Top 6 Reasons Seniors Should Adopt a Pet
WebMD archives content after 2 years to ensure our readers can easily find the most timely content. See the latest news and features on Dogs. If your dog is getting older and slower, you may be worried about how much weight she has gained. Or maybe you have a dog that once chowed down with gusto, but now seems to have lost interest in food.
When a beloved pet ages, its eating habits and dietary needs can change. WebMD talked with two veterinarians to learn more about the challenges of feeding a senior dog. Bigger dogs are considered older at around six years, and smaller dogs become older at around eight or nine. With a slower metabolic rate, older dogs are more likely to become overweight or obese. If possible, owners should feed their pets foods that are suitable to their stage in life. The puppy will get into the senior diet, and the senior dog will get into the puppy food.
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Metzger tells WebMD that when it comes to snacks, you should serve your senior dog healthy, low-fat, low- sodium treats. Although many dog owners think of bones and milk biscuits as snacks, there are alternatives. Dogs may also need more water as they age. If your dog has medical problems in its later years, you may need help from a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to plan a proper diet. Dogs with heart disease may need lower-calorie senior dog foods to help keep weight down as well as lower-sodium formulations.
That's important for dogs with diabetes. When foods are absorbed slowly, blood sugar tends to rise more slowly. Lower-fat, higher-fiber foods are best for diabetic dogs, Nunez says.
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Once your beloved pup reaches his golden years, it can be even tougher to understand his shifting dietary requirements. This can often leave pet parents with a lot of questions: Is "senior dog food" necessary? What is the best senior dog food on the market? What do you do if your senior dog refuses to eat? While you're here, check out our success story on how our fresh dog food helped to improve Bailey, a year-old lab mix's life.
It turns out there's no medically agreed upon definition of what is considered a senior dog. Every dog is different, but size and weight are major factors. Generally, dogs that grow to a giant size think Great Danes have a shorter life expectancy, and we deem them senior at an earlier age, around 5 or 6. Small breeds like Beagles tend to live longer and may not be seniors until age 8 or 9. Still, many dogs are very healthy even when they reach these age ranges. Until then, vets might broadly consider any pet that has begun to show signs of aging "senior.
It is important to distinguish, too, between "aging" and "geriatric. Most will show some signs of aging like the above, and perhaps a few more severe symptoms, including:. As your dog crosses into his golden years, keep an eye out for these signs, and remember to take him for regular checkups. Most vets recommend twice yearly visits for senior dogs so they can do a thorough physical exam and blood work to help detect changes in organ function or other internal issues.
They can also make recommendations when it comes to senior dogs and nutrition and evaluate which symptoms and signs may benefit from a change in diet. Is there a difference between senior dog food, regular adult dog food, and food labeled "all life stages" or "multi-stage"? Not necessarily. In fact, some food products might be identical and only market differently; that is, only the packaging changes. There certainly are, however, some dietary factors that can help manage the physical and medical changes dogs experience as they age. Here are some of the ways a senior dog diet might differ from a regular adult dog diet:.
While some dogs may not need a change in the nutrient composition of their diet as they age, there are nutritional adjustments that may specifically benefit senior dogs, depending on a number of factors e. Here are some of the most common:. Lower-calorie foods are often the way to go, because senior dogs tend to be less active than their younger counterparts. In fact, dogs' activity levels tend to drop by as much as one-third to one-half as they age; that means they do not need to take in as many calories.
Portion control is key! That said, for those senior dogs who are losing muscle mass, a vet might recommend a diet higher in protein and calories. Finally, always consult your vet, who can help you determine what is right for your dog and make adjustments accordingly. Check out this study for more reading on senior dog nutrition. That means there is no guarantee that senior food will contain a certain amount of protein, fiber, or any of the nutrients mentioned here.
Dogs' guts do undergo changes as they age, but how those changes impact they way they digest critical nutrients is still being studied. Still, the best diet for a dog that is aging, with or without medical conditions, is usually one that is tailored to that dog. You should see a range of modifications to senior dog foods that try to target digestion-related changes, from added soluble fiber to function as a prebiotic, or food for the bacterial microbiome to increased fat to make the food more dense calorically or to aid in digestion.
These adjustments may not be right, or even necessary, for most dogs. Bottom line: every dog digests foods differently, no matter their age. If your senior pet does not seem to be taking to a particular food, it may be time to try something different. If your dog is between dental cleanings or has lost a number of teeth due to dental disease, there is one simple change that may help him come mealtime: switching to a soft food e.
Breaking through kibble can be tough for senior dogs, who are more likely to have loose or infected teeth. In fact, many dog food products out there marketed or labeled specifically for dental disease are just regular foods with more moisture added. Of course, some do have ingredients meant to combat oral problems, including:. Keep in mind that the best treatment for infected gums or teeth is a cleaning and proper care from a vet.
Dogs are more likely to develop arthritis as they age, especially if they are overweight or obese. Unfortunately, many diets marketed for seniors advertising glucosamine, chondroitin, EPA, and DHA do not contain effective amounts of these substances. To get results, you may need to add them to your dog's food unless it is one specifically labeled for joint health. Dogs, like humans, may show changes in memory and the ability to learn as they age.
Several studies suggest that the following substances and nutrients may help to reduce some of the effects of these changes and are therefore added to some foods marketed to senior dogs:.
When it comes down to it, there is no one best senior dog food. It is important to evaluate your own dog before making adjustments to his diet because every dog especially an older one needs a different nutritional strategy. Just because your dog is a senior does not mean he needs senior food.
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To get a sense of what your dog needs in his diet, ask yourself the following questions to determine which dietary adjustments might help. As always, consult your vet for further guidance on addressing these conditions through diet, supplements, and other lifestyle changes. A food higher in protein might help; the usual recommendation for senior pets is more than 75 grams of protein per 1, calories. If your vet has ruled out an underlying medical issue, your dog might find a diet higher in protein or fat more palatable.
Senior dogs sometimes do not eat as much as they used to. If that is your dog, food with higher amounts of vitamins and minerals is a good idea. This information is not always listed on product labels, but foods marked "all life stages" will often have more vitamins and minerals than adult foods.
You can also supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin, two components of cartilage that are good for joints. Some foods have glucosamine and chondroitin added, but it is usually not enough to make a difference.
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Talk to your vet about a comprehensive strategy for reducing these effects of aging. Extra DHA may be particularly important , too.
Does my dog have kidney disease or another chronic disease? Look for a food with extra fiber in the form of psyllium or higher-fiber veggies like broccoli or green beans. A prebiotic fiber like FOS, derived from chicory root, may help to normalize the bacteria in his gut.
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Because crude fiber on product labels only describes insoluble fiber, the type that adds bulk to the stool, you need to look more closely at the label for soluble, or prebiotic, fibers e. A lower-fat diet may help. Otherwise, most healthy senior dogs do quite well on high-fat diets, as long as you control the portions. Some senior dogs do not drink enough water due to kidney disease or behavioral changes. In these cases, foods higher in moisture liked canned or fresh can help them get the extra hydration they need.
Finding the best dog food for senior dogs involves looking for certain beneficial ingredients while also avoiding those that could pose problems.
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