Keeping Them Happy and Healthy: How to Feed Your Senior Dog
Keeping Them Happy and Healthy: How to Feed Your Senior Dog
From the first moment that you welcome a dog into your home, they will be an expert at bestowing unconditional love and acceptance to you. Over the years, as they grow older, you will continue to be amazed by how rewarding it is to share your life with a dog.
As they move into their senior years, it is essential that you return their love by taking the necessary steps to ensure they remain as happy and healthy as possible.
After all, they spend their entire life loving you, so you want to ensure you are providing them with the same amount of love, care, and attention in their older years. And you can show them this by feeding them the best Dubai pet food.
Keep reading to learn how to feed your senior dog to ensure they are happy and healthy until their final day.
Signs of Ageing in Senior Dogs
While every dog ages differently, all dogs will ultimately show signs of age-related issues that affect their behaviour, mobility and temperament. For this reason, it is essential to be familiar with the signs of ageing so you can make the needed changes and provide the necessary care to ensure you are providing the best quality of life possible.
Keep in mind that larger breeds tend to age quicker. Small dogs are usually considered to be senior when they are 11 years old, while medium-sized breeds reach this stage when they turn 10, and the largest breeds when they are eight years old.
Some of the most common signs of ageing in senior dogs include degenerative diseases such as joint disorders and cognitive dysfunction syndrome, as well as cancer and liver failure. In many cases, dogs will hide symptoms of joint disorders, so it is crucial that you pay particular attention to their mobility – especially in the morning and following a walk.
In addition to modifying your dog's exercise schedule, you may also want to purchase them a high-quality dog bed that aids in decreasing stiffness and soreness. Furthermore, joint health supplements are often beneficial when it comes to enhancing your pet's joint health and their overall quality of life.
Teeth and Gums
Decayed or infected teeth and gums are other frequent issues for senior dogs, which can be noticed through bad breath, swollen gums and a lack of appetite. It is crucial to fix dental problems as quickly as possible so that your dog can go back to eating comfortably.
Weight Gain and Loss
Speaking of eating, weight gain and loss are also a common occurrence when your dog is ageing. The reduction in activity often causes dogs to gain weight; however, some older dogs experience issues related to their digestion or lack of appetite, which, in turn, can cause extreme weight loss.
For this reason, it is crucial that you are feeding your senior dog food that is specifically formulated for them, as it will have fewer calories that allow you to manage their weight more effectively.
Behavioural changes that you may notice in your elderly dog include a reduction in enthusiasm, more cautious exploration, and reduced cognitive functions. While these aren't curable, you may be able to limit or reduce their effects through proper nutrition and supplements.
Additionally, as your dog gets older, there is a good chance they are going to need to sleep more, so make sure you are giving them long periods of uninterrupted rest.
Importance of Regular Vet Trips
Similar to when they were young, you should continue to take your senior dog to the veterinarian regularly to ensure that their vitals are all in good shape. Generally, it is suggested that you take your senior dog to the veterinarian every six to 12 months to maintain their health, recognize any negative trends, and maintain flea, heartworm, and intestinal parasite control.
By taking them to the veterinarian regularly, you can be assured that any health problems can be discovered early on, thereby increasing the chance of a positive outcome.
Challenges of Feeding Senior Dogs
One of the best ways to extend the lifespan of your dog and keep them youthful is by making small changes to their diet to ensure that you satisfy their ageing bodies. In many cases, your veterinarian may recommend nutrition changes to manage health conditions, promote weight loss, or improve their overall health.
Usually, older dogs need to consume fewer calories than younger dogs as the shifts in their metabolic rate mean that fewer calories are burned and more are stored as fat. Research shows that senior dogs require around 20 per cent fewer calories than younger dogs.
Therefore, the older your dog gets, the more they will benefit from consuming meals that have less fat and fewer calories. To ensure that your dog is consuming the right amount of calories, opt to either provide them with less food or change their meals to lighter or low-calorie options.
That being said, a common challenge of feeding senior dogs is that they often start losing weight due to a decreased appetite, a diminished sense of smell or taste, or difficulties related to chewing or swallowing.
In these cases, it is suggested that you increase the fat content of your dog's diet to ensure that there is an increase in palatability and calorie content, as well as protein efficiency.
Choosing Quality Food for Senior Dogs
When choosing food for your senior dog, it is essential that you are selecting something that fits their own unique dietary needs, as well as their general health and activity level.
When you are looking for dog food for your pet, you want to look for foods that contain complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (like whole grains and vegetables).
Additionally, a modest amount of healthy fats (10 – 15%) and essential fatty acids (such as linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid) are vital. It is also crucial for the food to contain easily digestible protein (like lean meat, offal and eggs), and added minerals and vitamins, such as zinc, copper, folate, biotin, vitamins A, D, E and K and B1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 12.
