As our dogs grow older, they go through a lot of changes, and to keep them in the best health possible, we, as owners, need to change with them. As a result, it’s essential to adapt their diet to their changing needs.
Alongside normal changes like a slower metabolism or a less active immune system, older pets often have concurrent health problems; such as osteoarthritis or kidney disease. This means that feeding them with an appropriate diet is vital, but this might not be an easy task!
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Here are some top tips on making mealtime a better and more enjoyable experience for your older dog.
1) Switch to an appropriate senior diet
Most owners know that puppies shouldn’t eat the same type of food as adult dogs do. Feeding younger pups an age-appropriate diet is paramount to avoid problems like stunted growth or digestive complications.
The same holds for senior dogs, as they don’t have the same metabolism or nutritional needs as an adult dog. It’s advisable to switch your dog to a senior diet as soon as they reach the appropriate age.
Usually, medium and large breeds can be considered senior from 7 years onwards. While smaller breeds hit their golden years at around 9 years of age.
There are plenty of benefits to switching to a senior diet, as most of them are formulated with senior dogs’ specific needs in mind. They will surely appreciate the extra support to their joint health, immune system, and nervous system as they move into their golden years.
2) Keep them on a specific diet for their health issues
As dogs grow older, they likely find themselves with other health problems. Which may make keeping them well fed a challenge!
Part of managing problems like heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes, to name a few, is done by feeding your pet specific diets formulated to help with these problems. Depending on the underlying illness, these diets may be low on sodium or with less protein. And making sure that your dog stays on it is an important part of their therapeutic plan.
This is often easier said than done. Owners might find it challenging to consistently convince their pets to eat these special diets. As age and their chronic problems progress, they might lose appetite or get fed up with eating that type of food all the time.
Dietary management can be difficult but don’t despair, and most importantly, don’t give up on it too quickly. If you’re struggling with this, make sure to approach your vet with your concerns. They will help you figure out a happy balance between the vital benefits of a special diet and improving calorie intake.
3) Divide their meals into smaller portions
Adult dogs are usually fed two large meals a day. But if your senior dog isn’t too keen on eating anymore, it might be helpful to provide them with smaller, fresh meals throughout the day.
Eating less but more often can be an enticing prospect for your dog. The reduced portions can be more manageable for them to eat and digest.
If you want to take this a step further, use those smaller amounts as fillers for food puzzles or as training rewards. It’s a great way to stimulate their cognitive abilities. Which is very important for senior dogs. Training can also be a very positive and enjoyable bonding experience between you and your golden oldie.
4) Improve your dog’s eating experience
In our old age, our senses are not what they used to be. The same is very much valid for our dogs. Their eyesight gets worse and their sense of smell isn’t as keen. And they might find it quite difficult to bend down to eat from a bowl that’s on the floor. All of these things stack up over time and turn what has been an otherwise great moment of their day into a bad experience.
Fortunately, there are plenty of simple adaptations that you can put in place that can improve this situation immensely.
If your dog can’t see or hear very well, make sure the bowls are in a quiet, easily accessible place, away from stressful interruptions like movement from people or other pets.
In case they suffer from painful conditions like osteoarthritis or cancer, keep their food at a higher level. This is so they don’t have to bend down.
Warming up food a bit or adding salt-free broth can improve the aroma and palatability of meals for pets with a reduced sense of smell or taste. Changing the texture of their food from dry to wet, can be helpful if they have difficulties chewing.
5) Ask your vet about helpful supplements and treats
Every dog is different, and they all have different preferences and needs. There are plenty of treats and useful extras that you can add to your pet’s meals to make it easier to get all the nutrients they need while still enjoying their food.
Talk to your vet about what is appropriate for your dog’s lifestyle, and do not add supplements to your furry friend’s diet if it hasn’t been recommended by your vet. Over supplementing, while usually well-intentioned, can hinder more than it helps.
And don’t forget! Always buy from reputable brands and shops to avoid the chance of fraud or even harming your dog.