It can be hard for owners to find the right food for their pets as they get older. Today our San Gabriel vets answer questions about geriatric dogs, and what the best types of dog food for older dogs are.
At what age is my older dog considered elderly?
There is not a single age where all dogs are considered elderly. Lifespans for dogs vary based on breed and size. As a general rule of thumb, small dogs can be expected to live 15-20 years, while larger dogs usually live from around age 12 to age 15.
Bigger dogs age faster and are considered to be "older" around the time they turn six, while small dogs generally pass into middle age at around eight years old.
Do senior dogs have special nutritional needs?
Yes, just like geriatric cats, senior dogs have special nutritional needs. There are two major things to consider when determining the best dog food for senior dogs.
The first is to try and keep it calorie-low. Just like with people, a dog's metabolism slows down as they age. To prevent obesity, it is important to make sure our elder pups aren't chowing down just a little too ferociously!
The second is trying to make sure their diet includes high-fiber options. Constipation is painful in its own right, and it can lead to further gastrointestinal issues when it becomes severe enough; maintaining gastrointestinal health is a common obstacle for older dogs, so the best dog food for senior dogs will have lots of fiber to help them stay healthy and regular.
What health issues will the best dog food for senior dogs help prevent and treat?
Senior dogs who are suffering from diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease are liable to require special diets that will help keep their condition under control. It is best to consult with a vet about your dog's diet if they are sick and you are concerned about the impact of their diet.
Dogs who have or are at elevated risk for heart disease benefit from lower-calorie senior dog foods that help keep their weight down; low sodium recipes are preferable
Our San Gabriel geriatric vets recommend owners of diabetic or pre-diabetic dogs select dog food which slows the absorption of food. These special diabetic diets tend to raise blood sugar more slowly and reduce the chances of impactful health complications in dogs with diabetes. These diets are very low in fat and exceptionally high in fiber. We recommend talking to your vet who can provide dietary recommendations for your senior or otherwise diabetic dog.
Many senior dog food brands make a point to include higher-quality protein sources than standard dog food; this helps senior dogs maintain healthy body weight without putting unneeded strain on their aging kidneys.
As previously mentioned, constipation is a common struggle for older dogs, the high amount of fiber present in the best dog food for older dogs helps to prevent constipation and keep their bowel movements regular.
What should I do if my senior dog won't eat their dog food?
It is relatively normal for older dogs to have some loss of appetite. Causes for sudden appetite loss are hugely carried both in scope and severity; your dog could be suffering from simple nausea brought on by gastrointestinal problems, or they could be suffering from the effects of cancer.
If your senior dog has suddenly begun to demonstrate an unexplained loss of appetite, it is best to speak with your vet and have them rule out any potentially serious causes including dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer.
Once serious medical conditions have been ruled out as the cause for appetite loss, another avenue for consideration is the simplest one--perhaps your dog is simply tired of their regular food. Adding chicken broth, some water, or a small amount of canned food to your dog's dry kibble supply may serve to make it more enticing. You could also try preparing a simple meal for your dog of cooked chicken and barley or cooked lamb and rice. These home-cooked meals are both nutritious and bland enough to sit well with them if your older dog is experiencing some nausea.
What are the Best Types of Food for Senior Dogs?
Depending on the situation, prescription food may be better for your dog. However, the best option for your senior dog may be simply switching to a healthy alternative.
The team at Temple City Animal Hospital has compiled a list of some of the best types of dog food for senior dogs.
Limited Ingredient Dog Foods
Some dog food can be full of ingredients that dogs can be allergic to. If your senior dog has allergies, your vet might recommend limited ingredient dog foods, which include just a single protein source (such as chicken, beef, or lamb), often combined with one carbohydrate source.
This can be used to eliminate allergens that might be causing allergic reactions or symptoms. If you are looking for limited ingredient dog foods, check for the Association of American Feed Control's (AAFCO) seal of approval. Also, look for a "complete and balanced" claim from the manufacturer.
Your vet will be able to provide dietary recommendations for your senior or diabetic dog, along with comprehensive geriatric care and exams.
Prescription Dog Food
Depending on your dog's specific circumstances and health conditions, in some cases, a medical prescription dog food might be the best option for your senior pooch. In other cases, your vet may simply recommend you switch to a healthy alternative.
Low-Calorie Dog Food
Dogs that are obese or at a higher risk for heart disease may be recommended low-calorie senior dog food. This will help keep their weight down. Dog foods with low-sodium recipes are preferred by vets.
High-Fiber, Low-Fat Dog Food
Blood sugar tends to rise more slowly with special diabetic diets, reducing the risk of health complications. These diets are also exceptionally high in fiber and low in fat. Since older dogs commonly struggle with constipation, the higher the amount of fiber, the better. This will help to prevent constipation and keep their bowels working regularly.
Dog Food High in Protein
Many senior dog foods will also contain higher quality protein sources than standard dog food, which can help senior dogs maintain healthy body weight without putting unnecessary strain on their aging kidneys.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.