Browse the food aisles of your favorite retail pet supplies store, and you’ll find that many – but not all – brands offer separate products for senior dogs. But all those senior foods may not be exactly what your mature pet needs.
Do you understand what makes a dog a senior? Breed has a lot to do with it. When my Great Dane, Coby, turned 8 years old, his muzzle was graying; his gait had slowed. Our vet told us that Danes are considered senior animals after age 6.
On the other hand Angie, our miniature Poodle, behaved like a puppy at 8. Her black coat was shiny, and her eyes were clear. She was not ready to be classified as a senior dog.
Always ask your veterinarian’s advice before switching your dog to a senior diet. Size and breed will help determine the need.
AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) doesn’t have any set guidelines for what should or should not be in a senior dog’s diet. Perhaps that is because various dog breeds age differently.
As pets age, they encounter many changes in their bodies, such as arthritis or diabetes or cataracts. The commercial food they eat should be designed to address those changes.
Once you determine that it’s time to switch Fido to a senior diet, what should you look for in that food? Again, I would ask your veterinarian for his or her advice before making that change. In general, look for a senior food that is lower in sodium than usually found in cheap adult pet foods. However, a higher-quality adult dog food isn’t likely to be high in sodium anyway.
Digestibility is especially important in older dogs. Some senior canines struggle with constipation. Others deal with irritable bowel issues. Still others may occasionally have difficulty keeping food down. Assuming there is no illness at play, a good-quality pet food designed for senior dogs will address those problems with ingredients tailored to them.
Because older animals are not as active as in their younger days, calorie control is often necessary. As our Gator slows down, we have changed his food a few times to try and correct some digestive and skin issues. I don’t know if these problems are related to his advancing age or if something else is at play. The veterinarian hasn’t been able to find a cause, nor have we. Along with a senior commercial dog food, we include canned green beans in his diet. They aid digestion and are low in calories.
Your pet’s senior pet food should include healthy ingredients along with Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and glucosamine and chondroitin for help with stiff joints and arthritis pain. It is especially important for the food to be as nutritionally sound as possible. An older canine doesn’t need chemicals added to his food. His immune system is much more sensitive and artificial flavors, colors and preservatives in his food are less likely to be tolerated.
All commercial pet food packages are full of information. They tell you how wonderful the food is but regardless of the hype, read and approve the ingredients label. Be sure the food is AAFCO – approved and suitable for senior dogs.
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