A good senior dog food is one that provides an older dog with all its essential nutrients. We all want our dogs to be an important part of our lives and family for as long as possible, but our precious dogs don't stay young forever. However, the right dog food can help dogs maintain their vitality and lead a longer, happier life.
In this article we aim to cover the basics of knowing when your dog might need to move to a senior dog food along with tips on selecting the right food for your dog.
Signs Your Dog Many Need Senior Dog Food
There are many signs that your dog may be aging and has different nutritional requirements.
These signs can include things like
- Dental and gum disease
- How much your pet is/isn't drinking and urinating?
- Bumps and lumps that appear (these should be mentioned to your vet, even though most are harmless)
- Deterioration of your dog's coat
How and when your dog will need a change in nutrition depends on the breed and body-weight, but generally overweight dogs age faster than lean dogs. On the flip side, many dogs lose appetite with age and this can be just as damaging as they do not get all the nutrition and calories they need to remain healthy.
Feeding older dogs can be more challenging because, like humans, they also can develop health issues. However, there are foods which can be included in your senior dog's diet to meet its nutritional needs and maximise health.
Red meat is good for older dogs as it provides zinc, iron, and other nutrients. However beef should have its fat trimmed off before being given to a dog. Feeding your senior dog a mix of poultry e.g. chicken and ruminant meats, such as beef and lamb, provides a wider array of different fatty acids, rather than feeding them with one.
Some dogs need fewer calories as they age and dark meat provides more nutrition than chicken breast, making it a good source of protein. The skin contains a lot of calories, in comparison, so if your dog is overweight, removing this is one way to reduce the calorie count.
You can either feed a whole meal of fish one or twice per week depending on the size of your dog. For example, a dog of 50 pounds can be fed with one or two ounces of fish (two to four small sardines) daily, while a dog of 25 pounds should be fed with half as much and a dog of 100 pounds can eat more, but we would not increase it too much.
Fish provides the dog's system with omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation, support the immune system, contribute to the health of the skin and fur.
If you find your dog does not like eating fish, you can supplement other food by adding a spoonful of cod liver oil to it, which most dogs don't notice, and will add similar benefits to whole fish.
Liver shouldn't comprise more than 5 percent of a dog's food it does provide the system with vitamins and trace minerals; hence, only small amounts should be fed to a dog, determined by their weight. A 50-pound dog should be fed with about 1 ounce of liver per day, while a 25-pound dog should be given half the amount and a 100-pound dog will eat about 2 ounces a day.
Broccoli is a vegetable which belongs to the class of cruciferous vegetables which include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage; they provide antioxidants and other nutrients which are capable of preventing cancer. These vegetables are best eaten cooked, if not they can suppress thyroid function if eaten raw.
Canned pumpkin helps to counteract constipation and even diarrhoea. If your dog is having problems, you can give him five teaspoons per 50 pounds of body weight, or twice per day in his food.
Sweet potatoes provide vitamin C and other antioxidants, which are found in yellow-orange vegetables and are packed with beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes should be cooked before given to a dog to aid digestion.
Berries like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries also help to prevent cancer and provide fibre.
Some dogs have digestive issues, so oats and other whole grains provide a variety of minerals and vitamins, as well as fibre that can solve these digestive issues. Oatmeal also includes antioxidants.
Eggs can comprise one-half of your dog's diet; some people give their dogs two eggs per day as dogs do not need to worry about high cholesterol levels like humans. They are a great source of the fats and high-quality protein that make up an essential part of a dog's nutrition.
Some people think that older dogs should stay away from protein because it will be hard on their kidneys. That's not true; a healthy older dog won't have problems with protein. Good quality protein helps your dog maintain healthy muscle mass and maintain good organ and immune functions.
Eggs also provide many of the fats that dogs use for energy, coat maintenance and general health.
Any eggs you feed your dogs should be boiled to aid digestion.
A spoonful of plain non-fat or low-fat yoghurt with live cultures should be added to each meal. Yoghurt provides probiotics, a beneficial bacterium that helps with digestive problems.
Dogs, like all mammals, cannot live without water, so make sure you provide plenty of water for your dog, especially at meals as it aids digestion. Your pooch should be both drinking and urinating fairly frequently. Not doing either of these can be signs of health issues and should be referred to your vet.
As dogs get older Low-fat meals are recommended for dogs with certain health problems. They include:
- Metabolic disorders
- Irritable bowel disease
- Pancreatitis, which can be caused by high-fat diets, injury, illness or diabetes.
- Fat intolerance or malabsorption—it's from liver or gall bladder disease, or infection.
Guide to fat content levels
- High fat—over 20%
- Moderate fat—10%-15%
- Low fat—below 10%
Meals for dogs with pancreatic problems
Research shows that for dogs that have pancreas problems, or pancreatitis, a formula containing 9% and 12% fat is acceptable. If relevant, 7%-10% can be given.
If it is below that, then your dog may become hungry, or suffer from poor coat and skin conditions. Your dog may even show signs of fatigue at all times. In dogs suffering from pancreatitis, low levels of protein can make pancreatitis even worse, so the protein content should be above average.
Meals for Dogs who are overweight
If you're trying to help your dog lose weight, higher protein content is a good thing.
Find lower calorie formulas. You'll see this as “Kcal” (which is usually per cup) on dog food labels. Your aim should be 250-350 Kcal, and with slightly higher fat levels, around 10-15%.
Just as we find that as we get older, we cannot eat ice cream every day without worrying about our cholesterol, you need to keep an eye on dog's diet too. There are things that are different for dogs but with some care and keeping it varied you will help your pet maintain peak health and have a very long and happy life!
- 1 Signs Your Dog Many Need Senior Dog Food
- 2 Meat
- 3 Vegetables
- 4 Other Foodstuffs
- 5 Low-fat diets
- 6 Conclusion