Furthermore, the quality of the ingredients in the food is just as important. Therefore, you want to be feeding your dog premium foods that don't include artificial additives, preservatives or chemicals such as Vitalin dog food.
Ensuring your dog is not ingesting these ingredients is key for keeping them healthy and happy. Otherwise, by feeding them generic low-quality food, you are adding unnecessary strain to their ageing bodies.
Even if your senior dog is healthy overall, their immune system and organs are not as strong as when they were younger which is why you don't want to be feeding them anything less than the best.
Protein is crucial to your dog's diet as it will help them to maintain muscle. In most cases, the older your dog is, the more they need dietary protein as it helps to counter the natural loss of muscle mass.
If your dog loses too much muscle mass, it can lead to an impaired immune system and a decreased ability to react to physical trauma, infectious agents, or stress. Furthermore, if your dog is not consuming enough protein, their body may not be able to repair tissue and fully metabolize what is ingested.
Therefore, it is recommended that your senior dog eats a diet with an increased protein-to-calorie ratio, of around 25 percent of calories from protein.
The amount of fibre your dog needs to consume is going to depend on how much weight they are losing. If they don't need to lose weight or are having trouble keeping it on, then you will want to reduce the amount of fibre being consumed.
Additionally, too much fibre can reduce your dog's ability to digest other essential nutrients. That being said, if your dog is suffering from constipation, fibre is extremely useful. Although, if they suffer from stomach issues, it may be more suitable to purchase sensitive digestion dog food.
Just as humans need to consume antioxidants to help fight disease and the effects of ageing, so does your dog. If your dog eats fruits and veggies, then you can add berries, turmeric, or dark leafy greens to their meals.
However, if they are not interested in consuming these foods, speak with your veterinarian about prescribing an antioxidant in capsule form or looking for commercial treats that include antioxidants.
Feeding Tips and Guidelines
No matter what type of dog food you are feeding your senior dog, you want to ensure you are weighing each serving so that you can accurately monitor how much your pet is consuming. For similar reasons, avoid allowing your dog to free-feed throughout the day and instead opt to feed them at designated times twice a day.
Furthermore, you want to ensure you are regularly weighing your dog and adjusting their diet and exercise accordingly. If your dog is a small breed, this will be easy to do at home; however, larger breeds may need to be taken to the veterinarian for their weight checks.
If your dog is too heavy, the extra pounds will add a significant strain on their joints and heart.
The last thing you want is for your dog to be suffering from obesity as this can lead to them developing chronic health issues such as diabetes. Generally, diabetic dogs should be eating food that is high in protein, with moderate amounts of fat and fibre, and a low amount of carbohydrates. If your dog is obese or diabetic, speak with your veterinarian about their nutritional needs.
Dogs that suffer from liver problems need to be eating food that includes a slightly more than average amount of protein, as well as simple carbohydrates that are easy for them to digest. Alternatively, senior dogs with heart disease must be consuming foods that are low in sodium with a mid-to-high amount of protein and a small amount of fats.
How to Encourage Your Senior Dog to Eat
If you are having difficulties getting your senior dog to eat, there are several steps you can take to help them get their appetite back. In some cases, a gradual drop in appetite that isn't accompanied by other changes may just be a result of ageing; however, it could also be due to other health problems.
Minor health issues that may be causing your senior dog not to eat include constipation, reduced sense of taste/smell, chronic, low-grade pain, joint stiffness, low blood sugar levels, or the side effects- of medication. Alternatively, it could result from dental problems, physical health conditions, such as Addison's disease, kidney disease, heart problems, and cancer.
As it can be challenging to discern what is causing your dog to stop eating, it is crucial that you take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible so that you can rule out any potential health issues.
Due to their sense of smell decreasing as they age, senior dogs are often uneager to eat their food as they can't smell it properly. Therefore, you may need to take some extra steps to make their dinner as irresistible as possible. You can do this by adding gravy, broth, canned food or tasty additives to the meals or by warming it up to release the scent and flavour.
And, if that doesn't work, the occasional bone broth is a wonderful method for increasing the nutritional intake of your senior dog. It is simple for you to make, easy for your dog to digest, and delicious enough that even the pickiest older dogs will love it.
That being said, just because your dog has gotten older doesn't mean that they should be living a sedentary life. If energetic exercises such as running or jumping are no longer possible, they should still be walking and playing. Make sure that the nutrition you are providing them is enough to keep them comfortable, happy, and healthy for many years to come.
And, remember, the best thing you can provide your dog with is love, attention, and comfort. After all, that is what they deserve.