Want to know at what age to start feeding your beloved gray-muzzled friend senior dog food? Worried about not feeding your senior dog the right type or amount of food? Then you are not alone! Integrative veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby knows how scary decisions like this can be, which is why she created this handy feeding guide for older dogs.
As a dog parent, you want to give your older dog the best of everything. This includes the food he or she eats. But how do you choose one? There are so many options on the market, each claiming to be just what your dog needs to live longer, be healthier, and be happier.
Ultimately, the decision of what food to feed your dog is between you, your dog and your veterinarian. But I hope to make things a little clearer by giving you the same advice I've given many of my clients - starting with why senior food is important for senior dogs.
Should I Feed My Dog Senior Dog Food?
As you may know, different dog foods are appropriate for different stages of your dog's life. For example, dog food is great for dogs because it's optimized for growth. And adult dogs benefit from a lower-calorie "adult diet" that still provides important nutrients for active dogs.
Likewise, many pet food companies manufacture diets specifically designed for older or "aged" dogs. Because senior dogs can be less active than adults, commercial senior dog foods tend to be lower in calories than adult or puppy versions.
Senior dog food may also contain additional ingredients to meet the special needs of senior dogs. For example, many diets contain glucosamine and chondroitin orOmega-3 fatty acids for dogs. These joint support ingredients are beneficial as most older dogs will developosteoarthritis in dogsat some point in your life. (It's important to note, however, that these foods - with a few exceptions - generally don't provide the same level of joint support asdietary supplements for dogsAsdr Buzby's Encore Mobility™ Hip & Joint Supplements.)
For all of these reasons, it's clear that senior dog food is a good choice for many older dogs. But if you might be wondering, is the time right to switch from adult nutrition to senior nutrition? Well...the answer is that it all boils down to what constitutes an "older dog".
At what age should I start feeding my dog senior food?
Despite the old story to discoverWhen is a dog considered elderly?It's not so easy to say that one human year equals seven dog years. It's true that your dog's age can help determine when he or she is officially a senior. But it is not the only factor. Your dog's overall size and breed also play a role.
For example, veterinarians may designate large breed dogs as young as six or seven years old as seniors. However, small breed dogs cannot become seniors until they are ten or eleven years old.
Based on this information, you can often guess when to start shopping for senior dog food. But sometimes the best way to figure out what age to start feeding seniors is to get your vet's opinion.
What is the best food for senior dogs?
Your vet can also help you figure out which senior food is right for your dog. It can be helpful to get his opinion because, as you've probably already discovered, it's there.manyby food companies bragging about how their diets are the best. And some might make bold claims about what your food can do for your four-legged companion.
Your vet's advice and the information I'm about to share with you can help you look beyond the marketing material and figure out which food is best.
When evaluating senior dog foods, I like to start by looking at the AAFCO Statements and the WSAVA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines.
AAFCO Statement Assessment
First, let's break down the AAFCO statement. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a group of regulatory officials who set pet food safety and quality standards in the United States. AAFCO does not endorse or certify any specific diet. But they ensure that a diet meets the nutritional requirements set by veterinary nutritionists.
Compliance with these standards is expressed in the AAFCO declaration printed on the label of all diets sold in the United States. The AAFCO statement typically takes one of the following four formats:
- “XYZ Dog Food” is formulated to meet the nutritional values for [appropriate life stage – growth, maintenance, pregnancy/lactation or all life stages] as set forth in the AAFCO Canine Food Nutrition Profiles.
- Animal feeding tests using AAFCO methods demonstrate that "XYZ Dog Food" provides complete and balanced nutrition for [appropriate life stage].
- "XYZ Dog Food" provides complete and balanced nutrition for [appropriate life stage] and is comparable in nutritional adequacy to a product validated by AAFCO feeding tests.
- This product is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only.
What does the AAFCO statement really mean?
The first AAFCO statement simply means that the diet recipe follows the guidelines set by the AAFCO. But it doesn't tell you much more. Does this diet satisfy only the bare minimum? Or does it go beyond following a simple computer algorithm recipe? There is no way to know with just this information.
