Properly feeding older dogs

Our dogs are living longer and longer thanks to advances in medicine and a balanced diet. That’s great! And you can make your own contribution to your senior dog’s well-being with the right healthcare and feeding.

What changes in old age

Dogs’ bodies undergo quite a few changes as the years go by. Many processes are rather stealthy and go unnoticed for a long time. Internal organs such as the liver and kidneys and the cardiovascular system often become less efficient, most metabolic functions slow down and the immune defence is generally weaker than in young animals.

As a result, older pets can easily fall ill. The senses such as hearing, sight, smell and taste also become less efficient over time. Sometimes dogs will suddenly refuse to eat their usual food. But you should check with your vet to rule out any physical reason for the loss of appetite.

What the older dog needs

Once your dog reaches the age of 7–9, it is important to regularly visit the vet for health checks and blood tests. You should also keep an eye on your canine friend’s ideal weight, as older dogs do tend to gain weight. As they age, dogs often move around less. You should therefore adapt the amount of food you give as surplus pounds can result in health problems. Their food should have just a moderate energy content.

What a senior food should do

Your vet is the best person to suggest when you need to change over to a senior diet. The important factor in a good senior food is that it has a low fat content and is matched to the dog’s decreasing energy requirements.

 

The proteins contained in the diet should be high quality and easily digestible as the digestive tract is becoming less efficient. Organic high quality protein sources do not unnecessarily overload the metabolism. Fewer toxins are created as they are broken down.

 

The crude fibre or roughage content should also be increased appropriately to avoid colonic inertia and constipation. The kidneys should also not have to work so hard. It is therefore important to reduce both the phosphorus and protein content in a senior dog diet. This will all help to ensure that your four-legged friend remains fit and agile long into his old age.

Tip:

Divide your senior’s daily ration into several small portions. You can also soften the biscuits with a little warm water. This will make the food easier to digest and your dog will generally prefer it this way.