As your dog ages, his diet begins to play a much more important role in his overall health. Our veterinarians in Santa Clarita discuss the best types of food that can help keep your senior dog happy and healthy.
At What Age Are Dogs Considered Elderly Or Geriatric?
As each dog is unique, we are unable to provide a single answer to this question. A dog's life expectancy can vary according to breed and size. As a general rule, small dogs can live between 15 and 20 years, while large dogs generally live between 12 and 15 years.
In general, small dogs enter middle age at around 8 years, while large dogs age faster and are considered "old" at around 6 years.
Does my senior dog have specific nutritional requirements?
We recommend that you consider two main criteria when looking for the best senior dog food.
First, make sure the food is low in calories. This is why it's important to prevent our best furry friends from overeating to avoid obesity.
Secondly, include high-fiber foods in their diet. In aging dogs, constipation is a fairly common problem that can lead to other gastrointestinal problems if severe enough. It can also be painful.
The health of your senior dog's gastrointestinal system should be a priority, which is why the best foods for senior dogs contain plenty of fiber to ensure regular nutrition.
What should I do if my senior dog won't eat?
Sometimes we see older dogs who have lost at least some of their appetite. The causes of sudden loss of appetite are extremely varied, both in scope and severity. Your dog may be suffering from simple nausea caused by gastrointestinal problems, or he may be suffering from the effects of cancer.
If your senior dog suddenly presents with unexplained loss of appetite, talk to your vet to rule out any potentially serious causes, including kidney disease, cancer, diabetes or dental disease.
Once serious illness has been ruled out as a cause of appetite loss, another avenue to consider is the simplest: your dog may simply be tired of his usual food.
Adding chicken broth, a little water or a small amount of canned food to your dog's kibble can make it more palatable. You can 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 to suit your nauseated older dog.
Which health issues can the best dog food for senior dogs help prevent?
Does your older dog suffer from health problems such as kidney failure, diabetes or liver disease? Probably they will require a special diet to help them manage their condition. If your dog is unwell and you're concerned about the potential effects of his diet, it's best to consult your vet.
Best Dog Food for Older Dogs
Our team at Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic 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 at Santa Clarita recommend that owners of pre-diabetic or diabetic dogs place great importance on slow food intake. Blood sugar levels tend to rise more slowly with special diets for diabetics, reducing the risk of complications. These diets are also exceptionally high in fiber and low in fat.
As already mentioned, as older dogs often suffer from constipation, the higher the fiber content, the better. This helps prevent constipation and ensures regular intestinal transit.
Dog Food High in Protein
Many senior dog foods also include higher-quality protein sources than standard dog foods, which can help older dogs maintain healthy body weight without putting unnecessary strain on their aging kidneys.
Limited Ingredient Dog Foods
If your senior dog suffers from allergies, your vet may recommend a limited-ingredient dog food containing just one source of protein (such as chicken, beef, or lamb), often combined with a single source of carbohydrates.
This method eliminates allergens likely to cause allergic reactions or symptoms. When looking for ingredient-limited dog foods, it's important to check that they carry the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) seal of approval and that the manufacturer indicates that they are "complete and balanced".
Your veterinarian will be able to give you dietary recommendations for your elderly or diabetic dog, as well as comprehensive geriatric care and examinations.
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.