As your dog gets older, their dietary needs are going to change in order to maintain their health. Our Citrus County vets are here to help you feed your senior dog.
When Is My Dog Considered Senior?
Each dog has their own unique needs which is why feeding them can be challenging. There is no one-size-fits-all diet. A dog's typical lifespan will vary depending on the breed and size. As a general rule, small dogs can be expected to live between 15 and 20 years, while larger dogs typically live from about 12 to 15 years.
Usually, smaller dogs enter middle age at around 8 years old, while larger dogs age faster and are considered "older" around the time they turn 6 years old.
Does My Senior Dog Have Specific Nutritional Needs?
We recommend considering two main criteria when seeking the best dog food for senior dogs.
First, try to make sure it's low in calories. Like people, as a dog ages, their metabolism will start to decrease, which is why it's important to prevent our furry best friends from chowing down too ferociously to help them stay fit.
Second, bring high-fiber options into their diet. For aging dogs, constipation is a fairly common issue and may lead to further gastrointestinal issues if it becomes severe enough. Plus, it can be painful.
Keeping your older dog's gastrointestinal system healthy should be a high priority, so the best dog food for older dogs will contain lots of fiber to keep them regular.
What To Do If Your Senior Dog Won't Eat Their Food
Sometimes, we see older dogs that have lost at least some of their appetite. Causes for a sudden loss of appetite are hugely varied both in scope and severity; your dog could be suffering from simple nausea brought on by gastrointestinal problems, or they could be suffering from the effects of cancer.
Speak with your vet if your senior dog has suddenly begun to display an unexplained loss of appetite, to have them rule out any potentially serious causes including kidney disease, cancer, diabetes or dental disease.
Once serious medical conditions have been ruled out as the cause for appetite loss, another avenue for consideration is the simplest one--perhaps your dog is simply tired of their regular food.
Adding chicken broth, some water, or a small amount of canned food to your dog's dry kibble supply may serve to make it more enticing. You could also try preparing a simple meal for your dog of cooked chicken and barley or cooked lamb and rice. These home-cooked meals are both nutritious and bland enough to sit well with them if your older dog is experiencing some nausea.
Health Conditions That Senior Dog Food Can Prevent
Does your senior dog suffer from health conditions such as kidney failure, diabetes or liver disease? He or she will likely need a special diet to help manage the condition. If your dog is ill and you are concerned about any potential effects of their diet, it's best to consult with your vet.
The Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs
Our team at Dunnellon Animal Hospital has put together a list of some of the best dog foods for older dogs. Ask your vet which senior dog food is right for your pet.
Prescription Dog Food
Depending on what your dog needs due to their health concerns, your vet may recommend a medical prescription dog food. In other cases, your vet may simply recommend you switch to a healthy alternative.
Low-Calorie Dog Food
Low-calorie senior dog food can benefit dogs that are at a higher risk for heart disease (or who have already been diagnosed with it), as it will help keep their weight down. Low-sodium recipes are preferred.
Low-Fat, High-Fiber Dog Food
Our veterinarians in Citrus County recommend owners of pre-diabetic or diabetic dogs place a high priority on the slow absorption of food. Blood sugar tends to rise more slowly with special diabetic diets, reducing the risk of health complications. These diets are also exceptionally high in fiber and low in fat.
Older dogs can struggle with constipation, this is why a high-fiber diet is a better alternative for older dogs. This will help to prevent constipation and keep their bowels working regularly.
Dog Foods With High Protein Content
Many senior dog foods will also contain higher-quality protein sources than standard dog food, which can help senior dogs maintain a healthy body weight without putting unnecessary strain on their aging kidneys.
Limited Ingredient Dog Foods
If your senior dog has allergies or food sensitivities, your vet might recommend switching to a limited-ingredient dog food, which has a single protein source (such as chicken, beef or lamb), often combined with one carbohydrate source.
Limited-ingredient dog foods can help eliminate allergens that can be causing allergic reactions and food sensitivities. When looking for limited-ingredient dog foods, it's important to check for the Association of American Feed Control's (AAFCO) seal of approval, in addition to a "complete and balanced" claim from the manufacturer.
Your vet will be able to provide dietary recommendations for your senior or diabetic dog, along with comprehensive geriatric care and exams.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.