Dogs are typically considered senior in the last 25% of their expected lifespan. Senior pups are more vulnerable to medical conditions such as arthritis, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. However, proper nutrition may reduce the risk of chronic conditions associated with old age.
There is no best diet for senior dogs, but most senior dog foods are formulated with different quantities of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients compared to foods for puppies or adult dogs. Your veterinarian is your best resource for determining the best dog food for your senior pup. At the same time, these five tips will help you choose an appropriate food for your aging dog.
1. Feed Your Pup More Protein
Proteins play a key role in building and maintaining muscle tissue in a dog’s body. As dogs grow older, they lose muscle mass, which is why they require about 50% more protein in their diet. A low-protein diet may lead to mobility problems. Some senior dogs lose so much muscle mass that they begin to slow down and may struggle to stand or walk unassisted.
2. Manage Their Calorie Intake Depending on Their Age
Mature and senior dogs tend to require fewer calories, so you may need to reduce their calorie intake to help them maintain a healthy weight. At the same time, very old dogs are often underweight, so you may need to increase calories for pups in their twilight years.
3. Think About Joint Supplements
As dogs grow older, they become more vulnerable to conditions like arthritis, especially if they are overweight or obese. Certain dog vitamins and supplements like chondroitin and glucosamine may help slow the progression of arthritis or joint damage in senior pups. You may also consider supplementing your dog with omega-3 fatty acids, which may help to combat age-related osteoarthritis.
4. Consider Adding DHA, MCTs, and Antioxidants to Their Diet
Like humans, dogs also show changes in the ability to learn and remember as they age, and certain additions to their diet may help tackle cognitive losses:
- Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fats sourced from vegetable oils like palm oil or coconut oil. Several studies show that MCTs are powerful in protecting dogs against age-related cognitive decline.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that supports healthy skin, cardiovascular health, and cognitive function in dogs.
- Antioxidants can help to reduce inflammation while also helping to prevent cognitive impairment in older pups.
5. Enhance Food Palatability to Make Eating Easier
Most senior dogs have dental problems that usually make chewing uncomfortable or difficult. Consider feeding your aging pup wet, canned, or soft food that’s much easier to chew and digest. What’s more, older dogs typically need more encouragement to eat, so warm the food to increase aroma and stimulate your pup’s appetite.
For pups who are having difficulty eating, let them eat lying down if they’re uncomfortable standing for long periods. Alternatively, if your pup gets uncomfortable bending down to their food bowl, then try serving their meals on a raised platform.