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Senior Dog Feeding Tips
February 15, 2024

While your canine companion may never outgrow his love of food, his nutritional needs will change as he ages. As such, you may need to make some adjustments to his menu over the years. Here are some tips from a Downey, CA vet on how to feed a senior dog.

Modify Your Senior Dog’s Meal Schedule If Necessary

There is a lot of confusion surrounding how often senior dogs should be fed. Fido may benefit from being fed more frequently, but in smaller portions. It may be necessary to divide those meals up into two to five portions per day. Every dog is different, so it is best to consult your Downey, CA veterinarian. 

Provide The Right Portions

It can be tricky to figure out exactly how much to feed your dog. The proper amount will ultimately depend on his size as well as the type of food he is eating. Start by checking the instructions on the packaging. Many pet food manufacturers also feature charts on their websites. However, there are often discrepancies between these sites and many overestimate. For example, Purina recommends that adult dogs who weigh between 26 and 50 pounds consume 2 to 2-⅔ cups of food daily. Rover, on the other hand, suggests 2½ – 3¼.

As a general rule, you should reduce a senior’s caloric intake by about 20 to 30 percent. Then, once Fido reaches the geriatric stage, you may need to bump those calories back up once again. Weather may also play a role. A senior pup with thin fur, for instance, might need a bit more food during the colder months. 

Your Downey, CA veterinarian should always be the final authority in this matter.

Time The Change Properly

When does a dog reach the senior stage? This varies among breeds and is primarily based on size. Larger dogs tend to age faster than smaller ones. Certain giant breeds may be considered seniors at only five years of age, whereas a Chihuahua may not be seen as old until ten or beyond. 

That said, there are a few general guidelines to follow. A dog is deemed mature when they reach the halfway point of their estimated life expectancy. Once they surpass the 75% mark, they are officially considered seniors. Canines that surpass their life expectancy entirely are considered geriatric.

Keep Your Senior Dog Hydrated

Keeping our canine friends properly hydrated is crucial, regardless of age, but it’s especially important for senior pets. If you have a sizeable house and/or more than one floor, set out extra water bowls so your senior pup always has access to fresh water.

Take Supplements Into Consideration

As your furry companion enters his senior years, there are numerous vitamins and supplements specifically designed to support his changing needs. These include multivitamins, antioxidants, amino and fatty acids, and prebiotics and probiotics; all offering unique advantages. For example, Omegas 3 and 6 promote healthy skin and coat, as well as supporting bone and joint health. Additional options for bone and joint care include glucosamine and vitamin K. 

Adding some healthy greens to your dog’s diet may also prove beneficial, and those with vision concerns could benefit from a Vitamin A supplement. It is important to note, however, that excessive amounts of Vitamin A could be hazardous.

Make sure you talk to your Downey, CA veterinarian before adding any supplements to your pet’s diet. Also, watch Fido closely for any adverse reactions.

Make Healthy Treats a Priority

Many of the treats you’ll find in stores are high in calories and fat and offer little to no nutritional value. You can still treat your pet. Just be sure to select healthy brands, or better yet, make your own healthy treats at home.

Include Fruits and Vegetables

Despite being listed as a Carnivora, Fido isn’t technically a carnivore, but rather an omnivore. In the wild, canines will consume mostly – but not all – meat. Your pup will also benefit from eating fruits and veggies. You can offer carrot sticks, slices of dried sweet potatoes, apple slices, and cut up bananas. Of course, you should confirm that anything you offer is safe for your dog to consume before you offer it.

Your vet may also recommend adding small amounts of pureed pumpkin to your senior companion’s food.

Choosing The Right Senior Dog Food

The pet food industry has moved beyond boring kibble: there are now foods formulated specifically for Fido. There are some great options available, and you don’t have to break the bank, either. Food designed for older dogs may be lower in calories to prevent weight gain. There are also foods that are specially formulated to address certain health conditions, such as joint support formulas. The goal is to choose a product that includes the proper mix of fat, protein, and nutrients.

You’ll also need to decide whether your senior dog should eat dry or wet food. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so it will ultimately depend on Fido’s preferences, medical needs, and any dental or dietary conditions he may have. Many dogs prefer wet food, which can also be easier to chew for pups with dental issues. That said, dry food can help keep Fido’s teeth cleaner. Dry dog food is also less expensive and keeps longer. Another option is to add a mix or moisten your dog’s kibble using a little bit of water.

Consult your Downey, CA veterinarian for specific advice.

Keeping Up With Dental Care

It is very common for older dogs to suffer from dental issues, and these issues can definitely impact your pet’s eating habits. Keep Fido’s choppers healthy and strong by brushing regularly and/or giving him dental treats. If you notice anything concerning, please contact your Downey, CA vet.

Switch to Senior Foods

Make sure you check with your veterinarian regularly about your dog’s diet. He or she will be able to tell you when it’s time to switch Fido over to a senior formula food. And, of course, you’ll want to introduce any changes to your pup’s diet gradually, over the course of several days. Otherwise, you could upset his furry tummy!

Serve Food At The Right Temperature

Fido’s food should generally be served at room temperature. If you keep his food in the refrigerator, take it out an hour before feeding time to let it warm up. If you prefer using the microwave to warm something up, make sure it’s not too hot before serving it to your pup.

Make Fido’s Dining Area Quiet

The size and layout of your house, as well as the number of pets you have, will play a role in this. You can keep Fido’s bowls in the kitchen if he’s an only dog, but you may want to feed your senior pup in a separate spot if you have a few pooches. With multi-dog households, mealtime can get a little chaotic. Fido may need a quiet place to eat peacefully, without his roommates jostling him or helping themselves to his food.

Raised Dishes Are Worth Considering

It may be easier for your pet to eat from a raised dish since he won’t have to splay his feet or lower his neck as much. However, there may be a problem with bloat with these types of dishes, especially with larger dogs. Ask your Downey, CA vet for specific advice on choosing Fido’s bowls. 

Don’t Overfeed

Fido will probably never outgrow his love of food. However, as he ages, he will likely slow down, just like we all do. He won’t be as zoomy, and he may be content to watch the squirrels instead of running after them. As a result, your dog won’t burn as many calories. This can lead to a downward spiral between activity level and obesity. The heavier Fido gets, the harder it will be for him to stay fit. The less fit he becomes, the heavier he will become, and so on and so forth.

To avoid this, you’ll want to pay careful attention to the condition of your aging dog’s body. Senior pups are more likely to become obese, so you’ll want to curb any weight gain as soon as possible. Ask your vet for specific nutrition recommendations. You may need to measure your pet’s food to ensure that he’s getting the exact caloric intake he needs; no more, no less.

In conclusion, your dog’s nutritional needs will evolve over time. As a result, it may be necessary to switch to senior food, add supplements, and change meal schedules as your pet reaches his golden years. Consult your veterinarian for specific advice about feeding a senior dog.

Get in touch with us, your local Downey, CA pet hospital, if you have questions about your dog’s health or care!

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