Senior Dogs and Nutrition
Aging is a fact of life, it matters not whether you are a human or a dog.
There is no escape from aging, but there are ways to make it feel and be a little less traumatic.
It is possible today to help ourselves enjoy a healthier and happier entrance into the world of aging and we can do the same for our dogs.
With the help of good veterinary care and proper nutrition our dogs can live longer, be healthier and enjoy life for longer periods of time.
At what age is a dog considered a senior?
Using the old standby of 1 human year equals 7 dog years does not work in today’s world. There is a whole new way of calculating our pet’s age.
The new rule of thumb for estimating a dog’s age now is geared to the size of the dog, with medium and small dogs living longer than large dogs.
To check your dog's age
click here on the new dog age calulations.
Like people, some dogs age faster than others, however slowing down and sleeping more is not always a sign of old age.
If your dog is sleeping more and does not want to do its usual walk, a trip to the vet, just might be necessary.
Excessive sleeping can be a cover up for pain and not wanting to walk could be a result of arthritis or something else. These are things that can be treated by your vet.
If your dog suddenly changes its habits, it is important that you have your vet check him/her over as soon as possible.
How can you help your dog live a longer and more healthier life?
Proper nutrition and supplements are one of the key factors.
Canine nutrition has come long way in the last 15 years. Researchers have found out that the old way of less protein and more carbohydrates for senior dogs is the wrong way to go.
In order for a dog to thrive and be healthy, it needs proper amounts of protein.
Protein supports the immune system, the central nervous system, helps heal wounds, helps build lean muscle and is necessary for healthy skin and coats.
If a dog does not get enough protein their bodies will break down their own muscle tissue to get the protein it needs. Not only does this effect the muscles, but effects the dog’s entire body.
Research has also proven in recent years that higher protein rich food does not effect a senior dog’s kidneys or liver.
The only time protein values have to be restricted is if your dog suffers from a disease called hepatic encephalopathy (a neurological problem caused by excessive ammonia in the body.)
It has also been said that decreasing the amount of protein and increasing the amount of carbs will keep a senior dog’s weight down. This too, has been proven incorrect as the caloric value per gram in protein and in carbohydrates is 4 calories per gram.
Extra carbohydrates in a dog’s diet does not improve the nutritional value of it. Excessive carbohydrates help increase inflammation, which causes more arthritis pain, obesity and bad digestion.
One of the most important factors in a senior dog’s health is maintaining a proper body weight. Like with we humans “lean” is better than “fat.”
However, skinny is not good and a proper nutritional balance needs to be found. Overweight contributes to serious joint problems.
Most of us know the battle of our own bulges and how hard it is to maintain the proper caloric intake to lose weight.
So how do you help your pet lose weight, if it is overweight?
The same way we lose weight, less calories and less fat. Fat contains 9 calories per gram so reducing the amount of fat in your dog’s diet will help with weight loss.
The secret here is to keep your dog feeling full, while reducing the amount of calories it takes in.
I am not suggesting a low-fat diet, as that will only make the dog feel hungrier and we know how dogs love food.
Also, fat is necessary for a healthy coat and skin, aids the immune system and helps digest fat-soluble vitamins.
If your dog is overweight and you are trying to cut back on its food do it very gradually, gradual is the secret word.
Cutting back on your dog’s food supply too quickly will cause its body to go into a “starvation mode” making losing any weight almost impossible.
Your dog’s metabolism will change and its body will hang on to all the nutrition it can get.
A little at a time is the secret here,
Substituting raw vegetable snacks for the usual treats will help, along with some fresh meat treats, low fat yogurt and cottage cheese.
Look for dry dog food and canned food that has lower calories, but make certain that it contains more protein content than carbohydrates and/or indigestible fibers.
Fillers do nothing to satisfy your dog’s hunger, protein will however.
If you are buying “senior food” for your dog, check labels, make certain it is not filled with cereal type products.
Protein content is what you want to see and it should have high protein levels from animal sources and moderate fat content.
It is not necessary to feed a senior dog, “senior food,” again high quality regular dog food is just fine.
The best idea is to find several different brands of dog food and rotate them this gives your dog a fresh taste every so often and keeps eating interesting.
Fresh veggies and things such as eggs, meat (raw or cooked), canned fish, yogurt, cottage cheese and healthy people food are also great for your dog.
Senior dogs also need exercise, there is nothing like a nice walk to help your dog loose some extra pounds.
If your dog is having problems with exercise, check with your vet.
Supplements are another means of keeping your dog healthy and active.
Glucosamine is good for dogs with arthritis, antioxidants are great for fighting “free radicals” along with other vitamins and minerals.
Check with your vet or holistic caregiver and do some research on the internet.
Your aging dog deserves the best care you can give it and with a little effort on your part, it need not be expensive or take too much of your time.