Must-Have Supplements For Senior Dogs

supplements for senior dogs

As your dog ages, his body starts to weaken. He won’t get as much nutrition out of his food. His liver won’t be able to push out as many toxins … and his brain will begin to slow down. 

That’s why senior dogs need a boost as they age. Natural supplements for senior dogs help them get what they need to live a healthy and comfortable life. 

First, it’s essential to feed your the best diet for senior dogs. And then let’s look at 5 important supplements for older dogs …

Best Supplements For Senior Dogs

Your dog’s gut health is the foundation of his immune system, so probiotics and prebiotics are especially important as he ages. 

Probiotics For Senior Dogs

As your dog gets older, his microbiome can become unbalanced. And that’s a problem. 

Your dog’s microbiome is made up of bacteria and other microorganisms that live all over his body. The more populated and diverse your dog’s microbiome is, the healthier he’ll be. But with age, the diversity and number of bacteria and microorganisms change. If harmful bacteria begin to crowd out the good ones … your dog will have to deal with inflammation, leaky gut and chronic disease. 

Probiotics for older dogs will help increase the diversity and numbers of bacteria in the gut. The best probiotics to do this are soil-based probiotics (SBOs). These are spore-forming bacteria with a coating that protects them from heat, stomach acids and most antibiotics. So they survive their journey through the digestive tract to the colon, where they do their work. Bacillus strains of probiotics like Bacillus coagulans, Bacillus Indicus and Bacillus subtilis are examples of soil-based probiotics for dogs. 

How To Give Your Senior Dog Probiotics 

Probiotics are best given as a supplement for senior dogs. If you buy soil-based probiotics, they’re less fragile and will last longer in the colon. Look for one with with 1 or 2 strains and less than 1 billion CFU. 

Otherwise, look for a probiotic with 10 or more strains of bacteria and 30+ billion CFU (colony forming units). This will help make sure that at least some of the probiotics survive the trip to the colon. 

RELATED: Read more about choosing the best probiotics for dogs …. 

Prebiotics For Senior Dogs

Prebiotics are soluble, indigestible fiber that’s naturally in some foods. The fiber goes through the digestive tract and ferments in the colon. This creates short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that can lower inflammation, support gut health and reduce the risk of disease. Prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut. They’ll boost the population of species and help the probiotics work better.

How To Give Your Dog Prebiotics

You can buy prebiotic supplements like FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) or inulin. And for convenience, you can find probiotic supplements that contain prebiotics as well.

But you can also feed your dog prebiotic-rich foods These foods also have other health benefits that your senior dog may benefit from. Some good choices include …

  • Mushrooms – support the brain and nervous system, help fight cancer, support the liver, heart, bladder and digestive tract, manage diabetes and slow aging. Try Lion’s Mane, turkey tail, chaga, and reishi for the best results. (Read more about mushrooms below).
  • Chicory root – helps improve digestion and reduces inflammation.
  • Garlic – regulates blood pressure, prevents blood clots, may prevent cancer and helps remove waste. 
  • Burdock root – regulates blood sugar, helps prevent cancer, supports organ health and reduces inflammation. 
  • Dandelion greens – helps with detoxification, stimulates appetite and supports the liver. 

 RELATED: Get more information about prebiotics for dogs … 

Digestive Enzymes For Older Dogs

Digestive enzymes help break down food so that your dog can absorb nutrients better. While dogs produce digestive enzymes naturally, as they age, production slows. That’s why senior dogs are more likely to have enzyme deficiencies. Deficiencies can affect …

  • The immune system 
  • Detoxification 
  • Hormones 
  • Gallbladder function 
  • Digestion 

If your dog eats cooked foods, he’s even more at risk for a deficiency. That’s because heat kills enzymes. This lack of enzymes can lower resistance to stress and enlarge the pancreas and smaller organs, including the brain.  

If your senior dog has an enzyme deficiency you may see some of these symptoms …

  • Burping
  • Farting
  • Abnormal bowel movements
  • Bloating
  • Smelly breath
  • Acid reflux
  • Tummy rumbling or gurgling
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Foul-smelling stools
  • Undigested food in stool

How To Give Your Dog Digestive Enzymes 

You can feed your dog enzyme-rich foods to increase his enzyme intake. Fermented veggies, ginger, bananas and honey are all good choices. But like pre and probiotics, supplements can be a convenient way to add digestive enzymes to your dog’s diet. 

When buying a supplement for your senior dog, you want to buy a product made for dogs. That’s because dogs have different enzyme needs than humans. Also, try and find a product that contains pancreas. Pancreas is rich in important enzymes and may even help your dog’s body produce more of its own. 

Other Digestive Enzyme Ingredients To Look For:

  • Papain – breaks down meat
  • Bromelain – breaks down protein
  • Betaine hydrochloric acid – breaks down protein
  • Cellulase – breaks down fiber
  • Invertase (in yeast and pollen) – breaks down starchy carbs
  • Ox Bile – breaks down fat 

It’s best to give your dog enzymes with his meals. If it helps, you can add water or broth to the supplement. But never put digestive enzymes on hot food as the heat will kill them. 

Antioxidants For Senior Dogs

As your dog gets older, his body becomes more susceptible to oxidative stress … especially in his brain. Oxidative stress happens when your dog’s body has an excess of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that attack other cells, damaging DNA, proteins, and cell membranes. This can lead to premature aging and chronic disease. 

To help prevent free radical damage, consider giving your dog antioxidants. Antioxidants help control free radicals to stop them from harming your dog.

Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants. Blueberries are especially beneficial because they contain a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanins. What makes anthocyanin so special is that it can cross the blood-brain barrier. That means it’s one of the few dietary antioxidants that can protect your dog’s brain from oxidative stress. As an added bonus, berries are also prebiotic foods.

How To Increase Your Dog’s Antioxidants 

To help boost your senior dog’s antioxidants, you want to feed antioxidant rich foods. This includes brightly colored fruits and vegetables like broccoli, berries, apples, spinach and kale. Many mushrooms are also powerful sources of antioxidants

Mushrooms For Senior Dogs

Medicinal mushrooms can have powerful benefits for dogs. As mentioned earlier, they are rich in prebiotics so they’ll support his gut health. But mushrooms have many other important benefits for older dogs. Here are some good ones to give your older dog.

  • Lion’s Mane – this mushroom is ideal for your senior dog. It supports the brain and can help with cognitive function as your dog ages. It helps the nervous system and can help with spinal problems as well as anxiety. Lion’s Mane also supports fat and sugar metabolism and can help with weight control, as well as blood sugar levels in dogs with diabetes.
  • Turkey Tail – this mushroom offers powerful immune support. It’s been shown to help manage cancer, extending survival times in dogs with hemangiosarcoma.
  • Chaga – supports heart, intestinal and liver health. It’s rich in plant-based antioxidants that reduce free radical damage. 
  • Cordyceps – high in ergosterol, an antioxidant compound. Cordyceps can help support healthy skin, liver and kidneys. 
  • Phellinus – a potent, immune-enhancing mushroom. Phellinus supports cells and detoxification processes.
  • Maitake – rich in beta-glucans and D-fraction, high in the antioxidant glutathione, and extensively researched as a potent immune system enhancer.
  • Reishi – known as the “mushroom of immortality.” It’s rich in triterpenoids, ganoderic acid and antioxidants, with anti-inflammatory and antihistamine actions.
  • Shiitake – has been shown to support the immune system, help with digestion and urinary health and normal allergic response.

Vitamin C For Senior Dogs

Vitamin C is another important antioxidant. You probably already know that it’s an important factor in immunity. It’s why so many of us take it during cold and flu season. But vitamin C also helps grow tissue, form calcium and iron and support the adrenal gland, which produces hormones. 

Unlike you, your dog can produce his own vitamin C. But like digestive enzymes, as he gets older production slows. This means your senior dog will need this important vitamin supplemented into his diet as he ages. 

How To Add Vitamin C To Your Dog’s Diet 

Natural whole food sources of vitamins and minerals are the best choice for dogs. Blueberries are rich in vitamin C, which is another great reason to feed them to your dog. Broccoli is also a great choice for adding vitamin C to your dog’s dish. In fact, 1 lb of broccoli has more vitamin C than 2.5 lbs of oranges. 

RELATED: The health benefits of broccoli for dogs …

Omega-3 Fatty Acids For Senior Dogs

Inflammation is generally a good thing, helping to heal injuries and acute disease. But chronic inflammation is different. It’s a prolonged response that can affect your dog’s immune function and lead to premature aging. It’s also linked to degenerative disease and problems like …

  • Diabetes 
  • Autoimmune disease 
  • Arthritis 
  • Cancer 
  • Organ disease 

One of the best ways to reduce inflammation is with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are powerful anti-inflammatory substances that keep cell membranes healthy. They also help reduce cognitive decline, maintain healthy joints and boost the immune system. The problem is that most dogs don’t get enough omega-3s, so you’ll need to add them to your dog’s diet.

How To Give Your Senior Dog Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The most popular source of omega-3s for dogs is fish oil. But there are several problems with fish oil. It oxidizes and turns rancid easily. It often contains toxins like heavy metals and dioxins, and it’s causes over-fishing, depleting fish that other aquatic species rely on for food. The good news is there are alternatives. Green-lipped mussels are at the top of the list. 

Green lipped mussel (GLM) oil is a sustainably-grown, rich source of fatty acids and is more bioavailable than fish oil. In addition to the essential fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), GLM also contains ETA (eicosatetraenoic acid). This is an important anti-inflammatory omega-3 that’s not in fish oils. It has an especially important benefit for senior dogs: It can help regenerate cartilage, making it one of the best supplements for older dogs with arthritis.

You can give your senior dog a green lipped mussel supplement as a powder or liquid. But make sure your powdered supplement hasn’t had the fats removed. Some manufacturers strip out the oils, making it less beneficial to your dog.

RELATED: Read more about green lipped mussels for dogs …

Helping your dog live a long and comfortable life is one of your top priorities. So try some of these supplements for seniors and see just how big a difference they can make.

Masuoka H, Shimada K, Kiyosue-Yasuda T, et al. Transition of the intestinal microbiota of dogs with age. Biosci Microbiota Food Health. 2017;36(1):27-31. 

Xu H, Huang W, Hou Q, et al. Oral administration of compound probiotics improved canine Feed intake, weight gain, immunity and intestinal microbiota. Front Immunol. 2019 Apr 2;10:666.  

Shukitt-Hale B, Bielinski DF, Lau FC, Willis LM, Carey AN, Joseph JA. The beneficial effects of berries on cognition, motor behaviour and neuronal function in ageing. Br J Nutr. 2015 Nov 28;114(10):1542-9.

Hesta M, Ottomans C, Krammer-Lukas S, Zentek J, Heilweg P, Buyse J, Janssens GPJ. The effect of vitamin C supplementation in healthy dogs on antioxidative capacity and immune parameters. 2009;93(1).

Mori K, et al. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2009 Mar;23(3):367-72.

Lai PL, et al. Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(6):539-54.

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