Feeding Your Older Dog
There is a day in the life of every dog owner, the day when you look back at your four legged friend as he or she gallops back with the ball or rolls in the sand and you first notice that rather than a few white whiskers, your dog’s muzzle is now fully grey. In that heart-stopping moment, you realize that while there may be years left, your companion is past middle-age and will not be with you forever.
Different breeds have different life spans with the giant breeds living much shorter lives. Terriers and small mixed breed can sail past 15 years old with nary a backward glance while Great Danes rarely see 10.
Taking age 7 as an average then, let’s look at how you would adapt an older dog’s diet.
The Physical Changes in an Older Dog
As dogs age their metabolism slows down. Just like humans, they need to eat less after middle age or they will put on weight. Weight gain is not good in an older dog as it can lead to other health problems especially in the larger breeds which are prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis.
The organs in an older dog are no longer functioning at peak performance. The digestive system, the liver, pancreas and gallbladder and the intestines have more difficulty extracting all the nutrients from the food consumed. A gradual decline in kidney function is considered a normal part
Diet and Supplements
There is no-one specific diet that you can feed all older dogs across the board. Just like people they are individuals so while a typical ‘senior’ diet may be perfect for one dog another might better benefit from the highly digestible puppy and super-premium diets. High quality puppy food provides a good combination of digestibility and amino acid content, though the higher salt and potassium content is not ideal for older dogs.
Obesity puts extra stress on the joints so keeping your older dog trim is one of the best things you can do for him. A preventative daily supplement containing glucosamine and chondroitin will keep your pet’s joints lubricated while a daily dose of the spice turmeric is a good anti-inflammatory and costs pennies. Mix it with oil or fat and black pepper to make it more bioavailable.
If you feel your dog is beginning to slow down or put on weight then it may be time to cut back on portions and discuss senior diets with your vet.
If you have adapted your dog’s diet because of his advancing years, please comment below to say what changes you made or supplements you have added.