If you are doing your usual dog food shopping- whether it’s in person or online- you have likely run across brands claiming to be the “best senior dog food” at one point or another. And while you may have thought that you wouldn’t have to worry about for decades, your dog’s age snuck up on you and now you’re wondering: “What is senior dog food, and does my buddy really need it?”
So, what is senior dog food? Senior dog food is “regular”, adult dog food plus extra vitamins, minerals, and fiber content. They usually have less calories than regular dog food to handle your less active geriatric canine. Some senior dog food is specially made to handle old-age medical problems such as arthritis, kidney, and heart disease.
Sure, your dog getting older can be a trying time- but that doesn’t mean it has to be very difficult. If you’re thinking about switching to senior dog food, you must first understand what it is and how it could potentially benefit your geriatric best friend. We’re going to discuss everything you need to know about senior dog food so you can make the right choice.
What is Senior Dog Food?
To put it simply, senior dog food is a dog food that is specially made to handle your older dog with his aging body.
For the most part, senior dog food is designed with fewer calories without lacking vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and protein.
But this is not the only type of senior dog food that’s on the market. Let’s look at a few more:
Specialty Senior Dog Food
Now, there are certain conditions that older canines may suffer from that aren’t found in the younger dog.
When it comes to health concerns, an older dog can have a slew of problems that leads to special medications and treatments. But some conditions, such as arthritis and kidney and heart disease, can be fought with specialty senior dog food:
This is one condition that can affect many older dogs. As they stop being as active as they were when they were younger, they are obviously burning fewer calories.
If they are still chowing down on their regular dog food that is designed to keep up with the active canine with a quick metabolism, this can quickly lead to an obese dog.
For that reason, it’s best to switch to senior dog food when you’re dealing with an obese furry best friend.
These dog foods have fewer calories and will help your dog to maintain a healthy weight, rather than being too bulky- which can lead to certain other problems, including diabetes.
2. Being Underweight
Obesity is not the only weight challenge an older dog can face, though.
Certain dogs may have the opposite trouble and find it difficult to hold onto their weight as they age.
If your dog is facing this type of health concern, then it might be best to keep him on his regular diet, but offer more of it throughout the day.
3. Food Made to Ease Arthritis Pain
Unfortunately, arthritis is quite common in elderly humans and dogs alike.
And while there is no surefire way to end this realm of pain, there are certain senior dog foods that can help to ease their pain.
These types of dog foods are designed with an excess of glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega fatty acids- all of which have been proven to help decrease the amount of pain associated with dreaded arthritis.
4. Kidney and Heart Problems
Senior dog food alone is not going to cure your dog of his kidney and heart problems, such as disease, but it can help to keep him healthy and strong and ease related symptoms.
Senior dog foods that are specially designed to treat kidney and heart problems may have more electrolytes added, or fewer amounts of sodium and phosphorus.
It is important that when you are struggling with one of these major health concerns with your elderly dog that you seek counsel from his or her veterinarian.
They will be able to guide you in the right direction as to which types of senior dog foods to look out for, and which ones to avoid.
Kidney and heart disease both have their own set of ‘rules’, so to speak, when it comes to what is best. The finicky diseases can easily become worsened when the diet is not taken care of, so always double-check with the vet for right and wrong ingredients.
Do You Have to Buy Senior Dog Food?
If your geriatric dog is in good health you may not need to fuss with senior dog food altogether.
Since senior dog foods are formulated, for the most part, to treat certain health concerns, it’s not absolutely necessary if you’re dealing with a healthy older canine.
If this is the case, then you can stick to his normal, favorite adult dog food without worry.
If he does start to get a little belly on him, though, you may consider lessening the portion size and ensuring that he is getting out for a walk here and there to help reduce the number of calories being consumed.
It may be a good idea, however, to add supplements to your senior dog’s food.
You might consider adding prebiotic fiber to help him stay regular, while omega fatty acids will ensure that he is on the right track health-wise.
Offering him a few fruits and vegetables throughout the day can also increase his fiber content, which is one of the things an elderly dog may be lacking.
When is the Right Time to Switch?
Since every dog hits their elderly stage at a different time, it may be difficult to know when to change.
It’s obvious if you see clear signs such as too much weight, too little weight, or he is struggling with a major health concern, but what are some other signs it’s time to switch?
Some other things you may notice in your older dog include:
- A coat that is starting to look a bit dry and flaky.
- They are becoming weak and lethargic.
- He’s having tummy troubles, such as constipation or diarrhea.
- He has suddenly become excessively itchy.
At this point, you might consider looking into senior dog foods and find the one that’s right for your pet.
The elderly age is different for all dogs. Smaller dog breeds tend to not reach their geriatric phase until much later, such as 10 to 12 years (or more) while larger dogs aren’t so lucky. However, the ‘typical’ age for a dog to be considered elderly is 7 to 9 years old.
To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. However, if you take into consideration that an older dog may lose their sense of smell and could possibly have dental problems that cause pain when chewing hard food, it might be best to switch to wet food.
If you notice that your dog is starting to reject his dry food, you can try and see if wet food solves the issue. Wet dog food tends to have a richer, more intense scent that is appealing to your dog while also being far easier to chew.