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Senior Dog Feeding Tips

February 15, 2024

Is your dog approaching–or perhaps already in–his golden years? Our canine pals don’t always age at the same rate. Large dogs age more rapidly than little ones. A Saint Bernard may be a senior at just five years old, while a Pomeranian may not reach his golden years until he’s ten or more. No matter how old your dog is, Fido will never outgrow his love of food. However, his nutritional needs will change over time. You’ll need to make some changes to your canine pal’s diet as he ages. A Brookville, PA veterinarian offers some advice on this below.

Revisit Your Dog’s Feeding Schedule

Fido may benefit from being fed more often, but in smaller portions. It may be best to divide his meals into two to five portions per day. Every dog is a bit different, so check with your Brookville, PA vet on this.

Measure Your Pet’s Portions

Your canine pal will slow down as he ages … just like everyone else. He won’t be as zoomy, and he may prefer watching the squirrels in the yard over running after them. All this means that your dog won’t burn as many calories as he used to. This can lead him into a downward spiral of obesity and activity. The heavier Fido gets, the harder he will have to work to remain fit. The less fit he becomes, the heavier he gets!

As a general rule, you should reduce a senior’s daily caloric intake by about 20 to 30%. Once Fido becomes geriatric, he may need more calories. The weather can also play a role: pups with thin fur may need extra food in winter.

Portion control is crucial here. This is important at all stages of your pet’s life. Even overfeeding Fido by a small amount can cause him to gain weight. If you want to know how much to feed your dog, start by looking at the package. Many pet food manufacturers provide charts on their websites. However, many of them overestimate. For example, Purina recommends that a dog weighing between 26 and 50 pounds should consume 2 to 2-2/3 cups daily: Rover suggests 2 1/2 – 3 1/4. Different calorie contents come into play here, of course, but it’s best to check with your vet, as every dog is different. 

Make Changes To Fido’s Food Properly

Your veterinarian will advise you when it’s time to switch Fido to a senior formula food. You’ll want to make changes slowly, over a few days, to avoid upsetting Fido’s furry belly.

Be sure to revisit the topic regularly. The criteria for determining a dog’s maturity or seniority can vary, depending on the specific breed, with size usually being a determining factor. Generally, larger dogs age at a faster rate than smaller ones. Dogs are typically seen as mature once they have reached half of their average life expectancy, and they are considered seniors once they have surpassed 75%. Any pups who live longer than expected are deemed geriatric. If Fido makes it to the geriatric stage, his needs may change again.

Make Sure Fido Stays Hydrated

Hydration is absolutely crucial. You may want to consider getting Fido a fountain or smart waterer. Also, if you have a large house and/or multiple floors, keep extra water bowls out for your canine friend.

Choose The Right Supplements

Older dogs may benefit from various supplements. There are many available, such as multivitamins, antioxidants, amino and fatty acids, prebiotics, and probiotics. Each offers specific benefits. For example, Omega 3 and 6 are great for skin and coat health, as well as bone and joint health. Other good options for bone and joint support include glucosamine and vitamin K. 

However, it’s important to get specific advice on not just supplements, but amounts. For instance, If your canine companion has vision problems, a Vitamin A supplement may be helpful. However, excessive Vitamin A intake can be harmful.

Consult your Brookville, PA veterinarian before adding supplements. Also, watch for reactions.

Choose Healthy Treats For Your Senior Dog

Fido will never stop being adorable, and has a way of being extra cute as he’s angling for snacks. Just be cautious: a lot of treats you’ll find in stores are fattening and high in calories. Choose healthier brands. Or, make your own treats. Just stick with safe ingredients.  

Incorporating greens and produce into your dog’s diet can be beneficial. You can offer Fido things like carrot sticks, dried sweet potato slices, apple slices, and even bananas.  Your vet may also recommend adding small amounts of pureed pumpkin to your pet’s food. Just double-check before offering anything: you’ll need to make sure that it’s safe before you give it to your dog.

Choosing the Right Senior Dog Food

Pet food has gone far beyond the basic kibble. Now you can get Fido food that is formulated just for him! You don’t have to break the bank to purchase good dog food. The most essential thing is to choose something that will provide Fido with the right amount of fat, protein, and nutrients.

Your vet may advise switching from canned food to kibble, or vice versa.  Both wet and dry food have their own pros and cons. Many pups prefer wet food. It’s also easier on dogs with dental issues. However, dry food can help keep your pet’s teeth clean. Plus, it’s cheaper, and it keeps longer. You could also offer a mix, or add water to Fido’s kibble.  

Keep Up With Your Senior Dog’s Dental Care

Dental issues are extremely common in senior dogs. Keep Fido’s choppers clean by brushing and/or providing dental treats and chews. It’s also important to watch for warning signs, such as drooling or bad breath. Contact your Brookville, PA vets if you notice anything amiss.

Make Sure 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, take it out an hour before feeding him. If you microwave your pet’s dinner, test it first to make sure it’s not too hot.

Provide A Quiet Dining Area

If Fido is an only dog, then you can put his bowls in the kitchen or wherever it is most convenient for you. However, if you have more than one pooch, you may need to feed your senior dogs in a separate area. Muldi-dog mealtimes can get quite frantic. Fido needs peace when eating. He shouldn’t have to deal with his furry roommates jostling him or helping themselves.

Consider Giving Your Dog’s Dinnerware A Pupgrade

You may want to revisit your pet’s dishes. Fido may eat more comfortably from a raised dish, so he doesn’t have to splay his feet or lower his neck so much. However, these may pose a risk of bloat in larger dogs, so ask your vet for specific advice.

Conclusion: You may need to change your pet’s diet once he becomes a senior. Your dog’s nutritional needs will change as he reaches his golden years. Consult your veterinarian for specific advice on how to feed a senior dog, including tips on things like switching to senior food, adding supplements, and changing meal schedules.

Have questions about your dog’s health or care? Contact us, your local  Brookville, PA pet hospital, today!