As our dogs age, there are many things we need to consider changing in their lives, including our perspective of what is coming during our pup’s senior years.
Most dogs begin to show visible age-related changes at about seven to twelve years of age. There are metabolic, immunologic and body composition changes; some of these are unavoidable while others can be managed with diet.
The main goal in feeding an older dog should be to provide your pup with a diet that promotes good health and the ideal body weight, while trying to slow down and minimize diseases that may already be present. Smaller dogs tend to live longer and don’t experience as many age related changes as early as bigger dogs.
Protein and Fiber Are Very Important in Your Senior Dog’s Diet
As our dogs age, it is important to keep protein as a main ingredient in our dogs’ diet. Make sure to avoid senior diets that have reduced levels of protein. It is important to feed older dogs diets that contain optimum levels of highly digestible protein to help maintain good muscle mass. Your dog’s diet should have an adequate amount of fat and more fiber.
Wheat bran can be added to regular dog food to increase the amount of fiber. If your dog has significantly decreased kidney function, then a diet that is lower in phosphorus will lower the workload for the kidneys.
Older Dogs Put on Weight More Easily
Older dogs have been known to progressively put on body fat in spite of consuming fewer calories (just as in humans!). This change is inevitable and is usually due to the fact that older dogs don’t have as much energy as in their younger years and their metabolism changes. That is why it is important to feed your dog a diet with lower calories to avoid weight gain, but with a normal protein level to help maintain muscle mass. And, of course, keep up the daily walks even if your dog has slowed down a bit.
Try to Add Some Omega 6 Fatty Acids to Your Dogs’ Diet
You should talk to your veterinarian about increasing your senior dogs Omega Fatty Acid intake. Omega-6 fatty acid help the maintenance of your dog’s healthy skin and coat. Although it is normally produced in a dog’s liver, the normal production of natural Omega 6 fatty acids can be lessened and/or diminished in older dogs.
Vitamin E Is a Great Addition to Your Dog’s Diet
Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene help eliminate free radical particles that can damage body tissues and cause signs of aging. Senior diets for dogs should contain higher levels of these antioxidants. Antioxidants can also increase the effectiveness of the immune system in senior dogs.
As Our Dogs Age So Do Our Visits to the Vet
It is important to make sure to keep up with your annual veterinary visits. While you can be a bit more lax when your dog is younger, be proactive in getting your dog to your veterinarian. It’s the best way to ensure that your dog is aging well and your veterinarian can assess the presence or progress of chronic disease. Also try to avoid stressful situations and abrupt changes in your dog’s daily routine. If a drastic change must be made to an older dog’s routine, try to minimize the stress and realize the change in a gradual manner.
Just as in humans, we need to watch our senior dog’s health and diet more readily. They are much more sensitive as they age and not as strong as they used to be. However, with a good diet and exercise on a lower level, your senior dog can thrive!
Lisa Fimberg is the owner and founder of Petpav.com, an on-line magazine that has articles on pet advice, pet health issues, pet product reviews and the latest pet news. Petpav (short for Pet-Pavillion) was created as a go-to-site where you can get good, reliable information on anything pet-centric as well as entertainment, contests and more! You can connect with Lisa on Linked in or email her personally at Lisa@petpav.com to learn more.