Pet Wellness Guides > Is It Time for Senior Dog Food? - Pet Insurance Review

Is It Time for Senior Dog Food?

Posted: 07/09/2024 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

As our fur babies age, their needs begin to change as well. They may need to take shorter walks, require a ramp to get in and out of the car, and a different food that meets their emerging dietary needs. But navigating the world of senior dog food can be tricky. Which formula will give your pup the best energy and when exactly should you make the switch?

In this article we’ll explore the factors you’ll want to consider to determine if it’s the right time to switch to senior dog food.

Evaluating Your Dog’s Needs: It’s About More Than Just Age

If you’ve traversed the dog food aisle in your local pet store, you’ve probably noticed that a majority of pet food companies market senior formulas starting at age 7. But age is only one determining factor. And that’s because every dog is an individual, and every dog ages differently based on breed, size, and lifestyle.

 The following are some of the other key indicators that it may be time to put your pup on senior dog food:

Decreased Activity Level

As our fur babies get older, their energy levels begin to decline. For some dogs this may begin at age 5, other age 7, and still others may stay very energetic into their teens. 

Observe your dog. Are they doing more napping than playing? Do they not beg to go for walks? When a dog becomes less active, they require less calories. Senior food formulas often have slightly lower calorie content to prevent obesity.

Weight Loss or Gain

Just as senior dogs can easily begin to gain weight due to inactivity, some older pups begin to lose weight due to age or underlying health issues. For example, some seniors might struggle to maintain weight due to dental problems or reduced appetite. Senior dog food can address these concerns with formulations that are easier to chew or higher in protein to promote muscle mass.

Digestive Issues

Just like people, as dogs age they often begin to experience digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea. Senior food formulations might include prebiotics and probiotics to aid digestion and promote gut health.

Cognitive Decline

Some senior dogs experience cognitive decline similar to dementia in humans. Senior food formulations may include ingredients like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to improved cognitive function.

At this juncture we’d like to point out that this list serves as a general guide. As always, we advise that you consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your pup.

Senior vs. Adult Dog Food: Understanding the Differences

So, what exactly makes senior dog food different from its adult counterpart? Here’s a breakdown of the key points:

Calories

As we just mentioned, senior dog food generally has slightly fewer calories than adult food to account for decreased activity levels. This can help your dog keep that slender physique.

Protein

Senior dog food is often formulated with a higher protein content to help maintain muscle mass, which can decline with age. This may not be suitable for all dogs, particularly those with kidney disease. Always speak with your vet before putting your dog on a new food.

Fat

Senior food might have a lower fat content to manage weight and reduce stress on the digestive system.

Fiber

Senior food may have added fiber to promote gut health and digestion.

Supplements

Senior food formulas often include additional supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, antioxidants for cognitive function, and omega-3 fatty acids for overall well-being.

We want to stress again how important it is to speak with your vet about switching your older dog to a senior formula. And that’s because the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) doesn’t have specific guidelines for “senior” dog food. This means the exact nutrient profile of senior food can vary between brands. 

Beyond Food: Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy

Nutrition is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to caring for your senior dog. Here are some additional tips to promote their well-being:

Regular Veterinary Checkups

Schedule regular checkups with your veterinarian to monitor your dog’s health and identify any potential age-related issues early on.

Exercise

While their energy levels might be lower, exercise is still essential for senior dogs. Adjust walks to their pace and capabilities, opting for shorter, more frequent walks instead of long, strenuous ones.

Dental Care

Regular dental cleanings are crucial for preventing dental disease, which can become more prevalent in senior dogs. Brushing their teeth at home can also help maintain oral health.

Joint Support

Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help manage joint pain and stiffness, a common concern in senior dogs.

Mental Stimulation

Engage your dog’s mind with puzzle toys, food puzzles, or interactive games to prevent boredom and potentially slow down cognitive decline.

Pet Insurance

As our pets age, they begin to develop health issues like arthritis, kidney disease and even cancer. It can become increasingly difficult for many pet parents to be able to afford the care their fur baby needs. 

A pet insurance plan can reimburse you for up to 100% of the vet bills, giving you peace of mind.

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The Final Decision: Talking to Your Vet

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to switch your dog to senior food is best made in consultation with your veterinarian. They can assess your dog’s individual needs, health status, and activity level, and recommend the most appropriate dietary plan. Remember, your senior dog is a cherished companion, and providing them with the right nutrition is an essential part of keeping them happy and healthy for years to come.

References:

  1. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/feeding-mature-and-senior-dogs
  2. https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/8-tips-feeding-your-senior-dog
  3. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/riney-canine-health-center/canine-health-information/choosing-food-your-senior-dog

 

Disclaimer

The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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