Nutrition for Elderly Dogs
The modifications of the older dog's behavior and metabolism influence on the type of feeding that must be adopted. The dog is less active, its metabolism is slower, has less defense against the cold and a higher tendency to dehydrate itself, it accumulates more fat, losses muscular mass, digests less food and digests with more difficulty due to the decrease in enzymes. It is obvious that we must adjust a diet for this situation. For this we will distribute the daily food two times a day. The transition to senior nourishment should be done beginning at five years for the larger breeds and at 7 years for the smaller breeds. If the dog eats home made foods, we will prefer white meat, pasta or rice without salt.
Water: The older dog's body has a smaller proportion of water than the younger dogs. Also, they are less thirsty. This means that there is a real risk of dehydration, especially when there is diarrhea and vomiting.
Nutritional Necessities: The amount of food is one of the most important factors. The owners have a certain tendency to give the dog too much food since it does not have anything else to do.
Proteins: The old dog is more fragile, therefore we have to increase the amount of protein in its diet. Now, having in mind that the kidneys have lost the capacity to break down these proteins, is it convenient to give your dog a diet full of proteins? The solution is to increase the quality of the food, not the amount of proteins in the diet. This will give the dog proteins that are easier to digest in normal quantities. On the other hand, the proteins must be constant, since the dog does not keep protein reserves. The ideal proportion of proteins in a diet is about 19% of highly physiological protein.
Fats: They contribute to the assimilation of some vitamins and give the body essential fat acids. We have seen that old dogs accumulate more fat than the younger dogs and that is why they tend to gain weight.
The diet must contain between 10 to 20% of fats.
Fibers: In old dogs the intestinal traffic is longer; therefore they are more likely to suffer from constipation. It is recommended that their food is enriched with cellulose.
Calcium and Phosphorous: The old dog's articulations are very fragile. With the increase of age comes the increase of their necessities of calcium and vitamin D, which permits the assimilation of calcium. In exchange we should reduce the amount of phosphorous in their diet, since it is harder for their old kidneys to eliminate.
The Vitamins: it is critically important to provide a high quality daily supplement to an elderly dog to maintain optimal health, prevent further bone and muscle mass deterioration, boost immune function, and prolong their life. Their are many canine daily supplements on the market but few provide the "total package" for elderly nutrition. Research each available brand to find the one best suited for your dog's need.