Thanks to a variety of factors, dogs are living longer than ever before. The canine senior years have been extended, and it’s wonderful to enjoy more time with our best furry friends. This shift toward better wellness and longer life also creates different challenges for owners as we try to take steps to keep our senior dogs happy, healthy, and comfortable throughout the golden years.
It is important to discuss with your vet the best dietary options for your senior dog, as the diet he or she has enjoyed previously may no longer be appropriate for their aging system. Making dietary changes toward geriatric-conscious nutrition is one key factor in keeping old dogs young. The older dog has less of an ability to digest protein and absorb vitamins from food. That, combined with intestinal absorption not being what it once was, can mean that normal food portions are not being utilized for their necessary nutrients. These issues can equal a net loss of weight and muscle, so keeping senior dogs eating and adjusting for these deficiencies is crucial.
Protein needs to be digestible and easily absorbed from the digestive tract, which may mean feeding smaller portions throughout the day, and cooking meat beforehand to make the protein more accessible. Many premium food brands have a good base mix to which you can add a proper amount of fresh, cooked protein. If you are feeding kibble, be sure you are choosing a high-quality product with a protein source as the main ingredient.
As our dogs (and we!) age, oxidizing of the body tissues can be a factor. Antioxidants counteract these effects. They are present in many foods, and are most commonly found in colorful fruits and vegetables. With your vet’s okay, it is appropriate to feed dogs a tablespoon of fresh, chopped, colorful produce with each meal to ensure your pet is getting the anti-oxidation benefits these fresh foods provide. Examples include sweet potato, beets, blueberries, carrots, and green beans. Your vet may suggest blanching, or slightly steaming, the produce to make digesting easier.
Fatty acids provide a source of anti-inflammatory agents. Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory fatty acids, and can be found in many high-quality foods. It is important for mammals to ingest Omega 3s through the diet, as they are not produced within the body. Adding fatty acids to the daily diet of all dogs is advisable, and the older the dog, the more important they become. Discuss with your veterinarian what an appropriate dosage is for your pet.
Probiotics are a way to introduce good intestinal flora, which is vital to digestion and absorption of vitamins and minerals. It’s important to always administer probiotics when your pet is undergoing a round of antibiotics, but daily supplementation with probiotics is also a good idea. Human studies have shown that the gut biome can almost act as a “second brain” in the body, making up a large portion of the immune system. Be sure to properly store probiotics, as they are temperature sensitive.
If you have any questions about your pet’s diet, we are here to help at Leo&Lucky’s. We have a variety of senior-friendly foods, as well as a selection of supplements to keep your pet healthy and happy for many years to come. Stop in and see us any time!