As your pet becomes a senior, their nutritional requirements will change. Although age is not a disease, senior dogs become more vulnerable to health conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease, obesity, and cancers. Feeding a proper diet with the correct nutrients may help mitigate chronic conditions and certain diseases.
Once your dog reaches half their life expectancy, they are considered to be senior or mature. For large or giant breeds this is around 5-6 years of age, while in small breeds it is about 8-9 years of age. The nutrient profile of a mature dog will differ from that of a puppy and will be dependant on your dog’s size and overall health. When choosing a diet, be sure to discuss with your veterinarian and pay attention to three key principles: caloric intake, avoid nutrient excesses, ensure proper hydration, and provide an ideal ratio of fat, protein, phosphorus, and sodium. Also, their daily energy requirements may reduce 12-13%.
By controlling caloric intake with a less calorie dense food, we will help reduce the risk of obesity. Measuring food and dividing into 2-5 meals per day depending upon your schedule will help identify decreased or absent appetite early on which could signal underlying medical problems. Seniors are also more prone to dehydration, so access to fresh, clean water at all times is vital. A low fat (7-10% dry matter) with a high-quality protein (16-20% of dry matter) and limited phosphorus (0.30-0.70% dry matter) diet is best for a mature dog. Sodium should also be limited to 0.15-0.40% DM as excess sodium in the diet can be related to kidney disease, high blood pressure which can go unnoticed for a long time before clinical signs develop. It is important to include treats in the diet however they should be chosen to reflect nutrient balance. Some safe treats for senior dogs may consist of fresh or frozen green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce.
Written By: Briarwood Animal Hospital