Proper Diet and Nutrition in Older Dogs

Senior Dog

Dogs start showing visible, age-related changes at about seven to twelve years of age. There are metabolic, immunologic and body composition changes, that occur during that age span. Some of these are unavoidable. Others can be managed with a proper diet.

Since smaller dogs tend to live longer and don’t experience age-related changes as early as bigger dogs, size is used to determine when it’s time to feed your canine a senior diet:

  • Small breeds/dogs weighing less than 20 pounds—7 years of age
  • Medium breeds/dogs weighing 21 to 50 pounds—7 years of age
  • Large breeds/dogs weighing 51 to 90 pounds—6 years of age
  • Giant breeds/dogs weighing 91 pounds or more—5 years of age

The main objectives in the feeding an older dog should be to maintain health and optimum body weight, slow or prevent the development of chronic disease, and minimize or improve clinical signs of diseases that may already be present.

As a dog ages, health issues may arise, including:

– deterioration of skin and coat

– loss of muscle mass

– more frequent intestinal problems

– arthritis

– obesity

– dental problems

– decreased ability to fight off infection

Older dogs have been shown to progressively put on body fat in spite of consuming fewer calories. This change in body composition is inevitable and may be aggravated by either reduced energy expenditure or a change in metabolic rate. Either way, it is important to feed a diet with a lower caloric density to avoid weight gain, but with a normal protein level to help maintain muscle mass.

Avoid “senior” diets that have reduced levels of protein. Studies have shown that the protein requirement for older dogs does not decrease with age, and that protein levels do not contribute to the development or progression of renal failure. It is important to feed older dogs diets that contain optimum levels of highly digestible protein to help maintain good muscle mass.

Talk to a Lange Animal Clinic veterinarian about increasing your senior dogs GLA intake. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid that plays a role in the maintenance of healthy skin and coat. Although it is normally produced in a dog’s liver, GLA levels may be diminished in older dogs. Does your older dog’s diet contain GLA?

Aging can affect a dog’s intestinal bacteria, which can result in symptoms of gastrointestinal disease. Senior diets for dogs should promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene help eliminate free radical particles that can damage body tissues and cause signs of aging. Senior diets for dogs should contain higher levels of these antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants can also increase the effectiveness of the immune system in senior dogs.

Routine care for geriatric pets should involve a consistent daily routine and periodic veterinary examinations to assess the presence or progress of chronic disease. Stressful situations and abrupt changes in daily routines should be avoided. If a drastic change must be made to an older pet’s routine, try to minimize stress and to realize the change in a gradual manner.

Halloween Pet Safety Tips

blackcatpumpkin

  1. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy. Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call us immediately or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
  2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, but they can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.
  3. Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.
  4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.
  5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause undue stress.
  6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go “au natural” or donning a festive bandana.
  7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.
  8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.
  9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.
  10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increasing the chances that he or she will be returned to you!