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One of the best things you can do to help your senior dog remain healthy and active is to feed him a nutritious diet, especially one that meets his unique needs. Keep reading to learn more about the nutritional needs of senior dogs and to receive tips for choosing a quality diet for your aging dog.
Health Risks for Aging Dogs
All dogs are subject to certain health risks depending on their breeding and the type of dog they are. For example, smaller dogs are highly prone to dental issues and back problems while large-breed dogs are more prone to musculoskeletal issues and gastric torsion. All dogs have their risks and, unfortunately, those risks can increase as your dog gets older. As your dog ages, his body is going to go through some changes and it may not work as well as it used to. For example, many senior dogs develop kidney problems which can necessitate a change in diet. Cognitive decline, eye problems, and heart problems are also common in older dogs as is diabetes, arthritis, and various forms of cancer. Your dog’s immune system may also weaken, making your routine veterinary check-ups more important than ever.
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Nutritional Needs of Senior Dogs
All dogs require a balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrate in their diet – just like you and me. But dogs need these nutrients in a very different ratio than humans. Protein is the nutritional foundation for a healthy diet for dogs because it helps to build and maintain strong muscles and tissues, plus it helps with tissue repair and a variety of other bodily processes. Puppies need very high levels of protein in their diet to fuel their growth and development and adult dogs need a slightly lesser amount, but still enough to maintain their lean muscle mass. As your dog gets older, protein continues to play an essential role in his diet – he still needs to maintain that lean muscle mass to keep his bodyweight in the healthy range and to keep his body strong.
The second most important component of a healthy diet for any dog is fat – particularly animal-based fats. Fat is the most highly concentrated source of energy available to dogs and it plays a number of important roles in his body. Omega fatty acids support your dog’s healthy skin and coat, plus they support brain health and immune health. What you need to be aware of, however, is that fats are very nutrient-dense – they contain 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrate. This means that you may need to limit your senior dog’s fat intake to prevent him from getting too many calories on a daily basis.
In terms of carbohydrate, your senior dog doesn’t have any minimum requirements – all that really matters is that the carbohydrates are digestible. If the ingredients in your dog’s food aren’t highly digestible, your dog won’t be able to absorb all of the nutrients he needs from the food he eats. This can lead to malnutrition and a whole host of health problems. Whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal are digestible for most dogs, but as your dog gets older you may want to consider a grain-free diet made with things like sweet potatoes and tapioca which may be gentler on his stomach. Your senior dog will also benefit from dietary fiber and probiotics to support his digestive system, but don’t go above 5% for crude fiber content or it could have the opposite effect and cause digestive issues.
Tips for Feeding Senior Dogs
When you start shopping around for a senior dog food, you need to be very careful. Many of the lower quality brands lump senior dog foods and weight management dog foods into the same category. While it is important to help your aging dog maintain a healthy bodyweight, low to mid-quality weight management dog food products are not the way to go. In most cases, pet food manufacturers design their weight management formulas to have a lower number of calories and the way they often accomplish this is by reducing the protein content. Don’t misunderstand – obesity is incredibly dangerous for dogs and as your dog ages, his risk will increase. But you still need to make sure that his diet is providing for his basic nutritional needs.
Another factor you need to consider when choosing a diet for your senior dog is that many dogs develop arthritis or other musculoskeletal issues as they age. Inherited problems like hip dysplasia and intervertebral disc disease are an entirely separate issue, but many dogs become arthritic as they get older. Fortunately, many dog food products that are made specifically for senior dogs are supplemented with additional joint-supporting nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin. You may also find that a diet rich in antioxidants helps to keep your senior dog’s immune system running strong which will help to protect him against disease.
When it comes to feeding your senior dog, you need to be careful about how much food you give him – it is a fine line to walk between meeting your dog’s needs for energy and feeding him too much. Depending what kind of dog you have, a gain of even one or two pounds could push him over the threshold into obesity, and that can be extremely dangerous. Your best bet is to choose a high-quality dog food that is formulated specifically for senior dogs and then follow the feeding recommendations on the package. These recommendations are generally based on bodyweight, so you’ll need to weigh your dog and then decide how much to feed him. It is a good idea to keep to a certain daily portion for a few weeks while monitoring your dog’s bodyweight and condition. After a few weeks you’ll be able to tell if you are feeding your dog too much or too little and you can make adjustments as needed.
Top 6 Dog Food Brands for Senior Dogs
If you want to make sure that your senior dog’s nutritional needs are being met, you should consider switching to a senior dog food product. These formulas are specifically designed to meet the unique nutritional requirements of older dogs. You may also be able to get by with a standard adult dog food or a breed size-specific formula as long as the protein content is adequate and the fat content is not too high. To help you make your choice, here are some good dog food brands for senior dogs:
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Orijen Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food Buy It
Our Pick : Best Dry Dog Food For Senior Dogs
First 5 Ingredients : Deboned Chicken, Deboned Turkey, Yellowtail Flounder, Whole Eggs, Whole Atlantic Mackerel
Orijen is not only one of the best dog foods on the market, but one of the best selling. Their line of super premium offerings from puppies to seniors gives dog owners an opportunity to spoil their pooch with lots of real meat proteins throughout their life. Orijen’s products are praised for being grain-free and featuring a whole-prey, biologically appropriate approach to quality nutrition. The senior diet takes the calories down a notch from their other formulas to help prevent against weight gain as your older dog starts to slow down and become less active. It’s also considered to be gluten-free, low glycemic and free of corn for senior dogs who may have allergies. Top it all off with the fact that Orijen produces their food in the USA in their very own Kentucky kitchen and you’ve a diet your dog not only deserves, but will enjoy as well!
