good senior dog food diet?

nutrition is important for dogs
Choose a well-balanced diet©Pixabay

Your older dog will still need a decent, well-balanced menu to help him to continue to live a healthy, happy life. If your dog suffers from any health problems, take professional advice before changing his diet. To fit in with your senior dog’s eating habits and nutritional needs, offer a diet that contains the following:

# Lower in calories – match calorie intake against your dog’s exercise levels

# High in fibre to prevent constipation and gastrointestinal issues

# Have adequate protein and fat but only in moderate amounts

# Dry food diet can help to reduce gum disease and prevent a build-up of tartar

# Low in salt/sodium. Too much can lead to weight gain and can incite heart disease

Suggestions for mature senior dog food

When feeding an older dog, even more important needs to be placed on those of more mature years. Very old dogs can become quite finicky about their food which can result in weight loss. Some elderly pets also lose their sense of smell and have a very small appetite. Likewise, if your older dog has a difficult time chewing his food it’s time to think about feeding them canned or wet food. As senior pets are more prone to dehydration, always ensure that your dog has access to a supply of fresh drinking water.

Feed your older dog more often, but a smaller amount

Your elderly dog might not be able to face a huge meal. He is almost sure to enjoy a smaller portion but offered twice or three times daily, rather than one large meal a day.

Add in a food supplement for added benefit

When feeding older dogs, an additional supplement can support joint health. Just like elderly humans can suffer from pain and arthritis, so can your pet. There are many types and brands of joint supplements to buy that can help to prevent joint troubles. Look for a supplement that contains glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM, all of which support healthy joints.

Add antioxidants to food for older dogs

We all need antioxidants due to the nutrients they provide. Not only do they prevent the effects of ageing they also have the ability to fend off disease. If they are offered under professional supervision, they make a brilliant addition to your senior dog’s food. The most natural way to offer these antioxidants is as fruit and vegetables but not all canines can tolerate in this form. In these cases, capsules may be preferable.

Omega 3 supplements to add to senior dog food

example of good nutrition
Feed your older dog sardines - an excellent source of Omega 3©Pixabay

Consider adding Omega-3 fatty acids which are known to reduce inflammation and boost your older dog’s immune system. Fish oil supplements and sardines are an excellent benefit for your ageing pet.

As senior dogs go through various physiological changes as they mature, a food product specifically aimed at older dogs is recommended. In addition, keep adequate checks on the dog’s weight and monitor his exercise routines. An elderly canine will also need more frequent medical check-ups. You can make your senior dog’s golden years more pleasurable by following some of these fundamental principles.

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