This is where the second statement comes into play. She points out that the food company has gone a step further by conducting feeding tests to assess the health of dogs fed these foods. This can help ensure that foods perform well in real life, not just in a nutrition analysis.
The third statement is not as common, but it can occasionally come up with foods that closely resemble the original food that underwent the feeding test. For example, there may be just a small change in the formulation that doesn't affect the nutritional profile.
Finally, you may occasionally see the fourth statement about veterinary prescription diets. This is because it is sometimes necessary to increase or decrease the level of a nutrient below the levels in the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile in order for the food to achieve its intended purpose. For example, a prescribed kidney diet may intentionally contain lower levels of phosphate to reduce the high blood phosphate levels that may accompany it.Kidney failure in dogs.
Application of the WSAVA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines
While the AAFCO statement is a good starting point, I also recommend consulting the WSAVA guidelines on nutritional assessment. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) is an international group of organizations that goes one step further than the AAFCO.
In addition to following the AAFCO guidelines for nutritional requirements, the WSAVA also sets additional nutritional standards such as food testing, company transparency, and information from veterinary nutritionists.
WSAVA Nutritional Assessment GuidelinesGo into detail about dog nutrition and what you as a consumer should pay attention to. They even encourage dog owners to contact food manufacturers to ask specific questions about the diets the manufacturer is creating. A comprehensive list of questions can be found on the WSAVA website. Here are some sample questions you can ask dog food manufacturers:
- Does your company have a veterinary nutritionist? How can I contact them with questions?
- Where does your company produce and produce dog food?
- Does your company conduct research on your products? If so, will the results be published in peer-reviewed journals? Where can I read this information?
Gathering information can help you feel even more confident that you are choosing a great dog food that will help your senior dog thrive.
Feeding an older dog: frequently asked questions
Now that you know a little more about when to feed your senior dog food and how to evaluate the food, let me address some more specific aspects of feeding senior dogs. To do this, I've collected and answered some of the most frequently asked questions I get from my customers.
FAQ #1: Can I feed an older dog dog food?
It's usually not a big deal if your older dog occasionally takes a few bites of your pup's food. However, remember that puppy food is high in calories, as it is designed for growing puppies. This means that it generally doesn't get along well with sedentary senior dogs, as it will likely cause them to gain weight. It is also not adapted to the needs of an older dog. And in some cases, there may be mild GI discomfort.
FAQ #2: What can I feed my senior dog to gain weight?
On the other hand, the fact that dog food can make you fat is sometimes helpful for older, thinner dogs. However, before you decide to switch to a higher calorie diet to help your dog gain weight, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Unexplained weight loss can be a common symptom of many medical conditions. And the sooner you start attacking the root of the problem, the better.
Working with your veterinarian, you can create a plan to help your dog feel better and gain weight. This usually involves addressing the underlying issue and adding more calories to the diet. Your vet will help you decide if feeding a high-calorie food, feeding more of the same food, or another strategy is right for your dog.
FAQ #3: How many times a day should I feed my senior dog?
Most vets recommend feeding an older dog twice a day. However, some dogs do well on grazing once a day, three times a day, or all day.
Occasionally, there may be situations where your dog needs to follow a specific feeding schedule. For example, if your newly diagnosed dog is used to eating once a day or having free access to food, you may need to switch to twice a day to match the twice-daily insulin regimen.
Changing a dog's eating habits can be daunting at first, but persistence is key. The veterinary team can also offer some tips if you're struggling to change your dog's routine.
FAQ #4: How much wet or dry food should I feed my senior dog?
If you're not sure how much to feed your senior dog, it's a good idea to ask your vet. In some situations, he may recommend following the feeding guidelines on the kibble bag or can. This approach usually works well for dogs that are already at a good weight.
Alternatively (and usually ideally), your veterinarian can help you determine a set amount of calories per day. When calculating this value, the veterinarian takes hisHundes Body Condition Score (BCS)take into account. Additionally, he or she will consider your dog's activity level, reproductive status, age, size, and health status.
