Choosing the right food for your senior dog

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What is the best food for my senior dog?

When a beloved pet ages, its eating habits and dietary needs change. If you’re reading this then perhaps it’s time to review your senior dog’s diet.

Complete senior pet foods are created with your pet’s life stage in mind, and tailored to ensure your dog is receiving all the nutrients required to promote a happy and healthy life. It’s no secret that older pets’ nutritional requirements may change, therefore, it is recommended to change to a senior/mature food when your pet reaches a certain age.

Below are a variety of premium senior/mature dog foods which we recommend:

Canine Choice Senior Light Dog Food

  • The right balance of protein and energy for an older dog – senior dogs need just enough – but not too much – high-quality meat to keep them healthy and trim, so each kibble contains 45% lamb as recommended by vets
  • Natural, health-boosting botanicals – to help safeguard your dog against illnesses and take care of digestion, skin & coat, and joint & bone health, including: Cranberry – Rosehip – Sweet potato – Apple – Chamomile – Omega 3+6 – Prebiotics & Probiotics – Parsley – Chicory root – Peas – Rosemary – Yucca Schidigera – Sea Algae
  • Weight control – added the health supplement L-carnitine which helps your dog’s body control its ratio of fat to muscle (very clever!)

Kitchen Adult 8+ Scottish Salmon & Trout Gluten-Free Food for Dogs

  • Suitable for adult dogs aged seven years and up
  • Made from real meat and freshly prepared fish
  • Vegetable fibre and prebiotics aid digestion
  • Vitamins and botanical herbs support healthy organs
  • Glucosamine maintains supple joints for an active life
  • Seaweed and salmon oil keeps his brain sharp

Hills Science Plan Mature Adult 7+ Active Longevity Chicken

  • A complete mix to support your dog’s joints
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin reduce inflammation and repair cartilage
  • Balance of sodium and phosphorous keep vital organs healthy
  • Highly digestible ingredients for maximum absorption.

Royal Canin Canine Senior Consult Mature Dog

  • Vitality & brain health, selection of nutrients that help support vital function in ageing dogs.
  • Skin barrier, a patented complex to support the barrier effect of the skin.
  • Muscle mass support, a specific balanced formulation to help preserve muscle mass with age.
  • Digestive tolerance, nutrients which support a balanced intestinal flora and digestive transit.

At what age should I switch my adult dog to senior food (and is this really necessary)?

The answer to this question will depend very much on the breed and health of the dog. Smaller dogs tend to mature faster and, after reaching maturity, begin to age more slowly. A little dog such as a toy poodle, terrier or Chihuahua isn’t considered senior until much later than a larger breed, (maybe 10 or 12 years old), and the giant breeds are considered “senior citizens” at 5 or 6. Most vets, though, consider a dog of 7 or 8 years and older to be a senior.

As dogs age, their health and stamina slowly decline. Their bodies lose the ability to repair themselves and maintain normal body functions, and they struggle to adapt to the stresses and changes in their environment. In addition, around age 7 for most dogs, and age 5 for giant breed dogs, metabolism slows down and the dog requires fewer calories (although some require more if they have digestion problems).

While senior foods may help dogs to live happier and healthy lives, they are not necessarily the right choice for an older dog with health problems. If your older dog has specific health problems (such as failing kidneys, diabetes or poor nutrient absorption in his gut) it will benefit from a diet that caters specifically to that problem, and your vet will be able to advise you in these cases.

Routine veterinary exams and blood testing can help determine what diet is best for your older dog, and since each pet food manufacturer has a slightly different understanding of “senior”, the age at which you change to senior food will depend largely on the brand you choose.

What are the characteristics of a good senior diet for dogs?

The older dog will need a good, well-balanced diet that is lower in calories, higher in fibre and has adequate protein and fat. For some older dogs, you can continue to feed their regular food, but in a smaller quantity. Specially formulated senior diets are lower in calories and help to create a feeling of fullness. If your dog has significantly decreased kidney function, then a diet that is lower in protein will lower the workload for the kidneys. Lower fat usually translates to lower calories; so many senior diets have a fat level of around 8 to 12%. Older dogs are more prone to develop constipation, so senior diets are higher in fibre at around 3 to 5%. If your senior dog will eat dry food, it will help to control tartar build-up and reduce gum disease.

Can I still feed my senior dog with adult food?

In general, if your senior dog has no medical problems, is not overweight, and is active, your dog may remain on the adult diet it is used to. If you have questions regarding which food to feed your senior dog, contact your vet.

Should I give my senior dog supplements?

Ageing dogs have special nutritional needs and so some will benefit from supplements. For instance, a large percentage of older dogs suffer from arthritis and can benefit from vitamins and supplements, like chondroitin and glucosamine for their joints, such as Yumove for dogs, if combined with weight control and the proper exercise plan.

Yumove For Dogs

  • Aids stiffness – ActivEase® Green Lipped Mussel contains 4x more Omega 3 than standard and is proven to soothe stiff joints.†
  • Supports joint structure – Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Manganese support cartilage health, essential for mobile joints.
  • Promotes mobility – YuMOVE is the only joint supplement with Hyaluronic Acid proven to reach the joint within 2 hours, helping to cushion joints more comfortable. Antioxidants Vitamin C & E help to reduce free radicals

A vitamin or mineral supplement is recommended if your older dog is not receiving adequate amounts through his food, which can occur if your dog is not eating a complete balanced diet. A supplement may also benefit some older animals that tend to absorb fewer vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes through the intestinal tract, and lose more of them through the kidneys and urinary tract. Finally, some older animals eat less (due to conditions such as oral disease) and may not receive their daily needs of vitamins and minerals.

A fibre product such as wheat bran may also be given to help reduce the incidence of constipation if it occurs. Talk with your veterinarian to determine which supplements may be beneficial for your dog.

What should I do if my senior dog won’t eat?

Most importantly, if your dog is losing weight and not eating well, he should have a complete veterinary exam to rule out any possible disease problems. If everything checks out, then you’ll need to take steps to modify your dog’s diet.

Some older dogs suffer from a lack of weight gain and disinterest in food. If a dog normally eats dry food, he may have decreased consumption because he has a hard time chewing the large kibble. By feeding a kibble with smaller pieces, moistening the food with water or adding a nutrient-dense canned food you can make the food easier to chew.  Adding other foods can increase the appeal; try adding a little water from canned tuna or a small amount of cooked chicken. Homemade diets of boiled rice, potatoes, vegetables and chicken with correct vitamin and mineral supplements work well with others. Ask your veterinarian for a homemade diet recipe would be best for your dog. Do not try to formulate one yourself, as the vitamin and mineral levels are critical. Some dogs love to eat cat food, but this should be avoided since it is too high in protein.

Not sure which senior diet is best for your dog?  Contact one of our Animal Health Advisors for further advice on 0203 675 0780 (Mon-Fri).

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