Why is Senior Dog food so important?
When your dog reaches a senior age, you may notice they start to slow down. Importantly, there will also be less visible changes to their immune system, digestion, muscles, and joints. Getting older does not mean poor health for your dog. Tailored nutrition allows you a chance to directly influence their quality of life. To fully understand the role food plays for your senior dog, it is necessary to explore the changes they will undergo as they age.
Senior dog food is designed to help you better manage your dog’s needs and improve their wellbeing. As your dog ages, their eating habits, dietary needs and requirement for calories and certain nutrients will change. Your aims should be to provide your senior dog with nutrition that will maximise their quality of life. Ultimately, this means supporting their health and any age-related health problems. Also improving their quality of life and hopefully life expectancy.
Firstly, its vital you discuss your senior dogs needs with your veterinary team. They will be able to assess your dog and make suitable recommendations specifically for them. Following assessment by your vet its advised your dog is changed to a complete senior dog food. Senior dog food can be purchased from all major pet shops, vets and pet food retailers.
Weight and Body condition
As your dog ages their metabolic rate naturally slows, often this coincide with a loss of muscle mass. Therefor your dog will have a higher percentage of body fat. Your dog will also naturally reduce their activity level. Combining these age-related changes it’s vital that you monitor your dog’s weight to ensure they stay as healthy as possible. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces additional stresses on aging joints and underlying medical conditions. Senior dogs should feed 2-3 small meals daily. This improves digestion and the absorption of nutrients. It also reduces hunger and weight gain. Senior dog foods generally have a slightly higher protein level than an equivalent adult version. This aims to reduce the loss of muscle mass and to provide for their reduced energy needs by replacing calories from fat with calories from protein.
General additions to senior food
Senior dog food is supplemented with additional nutrients and antioxidants. These are often added to aid in joint health and mobility issues. Foods may also be supplemented to improve heart health and aid in cognitive health in your senior dog. You may also note ingredients added for healthy coat and skin. Your senior dog may start to experience cognitive changes. These often appear as confusion, pacing, vocalising at night, sleeping changes and memory deficits. It has been shown that senior foods enriched with antioxidants lead to improvements in these cognitive changes.
Your dog is an individual, and dogs are a varied species with many different breeds. It’s only recently been understood that this variation in breeds and their genetics can be influenced by their nutrition. Breed specific senior dog food is designed to contain additional ingredients that have been shown to be of benefit to specific breeds. For example, this might be adding nutrients specific to joint care in breeds more likely to experience mobility issues. It could also be extra essential fatty acids in breeds prone to skin or heart problems.
Additional options to consider
An important factor to consider for your senior dog is any underlying medical problems or disease. Dental disease is common in senior dogs. If this is left unmanaged it can lead to more complications for your dog. There are foods available that are approved for preventing or reducing plaque and tartar. These also improve bad breath and reduce gum inflammation. The Veterinary Oral Heath Council approve multiple foods and treats for this purpose containing their seal. If your dog has been diagnosed with any health problems, it’s worth talking about nutrition with your Vet. There may be a specific diet available to help manage their condition. For example, senior dogs with kidney disease benefit from a diet with reduced in phosphorus level. Dogs with heart disease benefit from reduced salts and increased amino acids such as taurine and carnitine.
It is important to understand how many areas nutrition can impact your senior dog’s health and wellbeing and how much you can directly influence this. We have discussed the importance of considering your dogs individual needs and life stage changes. Ultimately changing to senior dog food can directly and positively impact your dogs life. There is a varying array of choices and options. A good understanding of your dogs needs and collaboration with your veterinary team can help you to make informed choices in their diet.