We all want the very best for our furry friends, and making sure that they’re eating a high-quality, age-appropriate diet is key to this. Dogs need a different diet depending on their stage of life: a puppy burning off lots of energy will have very different nutritional requirements to an elderly dog who is living a fairly sedentary life.
It can be tricky to know at what point we should start thinking about making changes to our dog’s diet as they get older. Use the guide below to help you recognize some of the signs that tell you it’s time to think about offering your pooch food that’s specifically designed for senior canines.
How Senior Food Can Benefit Older Dogs
The main aim of switching your dog to a senior diet is that it may increase your pet’s longevity and manage or prevent disease, helping them to live a longer and healthier life.
Senior dog food differs from normal dog food, usually due to the presence of additional ingredients or specific nutrients to help with diseases that dogs can become more susceptible to with age. Some food designed for older dogs may also include a different amount of protein compared to standard food to support their needs. Be sure to check the label on the new dog food you’re considering buying to find out its ingredients and in what ways it could be of benefit to your senior pet.
Take Into Account Breed and Size
In general, bigger breeds of dogs have shorter lifespans and so are considered senior at a younger age than their small counterparts. For example, giant dogs head into the senior category at about six years of age, and so senior food can be given to these breeds at around this age. Large and medium-sized breeds are considered to be senior at about eight to ten years of age, while for smaller-sized breeds, which tend to have the longest life spans of all, it’s ten to twelve years.
For convenience, you may want to consider ordering a senior diet from a pet food delivery service – there are a multitude of plans available that will deliver to your door, often allowing you to save money by ordering in bulk.
Signs of Aging
Usually, the earliest sign that your four-legged friend is moving into senior territory is a greying of the fur around the muzzle and possible stiffness when walking or moving around the house. You may also notice that your dog’s eyes appear somewhat cloudy, and they may experience weight loss. It’s important to speak to your vet if you notice any of these signs, however, as they can be symptoms of other diseases.
Managing Diseases and Conditions
Aging dogs tend to be significantly more susceptible to a range of certain conditions, including obesity, arthritis, skin disease, dental disease, and some cancers. Nutritional changes to your dog’s diet, if he suffers from a condition like these, can slow or halt its progress, meaning that your furry friend may be able to enjoy many more happy years of life.
If your dog suffers from dental problems, then a senior dry dog food may prevent further plaque from building up, while if your dog has lost teeth due to dental disease, then a soft senior option is likely to be best, and your vet can give you advice on the best type to achieve this result.
If your older pooch has arthritis, then look for senior food that contains ingredients that will specifically support joint health, such as glucosamine hydrochloride and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. An elderly dog with kidney disease may benefit from a diet that is relatively low in protein. Again, your vet will be able to advise you on this.
How To Choose a Senior Dog Food
If your dog has reached the age that they’re considered, for their breed, elderly, especially if they have a medical condition, then it’s important to speak with your vet to determine if it’s the right time to switch them to a senior diet.
There are a few things you can do to make the transition to the new diet easier on your pooch if she’s struggling with the altered regime. For example, a senior version of your pet’s normal food is likely to have a similar texture and taste and therefore be more appealing to her. If the usual dog food you buy doesn’t have a senior range, then look for senior food that is similar to what they’re used to; if your furry friend is used to eating a chicken and grain kibble, look for a food that contains these ingredients, too.
Ideally, the transition should be made slowly, both to help your dog become accustomed to the new diet and to reduce the risk of potential tummy upsets as her system gets used to the new food. Aim to make the change over seven to ten days, gradually mixing a bigger proportion of the new food into the old as the days go by.