Senior Dog Food: Meeting Aging Canines’ Nutritional Needs
Experts give advice on caring for your senior dog’s nutritional needs.
What health problems can affect a senior dog’s diet?
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. “Older pets
with specific conditions, like diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease may require
special veterinary diets to assist in the treatment of their conditions,”
Dogs with heart disease may need
lower-calorie senior dog foods to help keep weight down as well as lower-sodium
“The goal of a diabetic diet is to delay absorption of a food," Nunez
says. 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.
Consult your veterinarian about which type of food to buy.
Some senior dogs also have trouble with constipation, so a higher-fiber
diet will help them stay regular.
Many senior diets have higher-quality protein sources than standard foods.
This helps to maintain body weight and muscle mass without putting too much
strain on the kidneys.
Should senior dogs take supplements?
Many older dogs struggle with arthritis and joint pain. To
address this problem, many senior dog foods contain glucosamine and chondroitin
sulphate, which Nunez says may help the joints.
Metzger also says that owners who decide to give their dogs glucosamine and
chondroitin supplements should use veterinary formulations, not human ones.
Although such supplements may be useful, dogs with joint problems and
arthritis benefit more from slimming down, Nunez says. “People think
glucosamine is the best thing, but the very best thing is weight
What should an owner do when a senior dog won’t eat?
It’s common for older dogs to have reduced appetite, Nunez says. Causes
vary. For example, some dogs have gastrointestinal problems that bring on
nausea, while others lose their appetite because of cancer.
“When a dog won’t eat,” Metzger says, “make sure your veterinarian rules out
any underlying health problems, such as dental disease, diabetes, kidney
disease, or cancer.” He also says that when dogs lose interest in dry food,
adding warm water, chicken broth, or a small amount of canned food can make it
Home-cooked meals can be enticing, too. “That extra smell and that extra TLC
can get the dog to eat,” Nunez says. Some owners feed their dogs combinations
of foods, such as cooked chicken and barley or cooked lamb and rice.
Pet stores also sell bottles of flavor enhancers that owners can add to
food. “Also, as a last resort, there are medications -- appetite stimulants --
that can help dogs eat," Nunez says.
But these treatments should be used only after veterinarians have ruled out
serious diseases, Metzger says.