Having a dog get up there in years can be daunting, and finding the best dog food for senior dogs can be stressful. While some health problems are inevitable, there are others that can be avoided or minimized with proper nutrition. With the stakes so high when it comes to what to feed our senior dogs, we’ve asked the experts at PetMio what to look for in the best dog food for senior dogs.
Answering our questions today are 1. Dr. Nobuki Stobaeus, DVM and member of the PetMio Veterinary Advisory Panel, as well as 2. Kasra Farsad, PetMio Chief Food Scientist.
When a Dog Should Be Considered Senior
In order to best assess your pet’s life stage, factors such as age, breed, and size need to be considered. For instance, larger dogs (such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers) may benefit from a senior diet from as early as age 5. Individuals inside of those breeds, however, might take until age 8 to be considered geriatric.
For smaller dogs, which tend to have longer life spans, waiting until age 7 or 8 may make more sense. Very small breeds such as Chihuahua’s could transition to senior status as late as 10-12 years.
The important thing to do, states Farsad, is monitor their behavior and take note of any changes in eating and drinking behavior as they reach later stages in their life. If you notice changes, that is the first indicator that it may be time to re-evaluate their diets and needs.
Together with your observations and regular visits to the vet, you can find an approximate time to start thinking about senior dog food.
What Better Nutrition Can Do for Older Dogs
Just like humans, time takes a toll on dogs’ bodies. Dr. Stobaeus states that senior dogs tend to suffer a lot from obesity and arthritis, with one causing and aggravating another. Part of this is due to genetics and their level of activity, but nutrition plays a key role as well. Finding the right balance of calories and energy needs can lead to healthy weights and eased joint pain.
As you’ll see, nutrition has implications for their immune systems, bone and joint health, and other vital functions into our dogs’ golden years.
The Best Dog Food For Senior Dogs: Digestive Health
As your pet ages, their ability to digest food slows as does their metabolism. For this reason, food that is designed for senior dogs is typically lower in calories. This helps senior dogs either lose weight or maintain healthy weights, since they are less likely to burn calories.
The important thing to note is senior dogs do not need as much calories each day, but still need the sufficient amounts of each nutrient. This is why simply giving them less of the same food is not sufficient to meet their changing needs into senior years.
When reading labels, pay attention to the amount of calories per serving and make sure its lower without sacrificing nutrients (ie protein, fiber, etc). You’ll notice a lower fat content while still having healthy, nutritious ingredients listed first on the dog food label.
The Best Dog Food For Senior Dogs: Brain, Skin, Kidney, and Joint Health:
Dr. Stobaeus recommends to pay particular attention to sources of Omega fatty acids in your senior dog’s food. These nutrients help with brain activity, skin health, kidney health, and joint health. Look for foods containing ingredients like fish oils and coconut oils. If your dog’s everyday food does not contain these, then you should consider supplementing their diet with them.
A special note for large breed dog owners: larger dogs are especially prone to joint and bone problems as they age. For this reason, finding a food with a joint and bone health supplement such as glucosamine, MSM, and chondroitin is highly recommended.
The Best Dog Food For Senior Dogs: Immune System Support:
Farsad mentions that senior dogs’ immune systems get weaker with age. He recommends adding supplements to boost and maintain their immune system if sufficient ingredients aren’t in their everyday food. “Finding foods or treats rich in antioxidants and Omega fatty acids will help dogs of all breeds and ages stay healthy,” Farsad advises.
What to Avoid in Senior Dog Food
There are a lot of diets that say they are formulated for “All Lifestages.” Dr. Stobaeus tends to avoid these because in order to be included in this category, the diet has to be formulated for puppies as well. Puppies, however, require a large amount of calories in order to grow.
This is very bad for older pets since they are trying to maintain their body weight. Some senior dogs should even lose a little bit of weight in order to improve mobility on their sore joints.
Farsad recommends focusing on issues unique to your senior dog. PetMio believes that unique needs are vital to getting your pet’s nutrition right. For instance, if your pet is experiencing reduced kidney function in later years, then you need to make sure any food you choose is lower in protein to reduce the wear and tear on their kidneys.
Talking to Your Vet
Ultimately, the team at PetMio strongly recommends you discuss your nutritional options carefully with your vet, including when and how to transition to the best dog food for senior dogs.
Some questions you should ask your vet are:
Based on my dog’s characteristics and lifestyle, when should we start transitioning to senior dog food?
Is my pet at a good weight or do they need to lose weight?
Does my dog need more fiber in their diet in order to help with their stools?
Does my dog have arthritis or other mobility issues?
What supplements, if any, should I start adding to my dog’s diet to avoid unique problems they may face?
As we gear up to deliver our own pet food, we promise to take everything in this article into consideration as your pet ages, including their unique needs and lifestyle. Click here to learn more about PetMio and how we intend to revolutionize the pet food industry.