Once our dogs reach their senior years, their diet will play an integral role in keeping them as healthy as possible. Today, our Riverside County vets address questions about geriatric care and the best types of food for older dogs.
At what age is my dog considered elderly or geriatric?
Because each dog is unique, we cannot provide a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The expected lifespan of a dog varies depending on breed and size. Small dogs, on average, live between 15 and 20 years, while larger dogs typically live between 12 and 15 years.
Usually, smaller dogs enter middle age at around 8 years old, while larger dogs age faster and are considered "older" around the time they turn 6 years old.
Does my senior dog have specific nutritional needs?
We recommend considering two main criteria when seeking the best dog food for senior dogs.
First, make sure it's low in calories. As with humans, a dog's metabolism slows as they age, which is why it's critical to keep our furry best friends from overeating in order to prevent obesity.
Second, bring high-fiber options into their diet. For aging dogs, constipation is a fairly common issue and may lead to further gastrointestinal issues if it becomes severe enough. Plus, it can be painful.
Keeping your older dog's gastrointestinal system healthy should be high priority, so the best dog food for older dogs will contain lots of fiber to keep them regular.
What should I do if my senior dog won't eat their food?
Sometimes, we see older dogs that have lost at least some of their appetite. Causes for sudden loss of appetite are hugely carried both in scope and severity; your dog could be suffering from simple nausea brought on by gastrointestinal problems, or they could be suffering from the effects of cancer.
Speak with your vet if your senior dog has suddenly begun to display an unexplained loss of appetite, to have them rule out any potentially serious causes including kidney disease, cancer, diabetes or dental disease.
Once serious medical conditions have been ruled out as the cause for appetite loss, another avenue for consideration is the simplest one--perhaps your dog is simply tired of their regular food.
To make your dog's dry kibble more appealing, mix in some chicken broth, water, or a small amount of canned food. You could also try making a simple meal of cooked chicken and barley or cooked lamb and rice for your dog. These home-cooked meals are both nutritious and bland enough to satisfy your older dog's nausea.
Which health issues can the best dog food for senior dogs help prevent?
Does your elderly dog have any health issues, such as diabetes, liver disease, or kidney failure? To manage the condition, he or she probably needs to follow a special diet. It is best to speak with your veterinarian if your dog is ill and you are worried about any possible effects of their diet.
Best Dog Food for Older Dogs
Our team at Banning Veterinary Hospital has put together a list of some of the best types of dog foods for senior dogs. Ask your vet which senior dog food is best for your pet.
Prescription Dog Food
In some situations, a medical prescription dog food might be the best choice for your senior dog, depending on the particular circumstances and health conditions of your dog. In other circumstances, your veterinarian may merely advise you to switch to a healthy substitute.
Low-Calorie Dog Food
Dogs who are more likely to develop heart disease (or who have already been diagnosed with it) can benefit from low-calorie senior dog food because it will help them maintain a healthy weight. Recipes with little sodium should be chosen.
High-Fiber, Low-Fat Dog Food
Our veterinarians in Riverside County advise owners of pre-diabetic or diabetic dogs to prioritize slow food absorption. Special diabetic diets cause blood sugar levels to rise more slowly, lowering the risk of health complications. These diets are also very high in fiber and very low in fat.
As mentioned previously since older dogs commonly struggle with constipation, the higher amount of fiber, the better. This will help to prevent constipation and keep their bowels working regularly.
Dog Food High in Protein
Many senior dog foods will also contain higher quality protein sources than standard dog food, which can help senior dogs maintain a healthy body weight without putting undue strain on their aging kidneys.
Limited Ingredient Dog Foods
If your senior dog has allergies, your vet might recommend limited ingredient dog foods, which include just a single protein source (such as chicken, beef or lamb), often combined with one carbohydrate source.
This method can be used to get rid of allergens that are causing allergic reactions or symptoms. When looking for limited ingredient dog foods, look for the AAFCO seal of approval as well as a "complete and balanced" claim from the manufacturer.
Your vet will be able to provide dietary recommendations for your senior or diabetic dog, along with comprehensive geriatric care and exams.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.