You adopted your dog when they were young and energetic, but now your dog is hitting their senior years. More vet visits, different fur, skin and health conditions, lower energy levels, and wondering when to switch to senior food: these are all signs that your dog is getting older. Read this article to identify how you can adjust to parenting a senior dog.
Senior Dog Diet
One of the main questions dog owners will ask is, “What food does my senior dog need?” or “When to switch to senior food?” These are excellent questions that will be answered comprehensively:
When To Switch To Senior Food?
It is important to consider the move to senior food once your dog is in the 6-10 age range. This range depends on the breed. Bigger dogs tend to age quicker than smaller dogs, but it also depends on their overall health. Older dogs have unique needs as they can become too skinny in their older years. Smaller dogs might have the opposite problem and become too overweight. It is important to access the situation accordingly when choosing when and how to switch to senior food.
Most senior dogs are more likely to become obese, so for many dogs, a diet lower in calories and higher in fiber is an ideal choice. Your elderly dog will likely be moving around less than they once did, so a reduced diet would be beneficial.
When switching to senior food, feed them the same amount that you typically do, the food will just be healthier.
As the owner, it is your responsibility to keep an eye on their weight loss and gain. You can adjust how much, when, and what you feed them according to their weight fluctuation. If you are having a hard time determining what is best for your furry friend, discuss senior food options with your qualified veterinarian to learn and adjust.
So the question now is, “When to switch to senior food?”
Determine the age of your dog in accordance with their breed, weight, and overall health. If your dog is showing any signs of senior dog traits and they are within the 6-10 age range it might be a good idea to switch their food out. Adult dog food is great for dogs with a normal routine and a lot of energy. Although, for senior dogs, it starts to become too many calories, with not enough fiber. Be sure to always discuss options with your veterinarian before you make a drastic change in your dog’s life.
What Food Does My Senior Dog Need?
You have determined that your dog is indeed a senior, and you need to choose a proper diet for their aging body.
The overall goal when considering a senior diet is to find:
- Low Calorie
- High Fiber
- Adequate protein and fat
You can consider leaving your senior dog on their current dog food, but simply adjusting the proportions if they are eating too much. Some dogs stay active until the day they sadly pass, and this is not uncommon. If your dog is not overweight, and they seem in overall great health, by all means, keep them on the food they are used to!
You do not want to overwork your dog’s kidney and heart by feeding them too many calories, especially in old age. Many senior diets are beneficial because they give your dog the feeling that they are eating the same amount, but with fewer calories and fat in the actual kibble.
If you are ready to switch your dog to a new diet consider these senior dog foods as recommended by MedicAnimal:
- The right balance of protein and energy for an older dog – senior dogs need just enough – but not too much – high-quality meat to keep them healthy and trim, so each kibble contains 45% lamb as recommended by vets
- Natural, health-boosting botanicals – to help safeguard your dog against illnesses and take care of digestion, skin & coat, and joint & bone health, including: Cranberry – Rosehip – Sweet potato – Apple – Chamomile – Omega 3+6 – Prebiotics & Probiotics – Parsley – Chicory root – Peas – Rosemary – Yucca Schidigera – Sea Algae
- Weight control – added the health supplement L-carnitine which helps your dog’s body control its ratio of fat to muscle (very clever!)
- suitable for adult dogs aged seven years and up
- made from real meat and freshly prepared fish
- vegetable fiber and prebiotics aid digestion
- vitamins and botanical herbs support healthy organs
- glucosamine maintains supple joints for an active life
- seaweed and salmon oil keeps his brain sharp
- a complete mix to support your dog’s joints
- glucosamine and chondroitin reduce inflammation and repair cartilage
- balance of sodium and phosphorous keep vital organs healthy
- highly digestible ingredients for maximum absorption.
- Vitality & brain health, selection of nutrients that help support vital function in ageing dogs.
- Skin barrier, a patented complex to support the barrier effect of the skin.
- Muscle mass support, a specific balanced formulation to help preserve muscle mass with age.
- Digestive tolerance, nutrients that support a balanced intestinal flora and digestive transit.
Does my Senior Dog Need Supplements?
If you have your senior dog’s diet settled and ready to go, your next question might be, “Does my senior dog need supplements?”. This is a great question, although it varies from dog to dog. Most dogs get arthritis when they age, just like humans do.
Some great supplements to limit the effects of arthritis are chondroitin and glucosamine. MedicAnimal recommends a supplement called Yumove for aging dogs. This supplement decreases stiffening, supports joint structure, and promotes mobility. A supplement like this would be good for almost any older dog, as arthritis is almost universal in aging dogs.
