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Senior Dog Feeding Tips

February 15, 2024

Have you recently noticed gray fur around your dog’s muzzle? It’s not easy to realize that your canine pal is reaching his senior years. His care needs will change a bit. While it’s probably safe to say Fido will never outgrow his love of food and snacks, his nutritional requirements will change over time. A local Mapleton, UT veterinarian discusses feeding a senior dog below

Determine When To Change To Senior Food

When is Fido a senior? This varies from breed to breed. Large dogs age more rapidly than little ones. Giant breeds may reach their golden years at just five years old, while Chihuahuas may not be a senior until they are aged ten or more.

As a general rule of thumb, dogs are considered to be mature when they’re halfway through their average life expectancy. When Fido is past 75% of his life expectancy, he is considered a senior. Pups that outlive their expected lifespans are considered geriatric.

Keep Your Senior Dog Hydrated

It’s important to keep your pooch properly hydrated! Consider getting a fountain or smart waterer. If you have a large house and/or more than one floor, set extra water bowls out.

Choose the Right Senior Dog Food

Getting pet food formulated specifically for Fido can be challenging. The pe food industry has gone far beyond basic kibble. There are a number of great dog foods out there. You also don’t have to break the bank buying your canine pal’s dinner, but it is important to choose something that’s appropriate for his age and size.

A dog food geared toward older dogs may have fewer calories, so it can help prevent weight gain. Some foods are formulated to treat a specific condition, such as joint support formulas. 

You may find the old wet-vs-dry food debate rearing its head. It’s easier for dogs with dental issues to eat wet food. However, dry food is cheaper, and keeps longer. It’s also better for his teeth. You can also add canned food to Fido’s kibble or add water.

Consult your Mapleton, UT veterinarian for specific advice on finding foods that provide Fido with the right amount of fat, protein, and nutrients..

Keep Up With Doggy Dental Care

Dental issues are very prevalent in older dogs. Maintaining Fido’s oral health is very important! Keep those choppers clean by brushing and/or providing dental treats and chews. Contact your Mapleton, UT veterinarian if you notice anything amiss.

Make Dietary Changes Slowly

When it’s time to switch Fido to a senior formula food, you should do so gradually, over several days. Otherwise, you might upset that furry belly!

Consider Giving Your Aging Dog Supplements

There is a wide variety of vitamins and supplements available for older dogs, including multivitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, prebiotics, and probiotics. These all have different benefits. Omegas 3 and 6 are good for your canine pal’s skin and coat, as well as his bones and joints. Glucosamine and vitamin K also help with bone and joint health.

Be sure to check with your Mapleton, UT veterinarian before adding supplements. It’s important to offer the right ones and in the right amounts. While a dog with vision problems may benefit from Vitamin A, too much Vitamin A can be dangerous.

Figure out How Often To Feed A Senior Dog

Your canine buddy may benefit from being fed more often, but in smaller portions. Those meals can be divided into between two and five portions per day, depending on what your veterinarian advises.

Provide The Right Portions

In order to figure out how much to feed your dog, start by checking the information on the package. A lot of pet food manufacturers offer charts on their websites, but these vary a bit from one site to another, and they often overestimate. For example, Purina recommends 2 to 2-2/3 cups of food daily for a dog weighing 26 to 50 pounds, while Rover suggests 2 1/2 – 3 1/4. (Given the choice, Fido would probably ask for 20 or so, but that would not be good for him!)

On average, you’d want to reduce a senior’s caloric intake by about 20 to 30 percent. This should be done gradually. However, this will vary depending on the dog. Some pups actually need more calories as they age.

The weather can also play a role: a pup with thin fur might need more food in the winter. You may need to measure your canine pal’s food in order to make sure he gets the exact amount of calories he needs.

Ask Fido’s veterinarian for specific advice, and revisit the topic regularly.

Offer Your Senior Dog Healthy Treats

Fido will never outgrow his love of snacks. Just be aware that many of the treats you find in stores are high in calories and fat, and offer little nutritional value. Ask your vet for recommendations.

Let Fido Have Safe Fruits And Veggies

Despite being officially labeled as Carnivora, Fido isn’t actually a carnivore. Instead, he’s an omnivore. Your pup will benefit from fruits and vegetables. You can offer things like carrot sticks, peas, spinach, dried sweet potato slices, apple slices, and even bananas. Just make sure to only offer safe foods.

Ensure Your Dog’s Food Is At The Right Temperature

Fido’s food should be served at room temperature. If you keep food in the fridge, remove it from the fridge an hour before feeding. If you microwave anything, make sure it’s not too hot.

Provide A Quiet Dining Area

If your pup is an only dog, you can put Fido’s bowls in your kitchen or wherever is most convenient. If you have more than one dog, you may want to feed your senior in a separate area. Multi-dog mealtimes can get a bit frantic. Fido needs to be able to eat peacefully without being jostled by his roommates.

Ask Your Vet About Raised Dishes

Fido may eat more comfortably from a raised dish, since he won’t have to splay his feet or lower his neck as much. However, there may be a concern about bloat with these types of dishes, particularly for bigger dogs. Ask your vet for suggestions on your pup’s dinnerware.

Don’t Overfeed Your Older Dog

Our canine buddies never outgrow their love of food. However, as they grow older, they’ll slow down … just like we all do. They won’t be as zoomy, and they may prefer watching squirrels in their yard rather than running after them. All of that means your dog won’t burn as many calories as he used to. The heavier Fido gets, the harder it will be for him to stay fit. The less fit he gets, the heavier he will become. This can be a downward spiral in activity and obesity. Pay close attention to Fido’s condition. Older dogs are prone to becoming obese, so you’ll want to make sure you nip any weight gain in the bud.

Conclusion: As your dog reaches his golden years, you may need to make some changes, such as switching to senior food, adding supplements, and changing meal schedules.

Please feel free to contact our Mapleton, UT pet hospital if you have questions about your dog’s health or care. We are dedicated to offering great care! 

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