It seems to happen overnight. One day, your dog is leaping like a puppy, and the next you notice he has a little extra paunch … and is that grey in his muzzle?
Yes, aging can come on quickly. It makes you wonder what this means for your dog’s future. But not to worry. If your dog is starting to become long in the snoot, there are plenty of ways to make sure he prospers as a healthy senior.
Keeping your older dog healthy and mobile starts with diet. So here are some tips about the best food for senior dogs.
Adding Up The Golden Years
First, it’s important to understand what qualifies your dog as a senior. Contrary to popular belief … calculating your dog’s age isn’t always as simple as multiplying his human age by seven.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), your dog’s equivalent human age can fall within a range. It depends on his size and breed.
The magic number 7 does factor into your dog’s age, though … because 7 is when experts consider the average dog to be senior. Seven roughly translates to a range of only 44 to 56 human years. That may seem young to be considered a senior, but not to worry, as he’ll still have lots of life to his years.
For smaller dogs who tend to live longer, such as terriers, Dachshunds, Beagles and toy breeds, that number goes up to 10.
Larger breeds, such as Great Danes and Alaskan Malamutes, can fall into the senior category as early as age 6.
Why A Senior Dog Needs A Different Diet Than Younger Pups
Proper nutrition is important at every stage of your dog’s life … but it’s especially worthwhile to consider his nutritional needs in senior years. Just as humans develop more health conditions as they get older, dogs also experience issues like:
- Reduced joint mobility and arthritis
- Weight gain due to decreased activity and slower digestion
- Higher risk of developing diabetes and dental, kidney and heart diseases
Your Dog’s Food Can Make All The Difference
As a dog lover, I’ve always been especially passionate about helping older dogs. Of course, puppies are cute and loveable … but I’ve found that older dogs have personality and wisdom not typically found in younger pups.
When my late dog Max was 10 years old, he had a hard time walking because of crippling arthritis. After lots of research, I made a change in Max’s diet, which is a route many pet owners take for their sick or aging dog.
Once I started feeding him healthy raw dog food, I saw the profound impact that making the switch had on Max’s health … and how quickly he benefitted from the results. In fact, diet was so instrumental in improving Max’s well-being that it led me to launch my raw pet food company.
The same rings true for one of my current dogs. Maci was already in her golden years when she joined our family. She was overweight and had hypothyroid issues.
Once we began feeding her a healthier diet, she lost weight, and her overall health and energy improved dramatically. Now, her sweet personality continues to shine, which is so gratifying to see in senior dogs.
Owning senior dogs taught me that, just like humans, diet greatly influences their health and wellness. Even if your dog is already well into his teenage years, it’s never too late to switch up his feeding routine. Both you and your fur baby will be happy you did.
What To Look For When Planning Your Senior Dog’s Diet
As your dog ages, so do his nutritional requirements. Yet there’s no official Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement for senior dog food. As more and more companies are making specially formulated senior dog food, it can become confusing to navigate.
When choosing a diet for your senior dog, these are the top nutrients to look for:
- Studies indicate that dogs need more protein as they age (1). Protein helps maintain healthy lean muscle mass as well as good organ and immune function. High-quality, minimally processed meat keeps its original nutrients intact so your dog can reap the benefits.
- Thanks to a more sluggish metabolism, you may notice that your older dog has put on a few extra pounds. To keep him at a healthy weight, make sure his diet is low in fat, carbohydrates and calories … while packed with high-quality protein.
- A decreased metabolism can also cause your senior dog’s digestion to slow down, leading to constipation. A high-fiber diet will keep things moving right along! Vegetables serve as a top source of fiber … while also feeding good bacteria for a healthy gut biome.
- Antioxidants and essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6 are an older dog’s best friend. They work together to reduce inflammation, maintain a balanced immune system and fight disease.
RELATED: 5 supplements all senior dogs need …
As your pooch ages, he may start turning up his snoot at food. It could be due to factors like weather, medical conditions or medications … or plain old exhaustion after a spirited hike,
That’s when it’s time to take matters into your hands – in some cases, literally.
Try handfeeding your dog to entice him to eat. Or mix in some water or other whole foods like eggs, yogurt or cottage cheese to give your senior dog’s appetite the push it needs. (But be careful with dairy. Some dogs don’t tolerate it well).
You can also turn dinnertime into a game by placing treats or meals into a toy like a Kong or puzzle. This will stimulate his mind in addition to feeding his belly.
As with any dietary change, feel free to ask your holistic vet for specific recommendations based on your dog’s size, age, breed, health, and unique requirements.
While you may be astonished to see your dog suddenly growing gray, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure a long, healthy life. Pamper him with a diet that best meets his nutritional needs.
- Wannamacher RW, McCoy JR, Determination of Optimal Dietary Protein Requirements of Young and Old Dogs. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 88, Issue 1, January 1966, Pages 66–74.