With the right nutrition, you can make a significant contribution to the health and well-being of your senior. Read here which food you can feed your old dog according to its needs.
As with humans, the probability of contracting the disease also increases significantly with dogs as they get older. However, older dogs over the age of seven do not necessarily have to get sick. Many a four-legged friend stays healthy into old age. Diet also plays an important role. You cannot stop signs of aging with optimal feeding, but you can at least delay them or influence them positively.
Feeding principles for old dogs
Older dogs over the age of seven have special needs that should be taken into account when feeding:
Energy requirements of old dogs
Since the physical activity of senior dogs is usually significantly reduced and sleeping periods are longer, they have significantly lower energy requirements than adult younger dogs. If he gets too much food or too high-energy food and thus too many calories, the risk of obesity increases and, as a result, the tendency to illness.
To prevent obesity in older dogs, you should therefore reduce the energy intake by 20 to 25 percent. Regularly check your senior’s body weight to adjust the amount of food. You can get a large selection of ready-to-eat food that is suitable for changing energy requirements in stores or at the veterinarian’s. Special feeds such as “GranCarno Senior Beef + Turkey Heart” from animonda (6 x 400g for 7 euros) are precisely tailored to the needs of older dogs from the age of seven.
Nutrients for senior dogs
Despite the lower energy requirements, the senior needs just as many nutrients as the adult dog, i.e. vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. For certain nutrients, such as vitamin E, the need is even higher.
Protein intake should never be below what is required, but should not be excessive either. Too little protein intake can further increase age-related muscle loss, while a very high protein intake puts excessive strain on the kidneys and liver, which may already be affected by age.
Since fat causes a significantly higher energy intake compared to carbohydrates and protein, the fat content of the senior food should be low. However, unsaturated fatty acids are essential for the organism. This means that they cannot be manufactured in the body and must therefore be supplied through food. These unsaturated fatty acids are found in salmon oil and vegetable oils (such as linseed oil).
Zinc in food for old dogs
Among other things, zinc plays a major role in the immune system and should be contained in the senior’s food well in excess of what is required. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids also play an important role in the diet of old dogs, as they counteract the aging of cell structures. Antioxidants are found in relatively high amounts in most types of commercially available senior feed.
Feed additives for senior dogs
Some substances can have a positive effect on certain signs of aging or diseases. Below is a small selection of these substances that you can get from the veterinarian or in the pharmacy.
- Phosphatidylserine: This substance, which is related to lecithin, occurs naturally in relatively high amounts in the brain and can improve the senior’s cognitive abilities.
- Taurine: This amino sulfonic acid occurs naturally in the meat of small mammals and seafood, but rarely in beef or lamb. Taurine acts as an antioxidant, can have an anti-inflammatory effect, and supports heart function. Therefore, it should be fed to heart problems.
- Chondroitin sulphate, glucosamine, and green mussel extract: The positive effect of these substances on joint health is disputed, but in many cases there is a significant improvement in lameness or skeletal problems after feeding these active ingredients.
- Propentophylline: This substance causes better blood flow to the heart muscle, skeletal muscle, brain and other tissues. The improved oxygen supply to the brain may counteract the age-related decline in brain function. Some studies have shown improved appetite, reduced joint stiffness, greater stamina and increased mobility when propentofylline was administered.
- Salmon oil: It contains a relatively high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, to which numerous positive effects are attributed. In addition to anti-inflammatory properties, these fatty acids also have a positive effect on heart and kidney diseases. They are said to have a preventive effect on some types of tumors and result in better memory performance. There are numerous preparations for dogs in specialist shops, such as “Salmon Oil” from AniForte (250 ml for 11 euros).
Before you give your dog one of these feed additives, you should consult your veterinarian and check whether some of these substances are already contained in the finished feed, so that you do not give your dog too much of it.
Tips on feeding old dogs properly
In addition to the food components, there are other aspects to consider when feeding old dogs:
As digestion slows down in older dogs, you should split the meals into two or three smaller portions. This puts less strain on the body and keeps the blood sugar level in balance.
If possible, always feed at the same times, as seniors are no longer mentally as flexible.
Since older dogs, much like older people, tend to underhydrate, you should also be on the lookout for this. If your dog does not drink enough, mix some lukewarm water with the wet food, you can literally soak the dry food. This gives you a double advantage for dogs with dental problems – the food becomes a bit mushy and is easier to eat.
Barf for old dogs?
Many dog owners prefer home-cooked or BARF rations for their dogs. The rations should be calculated or checked by a veterinarian specializing in animal nutrition so that there is no nutrient deficiency.
Normal BARF rations are not suitable for dogs that have kidney, heart or liver problems due to the high protein and connective tissue content as a result of the offal. Rations based on lean muscle meat with little connective tissue and milk products, i.e. proteins that are easily digestible and of very high quality, such as light meat (e.g. turkey or chicken) or fish, are preferable for old or sick dogs.
Diet for sick dogs
If a dog senior is already ill, this must of course also be taken into account when feeding, by adapting the principles mentioned to the individual circumstances. For example, if the dog suffers from kidney disease, it needs a diet low in protein and phosphorus to prevent the disease from progressing rapidly.
In such a case, you should definitely give a special diet, as this can significantly increase the quality of life and lifespan. However, you should definitely consult a veterinarian for this, as this differs from dog to dog and also from disease to disease.