This article is on feeding senior dogs 7 tips. As your once puppy now enters his or her golden years, some things will inevitably change. He’ll still be your best friend, of course, and the vacuum will always be his nemesis. But just like us human animal’s canine animals’ health needs change a bit as well.
One major area you should be aware of is the importance of quality food and supplemental nutrition you give your senior dog. We checked with the experts what to look out for and what you may need to adjust for your senior pup. Here are 7 important tips for your senior dog’s health.
As always, consult with your own veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s diet—each dog is unique.
- DENTAL ISSUES
If you notice your senior dog is having a hard time eating his kibble, dental disease and tooth pain may very well be to blame. While switching to a softer food may seem to help, it’s crucial to actually address the root of the problem. “Proper dental care can greatly enhance an older dog’s life,” says Dr. Heather Frankfurt, a Texas-based veterinarian who sees many senior dogs with advanced dental disease. “Imagine having a tooth ache, or many, for several years!”
If your dog has stopped eating, however, it’s very unlikely that dental disease is solely to blame—Frankfurt notes that most pets will figure out a way to eat through tooth pain. As with all changes to eating patterns, a visit to your veterinarian is in order.
2. JOINT SUPPLEMENT
Just as senior humans experience joint trouble, your dog is at risk of arthritis and pain. And while plenty of commercial foods are formulated to support joint health, an additional supplement may be appropriate. Frankfurt recommends that dogs over the age of 7 take a joint supplement; for larger breeds, this age could be even earlier. “There are many brands and types of joint supplements available, and it can become overwhelming to choose one,” she says. “Look for a product that contains MSM, chondroitin, and glucosamine—when combined, these ingredients promote healthy joints.”
Antioxidants are prized for their ability to fight disease and the effects of aging. They’re front and center at your trendy juice bar, and can be a healthy addition to your dog’s bowl as well, under the guidance of a veterinarian. “If they’re acting aged, they usually need antioxidants, in my view,” says Dr. Susan G. Wynn, a veterinary nutritionist. “One of the best ways to do this is to supplement fruits and veggies, but some dogs don’t tolerate them or won’t eat them. In that case, I will prescribe an antioxidant combination in capsule form.” If your pup is open to it, consider adding berries, turmeric, and dark leafy greens to his meal.
Known to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids are good for you and your aging pup. Want to reap the benefits? Consider adding fish to his diet. “Senior pets require higher levels of omega-3s for brain and heart health,” says Dr. Judy Morgan, a veterinarian certified in food therapy. “I use sardines, due to the higher heavy metal contamination in larger fish.” Fish oil supplements are another option to increase omega-3s in your dog’s diet. It is possible to get too many fatty acids, however, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian.
5. WATCH THE WEIGHT
A healthy weight makes for a healthy pup at any age. When seniors slow down, it’s especially important to keep an eye on that scale—extra weight is just as dangerous for our pets as it is for us.
“It’s just so easy to give an extra treat or fill up the food bowl a little bit more—food makes our pets so happy,” says Frankfurt. “However, obesity is something I take quite seriously because of the toll it takes on our pets’ bodies.”
So what can you do? Start with the basics, says Frankfurt. Measure precisely how much food you give at each meal, and never allow your dog to free-feed throughout the day—a constantly full bowl is a fast pass to obesity. Instead, feed your pet at designated intervals at least twice a day to keep him feeling satisfied. If he eats too quickly, consider a “busy bowl” or food puzzle to stretch out mealtime and help him get the most enjoyment out of those calories.
And don’t pay full attention to what the dog food bag says as how much to feed your dog. Watch him or her. If they look fat feed them less. If they look skinny feed them more. Meat produces muscle and grains can cause weight retention so feed your pet needed meat protein over grain proteins.
6. HEALTHIER TREATS
Your dog loves them, and you love giving them to him. But unfortunately, commercial treats are calorie bombs and can undo all the work you’ve done portioning out breakfast and dinner. Fresh fruits and veggies are just as rewarding—you just have to condition your dog to see them as treats.
“I always recommend that pet owners introduce veggies and fruits to their pets at as young an age as possible,” says Wynn. “They’re the healthiest treats we can use. If you teach the dog early that a vegetable is good, then veggies are treats to them.”
For easy rewards, consider small apple slices (without seeds), pear slices, blueberries, mini carrots, or for a cold treat… frozen green beans
7. RAISE THE BOWL
When was the last time you bought a new food bowl? Was it during puppy-hood? If so, it may be time to upgrade to something more senior-friendly. For dogs with joint trouble, Frankfurt recommends a raised bowl to reduce the need to bend, keeping mealtime as comfortable as possible. And while you’re at it, put those bowls through the dishwasher—we have a tendency to forget this chore. And don’t let multiple dogs drink from the same bowl as it can spread disease.
Steven Monahan is a writer, author and animal welfare rights leader. He is founder of Green Pets America Charities and the Clean Pet Food Adviser. Both are no-profit organizations in Atlanta Georgia. His current animal welfare book is RESCUE RENEW REHOME, available on Amazon Books and other book retailers. Steve has been recognized by the State of Georgia for humanitarian efforts on behalf of families and companion animals.
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