Dogs are living longer, healthier live than ever before thanks to better knowledge of dog nutritional needs and the availability of good veterinary care. Because most people consider dogs to be a part of the family, they’re willing to provide their pets with good nutrition and preventive health care to help prolong their lives as much as possible.
With the life span of dogs expanding, more dogs are entering into their twilight years where it’s more important than ever to provide them with a healthy diet to help maintain their health and functionality. Knowledge of older dog nutritional needs is important for maintaining the health and happiness of your loyal canine companion.
One of the most important factors to consider when determining older dog nutritional needs is caloric intake. One of the most common problems seen in older dogs is obesity which reduces your dog’s activity levels and also increases his risk of developing diabetes and arthritis. Added weight also puts additional stress on virtually every organ system in a dog’s body. Just as humans require fewer calories as they age, the caloric requirement of dogs also drops. This means if you’re feeding your dog the same amount as when he was young, he’s probably putting on weight. Dogs also become less active with age further increasing their risk for obesity.
Decreasing your older dog’s risk of obesity is one way you can help him to live a longer life. This is best done by compensating for how much you food give based on your dog’s nutritional needs at any given age. One way this can be accomplished is by switching over to a lower calorie, dog food or feeding smaller quantities of your dog’s current food. This switch should be made at around age seven in a small to medium sized dog breed and at age six in larger breeds. This is also a good time to reassess your dog’s activity level and how many snacks he’s getting on a daily basis. Remember all of those bites of people food count toward your dog’s caloric intake. If in doubt as to what food to feed your dog, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation at your next visit.
Although there are dog foods formulated specifically for senior dogs that are lower in calories and fat, they may also be lower in protein. Unlike humans, a dog’s protein requirements don’t drop with age. In fact, a study published in Top Companion Animal Medicine found that dog nutritional requirements for protein increase by fifty percent as they enter their twilight years. If protein intake is kept to low, the result can be loss of lean body mass and even premature death. This study suggests that dogs should get at least a quarter of their calories from protein as they age. The exception to this would be dogs who have kidney disease where excess protein intake could be harmful to kidney function.
As you dog ages, more frequent visits to the vet are recommended and this would be a good time to discuss your dog’s weight and feeding requirements to help keep your canine companion around as long as possible.