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Dogs have different bodily needs based on their age, breed, and physical activity. Senior dogs have different nutritional needs than others because once our furry companion reaches this golden age, it is difficult to understand what is good. That's why pet owners ask a lot of questions about "senior dog nutrition." Why is it necessary? And how to know what is the best food on the market for senior dogs.
However, some nutritional issues specifically affect senior dogs. There are no official dietary requirements suggested by either the National Research Council or Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for aging dogs. The reason is because there is a lot of variation in the individual needs of the dog at that stage. This is why you will see a lot of variation in nutrition from commercial senior dog food.
When Is A Dog Considered To Be Mature Or Senior?
Dogs are considered mature when they reach half their expected age and senior when they live the last 25% of their expected age. Small breed dogs are generally seen to live longer than large breed dogs, so small breeds are considered senior at the age of 8-10 years, and giant breed dogs are considered older than the age of 5-8 years. If a dog lives beyond its life expectancy, the term geriatric is used.
Differences between Senior Dog Food vs. Regular
When you go to the market, you will see many options for senior dog food, such as regular adult dog food, senior dog food, and all-life stage dog food. There is no significant difference between all these foods, except their brand, packaging, and name. More than that, as mentioned above, there is no authority looking to regulate senior dog food.
However, certain dietary factors can help elderly dogs at this stage of life. Here are some of the ways a senior dog food can differ from typical dog food.
- Higher digestibility
- Nutrient adjustments
- Softer texture
- Added joint supplements
- Formulated to fight dental disease
- Added MCTs, omega-3s, and antioxidants
Nutritional Changes in Senior Dog Food
Older dogs have different protein needs and require more protein in their diet. But the question is how much protein older dogs need. As the dog ages, the protein stores of older dogs are used more quickly, and, like humans, dogs also lose muscle mass. Therefore, the dog is offered a diet containing additional protein to make up for that loss and stay stronger and healthier.
Fat requirements are different from dogs to dogs, and some have a higher need for fat in food, and others need less. When a dog loses weight, see your vet and diagnose any medical conditions affecting its caloric needs, appetite, and digestion.
If there is no medical problem that is affecting the dog and only muscle mass is an issue, then a higher fat is used for dog breeds that are losing muscle. But if your older dog is obese, then he should be given lower-fat dog food.
Fiber is another of the nutrients that a senior dog needs in his diet, more or less. Fibers are of two types, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers are a good food source for bacteria. On the other hand, insoluble fibers added bulk to the stool.
You must have read about psyllium husk because it is a good source of fiber and is present in senior dog food to increase their digestion. Likewise, if your dog is always constipated, a high-fiber diet can help him to stay regular. Some dog foods add less fiber because it decreases the absorption of nutrients from the intestine. How much fiber should be present in the diet for older dogs has not yet been confirmed.
Like other things, the calorie requirements are different for each dog, too. If you are looking for how many calories an older dog needs, you will be struggling because calorie requirements are complicated. Some food brands produce more calorie-dense foods than others; you have to adjust calorie needs if your dog needs to gain or lose weight.
However, the best option is to provide low-calorie food because senior dogs are not as active. In fact, the activity level of dogs drops to almost a third to half as they age. This means that feeding them a high-calorie diet is not a good option. But if your older dog is losing weight, a vet may recommend a high-protein, high-calorie diet.
Senior dogs may need additional supplements in their diet. Supplements like chondroitin and glucosamine can help your older dog overcome arthritis. Similarly, omega-3 fatty acids should be added to your dog's diet as they help overcome cognitive losses and arthritis.
Make Food Palatable For Senior Dogs
There are a few other aspects of feeding your senior dog. Older dogs can suffer from dental problems, so they may find it difficult to chew. You should first try to solve their problem and consider wetting their food or giving them canned food or soft food if that is not possible.
Senior dogs may also find it difficult to bend over to the food bowl or stand for a longer time. Try feeding your dog on a raised platform where he can eat while lying down.
Senior dogs often suffer from loss of appetite. Try heating your dog food (depending on the food that you’re feeding your with) as it can increase the food's aroma and stimulate your dog's appetite.
At some point in your dog's life, you should drop all healthy diet options and simply feed your dog whatever he wants. At this point in the age, spoiling your dog for a day will do him no harm.
Senior dogs are in the golden part of their life. They gave you the best part of their youth by serving you, and now it is your obligation to provide them with the best diet so that they can enjoy this period. If you have any trouble organizing your senior dog's diet, consult your vet right away.