As your dog ages, their diet needs to accommodate their lifestyle to maintain overall health. Older dogs are prone to losing and gaining weight and losing muscle mass. Moreover, their hearing and sight aren't what it used to be, and they lack energy. While all dogs get old, they hardly enter the senior stage of life at the same time. For example, smaller dogs age slower than larger breeds, while a lean dog will naturally age slower than an obese one. Aging is inevitable. However, you can help your senior pet live out his later years happy and healthy. Here are things to follow when it comes to your elderly canine's nutrition.
1. Consult Your Vet
It’s a fact; like most humans, dogs get slower with age. They often become lethargic, they may eat less, and their immune systems begin to slow down. This issue makes them more prone to infections and severe illness. Because of this, experts recommend that your senior canine sees the vet more regularly–about once every six months. A regular vet visit will give your veterinarian the chance to detect any medical issues early while providing you with adequate treatment. They can also prescribe particular food and give you dietary guidelines that cater to your dog’s specific needs.
2. Make Sure They’re Getting What They Need
Most veterinarians recommend high-quality food for pets. Some might argue that dog owners should go a step further by ditching commercial brands and feeding their dogs a more natural, organic, homemade, and even raw diet. The problem is that there's no set of regulations regarding what senior dogs should be eating. Giving brands the freedom to add whatever they want to mixtures and label them “Senior” as long as they meet adult dog guidelines. You could be giving your dog more protein or calories than they need, or they may not be getting enough antioxidants and fatty acids. To ensure your senior canine is getting plenty of nutrients, you can add fresh fruits and vegetables, like pumpkin, and steamed green beans to their diet. Or you can give your pup supplements purchased from reliable retailers like Pet Life Store. Consult your veterinarian to make sure you’re giving your dog the proper nutrients they need.
3. Keep An Eye on Their Weight
A leaner dog is much healthier than an overweight dog. Due to the lethargy senior dogs develop, they tend to gain weight as the years go on. If this applies to your pup, decrease the portion of food, you usually give them and eliminate “free-feeding” by storing their food away when they aren’t eating. That way, there are fewer calories for them to burn, and they won’t gain unnecessary weight. If your senior dog eats too fast, invest in a busy bowl or slow feeder to manage weight. Less commonly, though, elderly dogs will become thinner due to a sudden loss of appetite. If your veterinarian rules out any serious illnesses and dental problems, it may just be because your senior dog can no longer smell or taste their food. Make minor adjustments to make their meals more appealing, such as adding broth or chicken gravy. Of course, make sure they are staying active, even if your dog has slowed down. Any amount of exercise, like light walks or a jog, will build your senior pup’s stamina.
4. Ditch Commercial Dog Treats
Commercial brands of dog treats might be delicious to your elderly canine. But thanks to their slowing metabolism, the treats your pup once loved might no longer be ideal for them. Traditional brands pack their treats with calories, disrupting all the hard work you put into managing your senior dog’s nutrition. Switch out their favorites for healthy fruits and vegetables, like seedless apple slices, baby carrots, and blueberries; if they’ll take them. Despite being full of calories, commercial treats may have become challenging for your elderly dog to digest and chew- requiring you to purchase softer treats.
Watching your pup drift into old age may be disheartening, but remember that not all dogs age the same or at the same time. Many factors contribute to your dog's senior years' progression, from genetics, to breed, and medical history. They have different care requirements than puppies and adult dogs, with special needs that require specific accommodations. But if you’re prepared to care for them and meet all their senior needs, you’ll have many more happy, healthy years together.