This allows your vet to customize recommendations for your dog. For example if you wantHelp your dog lose weight, your veterinarian can tell you how much food to feed your dog to safely reach the target weight. Or if your older dog needs to gain weight, your vet can adjust the calculation accordingly.
FAQ #5: What do you feed an older dog with no appetite?
Some dogs can be naturally picky eaters. It might look like your furry friend is looking for something better - like whatever you're eating! However, keep in mind that a lack of appetite could indicate underlying health issues. So it's best to make an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog suddenly becomes a fussy eater.
In addition to treating the underlying problem (if any), your veterinarian may make the following suggestions:
- Reheat canned food in the microwave for a few seconds to make it tastier
- Administratorsnacks for dogs
- Offer your dog porridge with meat.
- Add water to the kibble to make gravy or top it off with something tasty likecanned pumpkin for dogs
- Try hand feeding your dog
FAQ #6: What can I feed a senior dog with diarrhea or other digestive issues?
If you have an older dog with digestive issues, specially formulated food can help him feel better. Some dogs may require highly digestible proteins, such as those found in manydiet for dogs. Other dogs may benefit from a low-fat diet designed for this purpose.feed a dog with pancreatitis. However, other older dogs, especially those with diarrhea, will have better stool quality if their diet contains morefiber for dogs.
Your veterinarian can help you find the right diet, medication and/or supplements to alleviate your dog's stomach problems. Call him or her before picking up thePepto-Bismol for dogsor other medication.
FAQ #7: What should I feed an older toothless dog?
if yourelderly dog loses teethbecause ofDental diseases in dogs, or have you recently gone through aTooth extraction in elderly dogs, you may need to change your diet. Your vet can give you more details. But usually these dogs benefit from a canned or soft food. Your veterinarian may recommend adding water to dry food or simply switching to canned food. Sometimes this is a temporary measure while your mouth heals, and sometimes it's a permanent change.
FAQ #8: Can a special diet help manage my dog's health issues?
As the dog ages, health problems become more common. However, with the right diet, you can reduce the intensity of a dog's symptoms. Or you can slow the progression of certain diseases.
For example, chronic kidney disease is a common problem in many older dogs. Diets high in protein, phosphorus, and sodium can accelerate kidney damage. They can also increase the risk of high blood pressure (eg.Hypertension in dogs). Therefore, your veterinarian may recommend a recipe or homemade diet that is lower in these nutrients.
There are also prescription diets that can help with:
- liver disease in dogs
- diabetes in dogs
- Cognitive dysfunction in dogs(z.B. Hundedemenz)
- signs of arthritis in dogs
- Bladder stones in dogs
- pancreatitis in dogs
- food allergies
- And more!
FAQ #9: What if I have trouble paying for my dog's senior nutrition?
Cost can be an important factor when choosing a senior dog food (or any other dog food for that matter). And, understandably, you might be wondering if your dog really needs senior nutrition. In fact, all seniors can benefit from senior dog nutrition, but there are some older puppies that can thrive on adult dog food for a long time. These are typically active seniors with no ongoing health issues.
In addition, there are many food companies that offer a wide range of products to suit almost every budget. For example, Purina's highest quality food is Pro Plan, but they also know that not everyone can afford to feed it. For this reason, Purina also produces Purina Dog Chow. Because this food line isn't geared towards a specific life stage, it costs less than Pro Plan and still has quality ingredients.
Work with your veterinarian
It probably goes without saying, but your veterinarian is a fantastic resource when choosing food. He or she knows your dog's medical history and can help you figure out what age you should start feeding senior kibble, what type of food you should be given, how much you should feed your dog, and how often. Plus, he or she can give you other recommendations for keeping your senior dog happy and healthy.
Also, when you browse the pet store (or online), remember what I said about using the standards set by the AAFCO and WSAVA. They are great tools for evaluating the food you are interested in and choosing the best one for your dog.
Feeding your senior dog can seem a little daunting, but I know you can do it. Apply what you've learned here and don't be afraid to ask your vet for help if you need it!
When did you start feeding your dog senior kibble?
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