Caitlin UltimoNutrition / Special Diets

Special Nutritional Needs for Senior Dogs

Proper pet nutrition is important at every stage of your pet’s life, especially during her golden years. When your furry friend transitions to the senior stage, heed these tips to help keep her happy, healthy and young at heart.

When Does Your Dog Become a Senior Pet?

Dogs in particular have shifting nutritional needs as they get older, but the age at which they become seniors varies based on their breed and size. The ASPCA uses these guidelines: seven years old for small breeds and dogs 20 pounds and under; seven years old for medium breeds and dogs that weigh 21 to 50 pounds; six years old for large breeds and dogs 51 to 90 pounds; and five years old for giant breeds and dogs 91 pounds or more.

1. Start Counting Calories

While your dog probably spent her early years playing long games of fetch and eagerly trotting around the neighborhood, she’s likely much calmer—and less active—as a senior. Decreased activity and a slowing metabolism mean your furry friend needs fewer calories each day. Specially formulated senior dog foods and treats cut calories to help keep obesity at bay. Yet while the overall calories in the food should be lower, your dog needs the same amount of highly digestible protein in her golden years as she did when she was younger, according to ASPCA.

2. Consider Helpful Add-Ins

Beyond just cutting calories, senior dog food formulas generally contain a mix of vitamins and minerals for proper pet nutrition that support dogs’ aging bodies. Additional fiber helps prevent gastrointestinal struggles while glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate are used to aid joint function.

3. Look for Dog Food That is Easy to Chew

Soft dog food help older dogs chew their food and treats easily. Wet food is the easiest to chew, but dry foods labeled for seniors are also relatively soft. Choose which works best for your dog’s teeth, flavor preferences and digestion needs.

4. Consult Your Vet When Problems Arise

Like people, aging dogs are more likely to suffer from ailments, including heart disease, diabetes and other organ disorders. If your dog is battling a health issue, make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss a diet specifically tailored to your dog’s age, breed, size and health situation.

If you’re looking for a senior dog food, consider trying one of these formulas:

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