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Dogs do not live as long as humans, that is a fact. Because their lives are much shorter than ours, they reach senior citizen age much sooner. When a dog reaches the age of six or seven, he is said to be a “senior” dog. As your dog ages, his nutritional needs will change so you should also be changing his diet. When your dog was a puppy he had much higher needs for protein and fat than he did as an adult. When your dog becomes a senior, his nutritional needs change again – he needs fewer calories but adequate levels of protein, vitamins and minerals. You cannot prevent your dog from developing inherited conditions that might impact his lifespan, but you can help him to live as full and long a life as possible by feeding him a healthy senior diet in his old age. In this article you will learn the basics about the nutritional needs for senior dogs as well as tips for choosing a high-quality senior dog food diet. You will also receive recommendations for several high-quality senior dog food formulas.
Nutritional Needs for Senior Dogs
Some dog breeds live longer than others, so a small-breed dog might not show age-related changes to his body and metabolism as soon as a large-breed dog. In order for your dog to be classified as a senior, he should fall within one of the following categories:
- Small-breed dog (under 20 pounds) – 7 years of age
- Medium-breed dog (21 to 50 pounds) – 7 years of age
- Large-breed dog (51 to 90 pounds) – 6 years of age
- Giant-breed dog (91 pounds or more) – 5 years of age
As your dog ages, he is likely to develop any number of health conditions including deterioration of his coat and skin; frequent intestinal issues; loss of muscle mass; arthritis; weight gain or obesity; dental problems; and weakened immune system. When your dog gets older, his metabolism will naturally begin to slow down (the same is true for humans) so, he might gain weight despite eating fewer calories than he did as a young adult. This change in body composition may be due to decreased exercise/activity levels as well as metabolic changes – it could also be because you are feeding him a diet that is too high in calories. Senior dogs require a commercial dog food diet that has a low caloric density but still enough protein to maintain his muscle mass.
In addition to adequate protein levels, senior dogs require a dog food that provides adequate levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GMA). GMA is a type of omega-6 fatty acid that helps to maintain skin and coat health. As your dog ages, his liver might not produce as much GMA, so his skin and coat might become dry or diminish in condition and quality. Aging can also have a negative impact on your dog’s intestinal flora and fauna – the beneficial bacteria that help to support healthy digestion – which can increase your dog’s risk for gastrointestinal diseases and disorders. A high-quality diet for senior dogs should contain fructooligosacharides (FOS) to ensure maintenance of healthy gut bacteria.
As your dog gets older, free radicals can cause damage to the body’s cells and tissues – this damage contributes to the appearance of aging in dogs. Antioxidants like Vitamin E and beta-carotene can help to reduce or reverse free radical damage – they can also help to boost immune system activity in older dogs. Older dogs are also at a higher risk for diabetes, a condition in which the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body becomes resistant to its effects. Diabetic dogs are prone to spikes in blood sugar levels which can be very unhealthy. Dietary changes for diabetic dogs can help to regulate blood glucose levels – recommended changes include lower fat and higher fiber content. High-fiber foods are also beneficial for dogs that suffer from constipation, a condition that commonly affects older dogs.
How to Choose a High-Quality Senior Dog Food
When it comes to choosing a high-quality dog food for your senior dog, the main objective is to find a product that will help your dog to maintain a healthy weight, to prevent the development of disease, and to minimize clinical signs of any diseases your dog may already have. Avoid any senior dog food formula that is marketed as low-protein – these products will not provide the protein levels your senior dog needs to maintain healthy muscle mass. Multiple scientific studies have shown that a dog’s need for protein does not decrease with age. Furthermore, protein levels in a senior dog’s diet do not contribute directly to the progression or development of renal failure. A dog food that is made with high-quality animal-based protein sources is just as important for senior dogs as it is for puppies and adult dogs.
To summarize the information from the last section, a high-quality dog food formulated for senior dogs should include the following:
- High-quality animal-based protein
- High-quality natural fats and oils
- Moderate complex, digestible carbohydrate content
- Made with a named animal source of meat
- Free from vegetable and animal by-products
- Free from artificial coloring, flavoring and preservatives
- Balanced in vitamins and minerals
- Fortified with GMA, FOS, and antioxidants
Your senior dog’s individual dietary needs may be different from the average senior dog if he has been diagnosed with certain medical conditions. Be sure to consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet and, if you do make changes, incorporate them slowly to avoid putting too much stress on your dog’s digestive system.
Top Recommended Dog Foods for Senior Dogs
Now that you understand the basics about nutritional needs for senior dogs and have received tips for selecting a health senior food you may be curious to see some examples of products that are good for senior dogs. Below you will find several recommendations for commercial dry dog food products that are specially designed for senior dogs:
Blue Buffalo Blue Wilderness Senior
Blue Buffalo offers several dry dog foods (and canned foods) that are specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of senior dogs. The Blue Wilderness Chicken Recipe for Senior Dogs is designed to imitate the diet of wolves – it is grain-free and protein-rich, made with high-quality ingredients. This Blue Wilderness formula is made with deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal to provide high levels of protein as well as sweet potatoes and peas for complex, digestible carbohydrates. This senior dog food formula includes a variety of essential amino acids to support heart health as well as chelated minerals, vitamins, and various antioxidants to support a healthy immune system. High-quality animal-based proteins like chicken and turkey help your senior dog to maintain healthy muscle mass while chondroitin and glucosamine supplements support joint and hip function as well as overall mobility for your aging dog.
Nutro ULTRA Senior Dry Dog Food
This ULTRA Senior Dry food from Nutro is packed with high-quality ingredients like protein, vitamins, and minerals as well as joint health supplements including glucosamine and antioxidants like beta-carotene. This dry food formula contains chicken, chicken meal, whole brown rice, ground rice, and rice bran as the top five ingredients on the list. The fact that two high-quality sources of animal protein are listed at the top of the ingredients list means that this formula is rich in the protein senior dogs need to maintain muscle mass. Complex carbohydrates like whole brown rice provide valuable dietary fiber to support gut health and digestion. This formula also contains beneficial ingredients like rolled oats, salmon meal, lamb meal, chicken fat, fish oil, dried egg, and a variety of dried fruits and vegetables. Overall, this product has a guaranteed analysis of 26% protein, 11% fat, and 4% crude fiber.
Innova Senior Dog Food
This Innova Senior Dog Food formula is designed for senior dogs aged 8 years or older. It is a nutrient-rich formula made from high-quality ingredients like fresh turkey and chicken as well as whole grain oats and whole grain brown rice. This formula offers a guaranteed analysis of 24% protein, 10% fat, and 5.5% crude fiber – it also contains chelated minerals and a number of valuable antioxidants. This Innova Senior Dog Food formula is made with 100% whole grains to ensure that your senior dog gets the fiber he needs for healthy digestion – it is also rich in lean protein to support healthy muscle mass. Innova Senior Dog Food is supplemented with chondroitin and glucosamine for joint health as well as high levels of Vitamin E for anti-aging and essential fatty acids to improve skin and coat health.
The dog food formula you choose for your aging dog is completely up to you but, if you want your senior dog to remain healthy as he ages, it is essential that you choose a dog food that provides for his nutritional needs. After reading this article you should have a firm understanding of the nutritional needs for senior dogs, how to select a high-quality senior dog food, and a few recommendations for high-quality senior dog food formulas.