Once our dogs reach their golden years, their diet will play an essential part of their continuing good health. Today, our Douglasville vets discuss geriatric pet care and the best types of food for senior dogs.
When Does My Dog Count As Geriatric?
Like their humans, every dog is a unique individual and so there's no one answer that covers every canine companion. A dog's anticipated lifespan can vary depending on breed and size. Typically, however, 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 are considered middle-aged 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 Need Specific Food?
When searching out the best dog food for your senior pet, keep two main criteria in mind:
Firstly, look for low-calorie dog food. Like their beloved human companions, a senior dog's metabolism will slow down, which is why it's necessary to prevent our furry best friends from overeating to keep obesity and its associated diseases.
Second, introduce more fiber into their diet. For aging dogs, constipation is a fairly common issue and could 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 high priority, so the best dog food for older dogs will contain lots of fiber to keep them regular.
What Should I Do If My Senior Dog Won't Eat?
Sometimes, we see older dogs that have lost at least some of their appetite. Causes for sudden loss of appetite are hugely carried 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.
Which Health Issues Can Dog Food For Senior Dogs Help 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.
Best Dog Food for Older Dogs
Our team at Douglasville Veterinary Hospital has put together a list of some of the best types of dog foods for senior dogs. Ask your vet which senior dog food is best for your pet.
Prescription Dog Food
Depending on your dog's specific circumstances and health conditions, in some cases a medical prescription dog food might be the best option for your senior pooch. 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.
High-Fiber, Low-Fat Dog Food
Our veterinarians recommend that owners of pre-diabetic or diabetic dogs focus on foods that have a slow absorption rate. Blood sugar tends to rise more slowly with special diabetic diets, reducing the risk for health complications. These diets are also exceptionally high in fiber and low in fat.
As mentioned previously since older dogs commonly struggle with constipation, the higher amount of fiber, the better. This will help to prevent constipation and keep their bowels working regularly.
High-Protein Dog Food
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 food allergies, your vet might suggest changing your dog's food to one that has limited ingredients with a single protein source (e.g. chicken, beef or lamb), and, often, just one carbohydrate source.
This can be used to eliminate allergens that might be causing allergic reactions or symptoms. 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.