Dog Care 101

Senior Dog Food Tips: How To Meet The Nutritional Needs Of A Senior Dog

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By Curtis

As dogs age, their nutritional needs change.

To keep your dog healthy through old age, you’ll need to make some adjustments to your dog’s diet.

Those adjustments should take place early in your dog’s aging process.

Senior dogs have different nutritional needs as they begin to slow down. photo by normanack on Flickr


Did You Know?…

Dogs are considered to be in their senior years about two thirds into their expected lifespan. This varies by breed and size of the dog. Generally, larger dogs have a shorter lifespan than smaller ones. For example, a Great Dane is expected to live 9 to 10 years, while my little Yorkie-Pomeranian mix lived to be 18 years old. Based on the above calculation, by age 12, I should have made some changes to my dog’s diet.


Signs Of Dog Old Age

  • Older dogs become less active. Your dog’s days of chasing his tail will eventually pass. Lying quietly by the hearth of the fireplace will soon become his favorite pastime.
  • Obesity can quickly become a problem as your dog’s metabolism begins to slow down. This can be compounded if there are joint problems. When it hurts to run and jump, your dog will spend more time lying around. Here’s how to tell if your dog needs to lose weight.
  • Just the same, weight loss can also be a problem, since a lack of appetite can quickly cause the pounds to drop off. Weight loss can result from more than a simple loss of appetite though. Not wanting to eat can indicate other problems as well. For example, tooth problems are a major cause of health issues in older dogs. Beyond the obvious infections and discomfort, tooth problems make eating difficult for your dog. A good tooth care regime can help prevent many of these issues, but it has to start early in your dog’s life in order for it to be effective.
  • Urinary and bowel movement changes will take place in your dog’s later years, as the liver, kidneys, and digestive tract begin to function less effectively. Diabetes is a common problem with older dogs too, just like humans.


Things To Watch For

As these various health concerns start to come into play for your dog, you will have to be alert for other unusual changes as well.

Unfortunately, your dog can’t tell you what’s going on. So you need to be watching for signs that there may be a problem.

Here’s how:

  • Monitor your dog’s food consumption.
  • Look for changes in your dog’s personality and everyday behaviors.
  • Keep an eye on how often and how much your dog pees and poops, as well as accidents inside the house.
  • Check to see if your dog is having problems climbing stairs or jumping (into the car, up on the bed, etc.)


How To Improve Your Aging Dog’s Life

Often, one way to improve an aging dog’s lifestyle is simply a matter of switching to senior dog food.  Senior foods are formulated to help improve the function of an aging dog’s internal organs.

Other changes to your dog’s diet may also be helpful. For example, adding a supplement to your dog’s diet could work wonders. Case in point: glucosamine and chondroitin are effective at treating joint-related issues in dogs, just as they are with humans.

Dog vitamins can also benefit some dogs — especially in their senior years.

This video shows how to make your own dog food with supplements:


How I Fed My Dog During His Senior Years

During the last couple of years of my own dog’s life, changes came into play that required my attention. As he started losing teeth, I switched from the hard, dry dog food that had been his normal diet since his puppy years to a softer dry food that was easier for him to chew. Eventually, we switched to the moist Kibbles and Bits. By the time he had lost all his teeth, we switched to canned dog food since chewing was no longer an option.

Surprisingly, his overall health improved noticeably with the last of his teeth falling out. It’s really shocking how much bad teeth can affect your dog.

In his final days, when he could no longer handle even canned dog food (basically, when all his organs were starting to shut down), we switched to feeding him baby food. During the final stages, when he was refusing food altogether, he would accept milk.

It’s hard to watch your faithful companion finish out his life. Unfortunately, death is a natural part of life.  There’s no easy way around it. The best we can do is provide proper nourishment throughout our dogs’ life and adjust to their changing health needs as they arise. Once your dog is gone, helps knowing that you did the absolute best that you could for him along the way.


More About Senior Dog Foods