As our pets age, their nutritional needs can change. So as pet owners, we should continually evaluate those needs and make changes accordingly. We need to look at diet as well as evaluating the pet’s physical condition and activity level. But just because your pet is a senior does not mean that you need to immediately switch to a senior diet.
Many pet foods are designed for all life stages. Protein and fat levels in these foods are regulated by feeding levels. But not all foods fall into this category. You need to research the foods that you are feeding and make sure that they are formulated to meet the nutritional needs of all stages of life. If they do not then you need to evaluate your pet’s health and determine if you need to switch to a senior diet.
Generally, if your pet is healthy, of a good weight and their activity level is at least at a moderate level, then you are probably better off staying with the food that you are currently feeding. Senior dogs’ metabolism levels generally decrease with age. But active dogs in good condition need to maintain their protein and fat levels. As their activity levels decline, adjustments to protein and fat levels must be made so that weight issues do not occur.Another effect of aging is loss of muscle tone and joint health. Click To Tweet
In addition to weight gain, another effect of aging is loss of muscle tone and joint health. Many pet foods contain glucosamine and chondroitin. However, in most of these foods, the levels are only at the maintenance level at best. I would much prefer that manufacturers remove glucosamine and chondroitin from the foods to prevent overconfidence in pet owners that their pets’ needs are being fulfilled. I much prefer that pet owners maintain glucosamine and chondroitin in levels that meet the needs of their pets by adding the proper amount of supplements. If you add too much they will just pass through your pet but cost you more money. If you don’t add enough your pet may develop problems in joints and muscles.
Glucosamine acts as a joint lubricant. This helps your pet to move freely and without pain. Chondroitin, or chondroitin sulfate, helps with stress injuries and recovery of damaged connective tissue caused by arthritis. The combination of the two will help senior dogs, or dogs that have suffered an injury, to have more normal activity levels.
As your dogs age they may also show changes in their behavior. They can become less tolerant, especially to children, may have some restlessness, and may develop vision or hearing problems. Weight issues can also cause problems with their heart, lungs, kidneys and liver. I highly recommend that owners feed senior dogs twice a day. Lower levels twice a day will help keep your pet from getting hungry. Use fruits and vegetables as snacks instead of biscuits as rewards or snacks. And try to give your senior some exercise. Short walks are better than no walks. Don’t let your pet become a couch potato. You will be rewarded with a healthier, longer-lived friend.
Larry Jandrew has owned The Pet Source in Hendersonville since 1999. Before that, he spent decades in various capacities in pet food businesses.