Ask the Expert: What Should I Feed My Older Dog?
As your dog enters her golden years, paying closer attention to her diet and lifestyle can help her stay fit, healthy and comfortable. Our resident vet, Dr. Leslie, has a few tips for keeping your dog a keen, lean, fun machine.
Tip 1: Be weight alert.
First and foremost, don’t wait until your dog gets older to start monitoring her weight. Maintaining your dog’s healthy weight throughout life has been shown to delay the onset of debilitating arthritis and other diseases that negatively impact their quality of life.
Tip 2: Lower the protein.
When a dog gets older, her digestive tract becomes less efficient, so protein and fat are less easily digested. Undigested protein can lead to an upset tummy and diarrhea. To avoid this look for dry dog food that is 18-22% protein. Most importantly, make sure the new food is highly digestible, with a moderate to low fiber content.
Tip 3: Add brain food.
Brain and neurologic function declines as your dog ages. A diet with added EPA and DHA—the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids—has been shown to lead to healthy brain function in older dogs.
Tip 4: Keep skin healthy.
Often a dog’s skin can become thin, and her coat can lose its luster and shine. This may be due to the reduced digestion of protein and B vitamins. A complete and balanced diet will provide the necessary B vitamins to help keep skin and fur healthy.
Tip 6: Consider a special diet.
Metabolic organs decline with age, which may result in kidney, heart or liver insufficiencies. If your dog is diagnosed with early heart, kidney or liver disease, your veterinarian may recommend a special diet to help slow the progression of those diseases.
Tip 6: Show the love.
Most importantly, make sure your elderly dog knows he is loved. Sadly, many senior dogs are abandoned for puppies, and they don’t have the opportunity to enjoy their golden years with their special people.
Do you have a dog nutrition question for veterinarian Dr. Leslie? Write it in the comments section below, and we’ll do our best to get your question answered.
About Dr. Leslie
Dr. Leslie Hancock-Monroe has been a top veterinarian for 15 years, and right now heads up Big Heart Pet Brands’ Nutrition and Scientific Affairs department.
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