You might still call your canine friend "puppy," but over the years he's aged and his nutritional needs have changed. Keeping tabs on what's best for his diet in his later years can help reduce health problems and increase his ability to stay active.
Size Affects Aging
Your dog's size -- and not his accrued years being your pal -- actually is what determines when he is eligible for senior doggie status. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals explains that smaller-sized dogs do indeed live longer than larger dogs. The smaller dogs tend not to experience age-related challenges until a later chronological point than bigger dogs. For small dogs weighing 20 pounds or less, senior status begins at age 7. For medium-sized dogs weighing between 21 and 50 pounds, geriatric status is granted at 7 years as well, but can begin earlier depending on the dog's lifestyle. For large breed dogs weighing 51 to 90 pounds, the number is 6 years. Giant dogs weighing 91 pounds or more are often considered to be in their golden years by age 5.
Chances are your canine friend's lower energy level combined with the natural slowing of metabolism in the geriatric years means he just doesn't need as many calories in his food, according to Web MD. Petfinder cautions that while following feeding guidelines listed on your dog's food is a good place to begin, in reality your older dog's metabolism may be higher or lower than the average canine his age and you may need to make adjustments. The ASPCA recommends monitoring for weight gain and adjusting feeding when necessary.
VetInfo reports that older dogs are prone to constipation. It means they need a bit more fiber to stay regular than their younger counterparts do. Feeding a food with high quality grains, such as wheat bran or oatmeal, is one way to increase fiber. Another option dogs find tasty is a couple spoonfuls of canned pumpkin atop their regular meal.
While cutting calories is crucial for an older, less active duty dog, maintaining high quality protein levels matters just as much. The ASPCA indicates that protein requirements do not diminish with age. Instead, to keep an older dog as active as possible, it's important to maintain muscle mass. Web MD recommends a high quality and easily digested protein that won't add strain to the kidneys.
Get Dietary Advice
Before making any changes to your aging dog's diet, first consult with your veterinarian. It isn't always necessary to switch Fido to a senior formulation, particularly if he isn't gaining weight or experiencing any challenge to his daily activity level. Certain health conditions found in older dogs do require dietary changes best directed by a veterinarian.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.