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Healthy Dogs

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Pet Owners Confused About Best Food for Old Dogs

Survey Shows Many Owners Aren’t Sure About Nutritional Requirements for Aging Pets

Choosing the Right Amount of Sodium continued...

Survey respondents also were unsure whether foods for senior dogs compared to products for adult dogs would contain more or less phosphorous. Phosphorous restriction may be beneficial for dogs with kidney disease, a fact most veterinarians know, but most pet owners wouldn’t.

The actual diets had a threefold difference in phosphorous content, including one that contained three times the minimum recommended by AAFCO for the mineral.

The findings suggest that the public needs to be informed about the nutritional needs of aging pets, according to Dana Hutchinson, DVM, a co-author of the study and also a Tufts researcher.

“Factors that are equally if not more important are that the food is made by a well-established company -- one with at least one veterinary nutritionist or qualified nutritionist on staff -- that has proven the food’s nutritional adequacy through AAFCO feeding trials and that has rigorous quality control standards,” Hutchinson says.

Nutritional Needs for Older Dogs

The findings suggest considerable confusion about the nutritional needs of aging and old dogs, and Freeman says it is important for owners to know that every “senior diet” is different and may or may not be appropriate for their pets.

“The decision to buy a certain type of food for your aging dog is an emotional one,” Freeman says. “You want to extend her life and ensure she’s healthy well into her twilight years.”

But not all dogs need a senior diet, and owners should discuss this issue with their veterinarians, because selecting the best food for dogs is important.

Dogs are like people in that one size doesn’t fit all, the researchers say. Different animals have different needs based on age, weight, and activity and metabolism levels.

It’s easy for dog owners to be confused about what to feed senior dogs for a variety of reasons, including the fact that some pet food companies classify dogs as seniors as early as 5 years of age, while others use the term for dogs over 8. This is not surprising, in part because nutritional requirements for senior dogs have not been clearly identified.

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