Feeding Older Dogs

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What changes do you need to make to your dog's diet as it ages?

The changes you make to your dog's feeding regime, and when you make them will vary depending on the age and breed of your dog. Making correct adjustment's to your dog's diet will provide appropriate nutrition, which in turn will greatly reduce disease through better immune function.

Older dogs will generally be less active than younger dogs so will require a less energy dense dog food. Continuing to feed a dog the same amount of food with less exercise will inevitably result in obesity, a problem all too common in many dogs today. Obesity more so effects the older dog as it can be made worse by concurrent arthritis and organ problems. A keen eye is needed to assess the energy needs of your dog as it ages, so be aware and switch brands if your dog's weight shows marked changes as it ages.

For the older dog a good quality animal protein based on meat, fish eggs, milk or cheese is better than cereal protein. As ageing dogs tend to have less muscle and bone they will have less of a tissue protein reserve and need a certain level of protein in their diet to avoid a negative nitrogen balance. Your veterinarian is the best person to monitor your ageing dog's renal function and advise the appropriate level of protein in his diet.

Protein can be increased by heating the food to increase palatability and release more aromas, and by feeding smaller more frequent meals and by supplementing with vitamins. 

Carbohydrates are mainly provided by cereals and legumes in the diet, and these are a cheap source of energy. Care should be taken with the sugar content of some of these foods.

Fats are essential in the diet to provide a vehicle for fat soluble vitamins, and are essential for the health of old dogs. However too much may result in obesity, so again moderation is the rule.

Fibre has a role too in the elderly dog as many are predisposed to constipation. Adding fibre in the form of wheat bran or cooked vegetables two or three times a week will help to keep your elderly dog regular!

Vitamins - Most dog foods will have high levels of calcium and phosphorus for the older dog. There may be a case for reduced levels of phosphorus and salt in the diet. Some supplementation of zinc and other vitamins, particularly the vitamin B complex.

The main food types - dry, semi-moist or canned. Diet changes should be made slowly to prevent tummy upsets and diarrhoea. Be sure to have plenty of water available for your dog, particularly if fed a dried food and also if kidney and liver disease is a problem.

Reduced appetite in older dogs may be helped by feeding them 2 or more times per day with smaller portions so that they get their full daily requirement. There are many commercial senior dog food diets now available. It will pay you to thoroughly examine the different types to increase the life span and vitality of your older dog.

Hopefully this guide has been helpful. As mentioned above your veterinarian should be able to assist you in deciding an appropriate diet, which will definetly help improve your dogs wellbeing and quality of life. Our 100% natural treats, opposite are available in selected veterinary clinics.

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