Nutrition of the Senior Dog
Older dogs have very different nutritional needs than puppies and even adult dogs. Good care is essential if a dog is to remain healthy throughout its life. Regular physical activity will help the dog maintain muscle mass. The condition of his teeth and coat should also be monitored.
The caloric content of the food must be adapted to his needs according to the animal's level of activity, which depends on his age and state of health. A dog suffering from arthritis will move less and therefore expend less energy, which will expose him to weight gain that is harmful to his health. A low-energy diet is only essential if the dog is obese. It is very important not to simply assume that his lack of enthusiasm for exercise is a normal consequence of his aging. The dog should be examined to check if he is suffering from a disease.
Regular weigh-ins and medical examinations are the best way to ensure the early detection of age-related disorders.
Nutritional Needs of Senior Dogs
Aging is also accompanied by changes in digestive capacity and special nutritional needs. Foods for older dogs should therefore have the following characteristics:
Higher vitamin C and E content
These nutrients have antioxidant properties, which protect the body from the harmful effects of oxidative stress related to aging.
Older dogs make less good use of dietary protein than younger dogs, due to their reduced digestive function. Improving protein quality is the main objective here. In some countries, protein is mistakenly thought to be responsible for kidney failure. In reality, this is not true. Kidney failure is a chronic irreversible disease, common with age. It is recommended to reduce the phosphorus content of food to slow the progression of the disease. However, it is important to talk to your veterinarian first, to allow him to diagnose the disease before making any changes in your diet.
A higher proportion of iron, copper, zinc, and manganese
These nutrients help maintain healthy skin and coat. Their integration in the form of organic salts, which are much easier to assimilate than mineral salts, makes them more likely to be used by the metabolism of dogs with less efficient digestive systems.
Slightly higher fiber content to act as a “ballast”
Increasing the fiber content will help limit the risk of constipation, a risk that can occur when physical activity is reduced due to the dog's aging. As dog's age, they suffer more and more from dental problems. To ensure that they continue to eat in sufficient quantities, the shape, size, and hardness of their kibble should be taken into account.
Food for Senior Dogs
When it reaches three-quarters of its life expectancy, a dog is considered old. The signs of aging become more and more obvious as the dog reaches a certain age. It is generally around the age of 12 years that the signs of aging become visible for small dogs, around 10 years for medium dogs, and earlier, around 8 years for large dogs.
It is at this time that a change of food, designed to combat the signs of aging, should be considered. Choosing age-appropriate foods will help them stay healthy for as long as possible. The following factors are particularly important:
Improve immunity and increase resistance to infection
There are several nutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamins E and C, and minerals such as zinc, that help maintain a healthy immune system, which is weaker in aging dogs.
Improve skin and coat beauty
The health and beauty of the skin and coat depend on an adequate and regular supply of specific nutrients. Borage oil has a positive effect on hair shine and skin elasticity. Zinc is a beneficial nutrient for older dogs with an unhealthy coat.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are nutrients that help improve the mobility of aging dogs. New foods including turmeric extract, polyphenols and hydrolyzed collagen have been developed and have been shown to be effective in helping to improve mobility and quality of life in older dogs.
However, not all senior dogs are the same. A healthy aging dog should not follow the same diet as an aging dog with health problems.
Regular check-ups and health will help detect any potential problems as early as possible. In many cases, diet can play a role in preventing or at least limiting, the expression of clinical symptoms of chronic disease in senior dogs. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the most appropriate diet.
© 2021 Ben Youssef Lotfy