My Senior Dog Won’t Eat
It is more common to have a senior dog that overeats and becomes obsese, although undereating is certainly something that can occur when your dog is aging. It is vital to make an appointment with your vet as soon as you notice your dog reduces their eating, loses an extreme amount of weight, or stops eating altogether. Until you receive a vet recommendation you can wett your dog’s kibble to make it easier to chew.
Older dogs tend to have fragile and sensitive teeth, so it might be affecting their eating habits. If this doesn’t work, consider making them a homemade recipe instead.
Making homemade dog food is fairly simple and your dog will almost always love it. Boil rice, chicken, potatoes, and vegetables, check with your vet to ensure you’re adding the correct amount of each food group. Have your vet do a full check-up on your senior dog to ensure there are not any major health issues going on. Health issues can cause a dog to lose their appetite.
Senior Dog Traits
Once a dog becomes a certain age (8 and older depending on the breed) they start to develop elderly health disorders. These health issues can be anything from cancer, diabetes, arthritis, teeth rotting, and many other issues. Epilepsy, surgery, and worsening body aches all require medicine. Dog medicine can be expensive so it is important to prepare financially.
You must additionally be prepared to pay extra for vet visits when they become older. (Quick tip: save 5% or less of your income to save for future vet bills, like you would for a health savings account). Another helpful tip is to get health insurance for your dog in case of emergencies, when you might not have the money.
The older your dog is, the more expensive the insurance will be. Many vet offices will work with owners to take the best steps towards the dog’s health and owners financial success. Although, it is your responsibility to prepare for the worst.
Prepare for the psychological mental toll that health problems such as incontinence will have on your dog. Your dog wants to please their owners and be good. It is hard to watch your dog have accidents in the house when they are older. Ensure they are comfortable by having them wear diapers in the house, or assisting them to their outside potty area.
Prepare for a lot of time and commitment dedicated to your elderly dog. As their owner, you are the sole person who can make them feel comfortable within their last few years.
For your senior dog, expect their basic care to change. For instance, older dogs will need more frequent tooth brushing and bathing. Although, you must be extremely careful when cleaning your dog. Older dogs can easily slip in a bathtub, or bleed when the owner brushes their teeth too hard. It might take more time to be careful but it is vital to be gentle with your dog to ensure their safety.
There is a good chance that your senior dog will still have a decent amount of energy, and maintain their same smiley temperament as they age. It really just depends on the breed and personality of your dog. They could display all levels of activity, just as humans do as we age. Your dog will tend to match the energy of the family. If you have spent every weekend going out in nature with your dog, you can expect they will still enjoy the activities.
As an owner, it is your responsibility to somewhat limit what activities your senior dog participates in. If you walk 10 miles a day with them, maybe lower it and see how they adjust. You know your dog better than anyone, if they seem like they are slowing down, you need to let them know it is okay.
Do not push your older dog to do more than they can handle. Dogs can be stimulated in numerous ways that do not include exerting themselves physically.
Consider offering your senior dog a lick mat, or a toy stuffed with their favorite treat. Playing low-energy games with your dog such as teaching them small tricks, or offering them a puzzle to solve is also great to stimulate your dog.
On the other side, some dogs have been apartment dogs their whole lives. Those dogs may become nearly stagnant upon old age, which can lead to increased risk of heart trouble and diabetes. If this is how your elderly dog is acting, you may want to encourage more movement and/or limit and change their diet.
There is a fine line between too much exercise and not enough for your senior dog. As the owner, you are the best person to access the situation. If you cannot decide what your dog needs in terms of exercise, it is always a good idea to ask a vet or a dog nutritionist.
A senior dog requires an immense amount of time. When you adopt your dog as a puppy, you need to understand that one day they will get older and you should be prepared. Puppies take hours and hours to train but senior dogs have their own issues and as an owner you must take this into consideration.
You will likely spend more time at the vet, making their food, cleaning up accidents, and determining how to make them as comfortable as they can be. Your dog might additionally suffer from joint issues in their older years and require special steps, or their owners help to get them around the house and outside.
We know you love your pup, they are family! Stay patient, and remember how much joy they have given you throughout their beautiful life.
Enjoying Your Senior Dog
Now you understand the commitment and requirements to adjusting to having a senior dog. Now, enjoy your pup while you still can! Their life might look different now that they are older, but they are still the same best friend you fell in love with when they were a puppy. Enjoy every single day you have with your precious senior dog!