Halo Ground Beef Recipe Senior Grain-Free Canned Dog Food Buy It
Our Pick : Best Canned Dog Food For Senior Dogs
First 5 Ingredients : Beef, Beef Broth, Beef Liver, Pea Flour, Oat Bran
The Halo pet food company follows a holistic approach to pet nutrition – this ensures that your senior dog will get all of the healthy nutrients he needs with nothing he doesn’t. All of Halo’s products are made with fresh, high-quality ingredients like real meats, digestible carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Halo doesn’t use any corn, wheat, or soy ingredients and their products are free from artificial additives and low-quality fillers. When it comes to their senior-specific dog foods, Halo doesn’t offer quite as much variety as some brands but there are still several options to choose from. There are two senior recipe canned foods – one made with ground beef and the other with ground chicken. Both of these recipes are made with fresh, natural ingredients and ground into a smooth texture that is easier for older dogs to chew and to digest. There aren’t any senior-specific dry foods, but Halo does offer several healthy weight formulas which could be a good choice for your dog as he starts to get older and slows down a bit. There is a toy/small breed healthy weight formula made with whitefish and salmon as well as a grain-free healthy weight formula made with turkey liver and duck.
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Senior Farm Raised Chicken, Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Buy It
Our Pick : Best Large Breed Senior Dog Food
First 5 Ingredients : Chicken, Brewers Rice, Whole Brown Rice, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Split Peas
The Nutro Natural Choice company is known for producing a wide variety of nutritious dog food products. This company believes that the best natural ingredients make for the best natural pet foods, so that is exactly what they use in all of their recipes. The Nutro company offers several different product lines, many of which features breed size- and age-specific recipes. For example, the Ultra line of products includes two senior recipe kibbles, one of which is for small-breed dogs – there is also a senior dog canned food recipe and several flavors of pate. The MAX line of products includes a variety of life stages formulas, including a senior recipe dry food featuring farm-raised chicken and a canned food version of the same recipe. The largest variety of senior-specific recipes belongs to the original Nutro line of kibbles and canned food. For dry food, this line includes three adult weight loss formulas (one for small-breed dogs in particular), one grain-free senior recipe, an original senior recipe, one limited ingredient senior dog formula, and both a large- and small-breed senior recipe. When it comes to canned foods, the Nutro line includes four senior-specific formulas featuring premium proteins like chicken, turkey, and lamb.
One of your most important tasks as a dog owner is to provide your pup with a healthy diet. As your dog gets older, the importance of this task increases – without a healthy diet, your senior dog can’t possibly remain in good health. If you need help choosing a quality product for your senior dog, consider one of the top-rated dog food brands reviewed above.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Chicken & Brown Rice Buy It
Our Pick : Best Senior Dog Food For Small Breeds
First 5 Ingredients : Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Chicken Meal
When it comes to both quality and variety, Blue Buffalo is hard to beat. This pet food manufacturer is one of the top brands on the market and for good reason. Blue Buffalo uses only the most high-quality ingredients available, formulating their products around premium proteins, wholesome carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. This brand offers a wide variety of products for dogs in all life stages, including a number of senior-specific recipes. For dry dog food, Blue Buffalo offers a dozen different recipes designed specifically for senior dogs. There are four recipes in the Life Protection Formula line which features premium proteins and whole grain carbohydrates with two options in the Wilderness line of grain-free and protein-rich formulas. There is only one senior recipe in each of the Basics and Freedom lines, but four formulas as part of the Blue Natural Veterinary Diet line which can be helpful for senior dogs with various health problems. For wet food, Blue Buffalo offers five regular senior canned foods as well as three veterinary diet options.
Fromm Gold Reduced Activity & Senior Food Buy It
Our Pick : Best Weight Control Dog Food For Senior Dogs
First 5 Ingredients : Duck, Chicken Meal, Chicken,Oatmeal, Brown Rice
The Fromm Family Foods company is widely known throughout the pet food industry as an innovator. Not only was Fromm one of the first companies to develop a canine vaccine for distemper, but they were also a pioneer in developing the process for cooking meat and grain together which was used to produce some of the first kibble. Fromm is a family-owned company committed to providing high-quality diets for pets to ensure that they live a long and happy life. Fromm’s dog food products can be divided into three different lines. The Fromm Classic line of products only includes two recipes, one of which is a mature adult formula made with fresh chicken, whole eggs, and brown rice – it is uniquely designed to meet the nutritional needs of older adult dogs. The Gold line of products includes holistic recipes for dogs in all life stages and of all breed sizes. It features several adult formulas as well as two weight management recipes and one for reduced activity and senior dogs. The Four-Star line includes a number of recipes intended for rotational feeding. While none of these is senior-specific, they are all great sources of nutrition for dogs of all ages.
Diamond Naturals Senior Formula Dry Dog Foods Buy It
Our Pick : Best Cheap Senior Dog Food
First 5 Ingredients : Whole Grain Brown Rice, Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Egg
If you are looking for an affordable brand of dog food that still offers decent quality, Diamond Naturals may be an option to consider. The Diamond Pet Food Company is one of the largest manufacturers of pet foods in the United States. Unfortunately, this company often gets a bad rap for being involved in a number of pet food recalls. The Diamond Naturals brand, however, appears to offer good quality and there are a variety of options to choose from. For senior dogs in particular, Diamond Naturals offers their Senior Dog formula which is rich in protein with limited fat for a reduced calorie content – it is also supplemented with probiotics for healthy digestion and glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support. Diamond Naturals also offers their Light Adult Dog formula which is ideal for less active and overweight dogs – this option could also be a good choice for your older dog. It features protein-rich lamb meal and digestible rice as the main ingredients with other superfoods and beneficial supplements for nutritional balance and energy.