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Feeding A Senior Dog: Tips From A Veterinarian

February 15, 2024

Does your dog somehow automatically get 15 percent cuter when he notices you going into the kitchen or putting burgers on the grill? Our canine pals have a special way of becoming even more adorable as they age. Fido will never outgrow his love of food, but his nutritional needs will change over time. Read on for some great tips from a Greater Cincinnati veterinarian on how to feed a senior dog.

 Stay On Top Of Doggy Dental Care

Dental issues are just as painful and problematic for dogs as they are for us. Keep Fido’s choppers clean by brushing and/or providing dental treats and chews. If any issues arise, consult your Greater Cincinnati veterinarian right away.

Make Sure Your Dog’s Food Is At The Right Temperature

If you keep Fido’s food in the fridge, take it out an hour before feeding him, so that it can warm up. If you microwave anything, make sure it isn’t too hot before eating it.

 Provide A Pawesome Dining Setup

The size and setup of your home and the number of pets you have will both play roles in this one. If Fido is an only dog, you can keep his bowls in the kitchen or wherever is most convenient. However, if you have a few dogs, mealtimes might get a bit chaotic. Separate your older pup from his roommates, so that he can eat peacefully without the younger pups jostling him or helping themselves to his food.

Fido may eat more comfortably from raised dishes, so he doesn’t have to splay his feet or lower his neck as much. However, larger dogs may experience bloat after eating from these types of dishes. Ask your vet for tips on this.

Don’t Overfeed Your Aging Dog

As they get older, our canine pals will slow down, just as we will. Fido won’t be as zoomy, and he may prefer to watch the squirrels in the yard instead of running after them. Your dog also just won’t burn as many calories as he used to. That can lead to a downward spiral when it comes to activity and obesity. The heavier Fido gets, the harder it becomes for him to stay fit. The less fit he becomes, the heavier he’ll get.

Monitor your dog’s weight and body condition closely. Older dogs are prone to becoming obese, so you want to nip any weight gain in the bud.

Know When To Feed Your Senior Dog

Fido’s meal schedule is also important. Your vet can help you figure out how many times Fido should be fed each day. Some older dogs need two meals a day: others do better with five small ones.

 Provide The Right Portions

Portion control is crucial. Even overfeeding Fido by a few calories a day can cause him to pack on extra weight! Consult your vet regularly on this. 

Start by checking the guidelines on the package. You can also find charts on the websites of many pet food manufacturers. Just don’t take these as law. These often overestimate portion sizes, and they also vary from site to site.

You may need to reduce your pet’s calorie intake as he ages. The general rule of thumb is that seniors need about 20 to 30 percent fewer calories than adult dogs. However, that varies from pups to pups. Some dogs need more! For instance, when Fido becomes geriatric, your vet may advise increasing his calories. Dogs with thin fur may need more food than fluffy pups.

You may need to measure your pet’s food to ensure that he gets the exact number of calories he needs: no more, no less.

Change Your Senior Dog’s Food Carefully

One thing that many people are fuzzy about is sorting out exactly when dogs become mature or seniors. The answer differs among breeds, primarily based on size. Larger dogs tend to age faster than smaller ones. For example, some giant breeds are considered seniors at just five years old, whereas a Chihuahua may not reach doggy retirement age until they are ten or older.

However, there are general standards that can be followed. A dog is typically classified as mature once they reach the midpoint of their expected lifespan and enters their senior years when they pass 75% of it. Any pups who surpass their predicted lifespan are considered geriatric.

Your vet can advise you on when to switch to a senior formula food. Make the switch slowly, over several days, to avoid upsetting Fido’s stomach.

Keep Fido Hydrated

Water is absolutely essential for your canine friend, no matter what stage of his life he is in. Consider getting Fido a water fountain or smart waterer. Set out extra bowls of water if you have a large house or more than one story.

Incorporate Supplements

A variety of vitamins and supplements are geared towards senior dogs. Options here include multivitamins, antioxidants, amino and fatty acids, prebiotics, and probiotics. Each one offers unique advantages. For example, Omegas 3 and 6 promote skin and coat health, while also supporting bones and joints. Additional options for bone and joint health include glucosamine and vitamin K. Furthermore, incorporating greens into your dog’s diet can be beneficial. However, if your furry friend has vision problems, a Vitamin A supplement may be beneficial. Be careful here, though: too much can actually be harmful. That old saying about too much of a good thing definitely applies.

Be sure to check with your Greater Cincinnati veterinarian before adding supplements.

Choose the Right Senior Dog Food

The world of pet food has grown significantly since the days of basic kibble: you can now get food specifically formulated for senior dogs. Some of these foods may help with certain conditions, such as joint support formulas. The big thing is finding something that provides Fido with the right balance of fat, protein, and nutrients.

You may want to revisit whether you feed him wet or dry food. Many pups prefer wet food. It can also be easier for dogs with dental issues. However, In addition to being cheaper, dry food can keep your pet’s teeth clean better. It also stores longer. Consult your veterinarian for specific advice.

Give Fido Healthy Snacks

There is no reason why your canine friend can’t enjoy and benefit from snacks. But be careful: Many of the treats you’ll find in stores are high in calories and fat, and not very nutritious. Choose healthy brands. You can even make your own! Just stick with safe ingredients.

Incorporate Safe Fruits And Veggies

Did you know that Fido is technically an omnivore? Dogs eat mostly meat, but your dog will benefit from having fruits and vegetables added to his diet. You can offer carrot sticks, dried sweet potato slices, apple slices, and bananas. Double-check before offering anything, to make sure it is safe.

Conclusion: You may need to make some changes to your dog’s nutritional needs as he gets older, such as switching to senior food, adding supplements, and changing meal schedules. For specific advice on feeding a senior dog, consult your veterinarian.

Do you have questions about your dog’s health or care? Contact us, your local Greater Cincinnati pet hospital!

Posted in Dog Care

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(513) 732-1730
Also serving Clermont County, OH and surrounding areas.

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