Dogs could also become obese and overweight like humans, as they get older. And as they advance in age, their stamina and overall health begin to decline slowly. Metabolism slows down, affecting the body’s natural ability to perform some essential functions. Some may develop health problems like cancer, arthritis, dental disease, and diabetes, due to failing organs and poor nutrient absorption – that is why it is very important to choose a senior dog food.
These senior dogs will need your help to survive, as they cope with body changes and the stress that comes with aging. The right diet can make their lives easier, but it depends on the breed and its physical condition. A survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) shows that a whopping 95 percent of dog owner cannot tell when their pet is obese. With routine visits to your vet, you can get recommendations on what suits your pooch best, and the kind of food that is ideal in any situation.
How to Understand that Your Dog is a Senior?
All dog breeds have an average life expectancy which helps you determine when they are beginning to age. Larger breeds age faster and become seniors at about 5 or 6 years, seeing that they could live up to 12 years. The medium-sized and smaller breeds that could begin to age at around 8 or 9 years have a life expectancy of up to 17 years.
There are other factors that contribute to aging in dogs, like weight and genetic problems. So, some dogs could be considered as seniors when they begin to show specific signs, even before they get to half of their life expectancy. Changes in body form, lumps on the skin, dental issues, and excessive drooling are some of the signs to look out for.
You may notice more symptoms as your pooch ages further. According to a frontiers in genetics article, ”dogs are prone to develop human-like neurodegenerative disorders and are susceptible to age-related cognitive abnormalities.” These changes are noticeable in those that are approaching the end of their lifespans and are considered geriatric dogs. Incontinence, social behavior disorders, and irregular sleeping patterns are some of the obvious signs.
The Characteristics of an Excellent Senior Diet for Dogs
Finding the right senior dog food can be challenging since there are no fixed dietary requirements for that category. The right formula for your pooch will depend on its physical form, weight, and activity level, within each period. You would want a diet with lower protein and calorie content to avoid indigestion or weight gain. More calories and easily digestible protein might be necessary for seniors that are becoming skinnier as they age.
Besides calories and protein, you should consider antioxidants and foods rich in glucosamine and chondroitin that help with osteoarthritis pain. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and other plant oils help with inflammation and healthy kidney function. And those that are prone to constipation would need extra fiber in their diet to improve bowel movements.
While taking care of aged dogs, remember that regular physical activity can help burn the extra calories to keep them healthy. Regular veterinary check-ups with proper physical examinations and blood tests will ensure that health issues are detected and managed timely. It will also help you determine what diet change that can improve their condition.
Feeding Your Senior Dog with Adult Food
Since dogs experience body changes with age, the muscles in their gastrointestinal tracts could become weaker, leading to slow metabolism. They can also develop allergies to certain foods, even after months or years of eating them. When your old friend begins to show symptoms while on specific diets, your vet can help you figure out the problem. At that point, your pet may require a change from the standard adult dog food.
Knowing that different dog breeds digest food differently, you should seek out one that is tailored to your pooch. If your pet is physically fit, with no underlying medical or genetic problems, you can continue using your preferred adult food. You may also consider making some nutritional adjustments if your pooch is not a picky eater.
Taking Care of Senior Dogs that Would Not Eat
Although a decreased appetite might be distressing, it is not always a result of an underlying illness. It could be a result of changes in their diet or social and emotional issues like moving to a new environment or owner absence. Although you may want to visit your vet first, to rule out any possible health concerns.
Since the change in diet to suit your pet’s nutritional requirement is inevitable, try to maintain a certain level of consistency. Professionals from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggest that any change should be introduced gradually to make it less stressful, especially for geriatric pets. Your senior dog’s eating habits may improve after a couple of days, without any serious impact on its physical form.
If medical issues have been ruled out, you can consider some of the following:
- Homemade diet recipes that contain the right amount of nutrients with new flavors
- Add extra moisture to make dry foods softer
- Energy-dense foods to ensure that their muscle tone remains the same until the appetite improves.
When choosing senior dog food, consider options that would make those golden years bearable for your pet. Pet parents play a pivotal role in the early detection of symptoms and therapeutic interventions to improve the lives of these seniors. Switching to the right diet formula can make the difference, even for dogs that do not have problems that require veterinary care.