As dogs get older, their bodies change both internally and externally. Some of the changes are obvious and you’ll notice them as your dog ages, like greying fur, joint issues, and weight gain. While other changes aren’t as easy to spot and can go undetected for a while, like a slowing metabolism or reduced immune function.
And though we can’t prevent our pets from ageing, there are steps we can take to help their senior years be more fulfilling and comfortable. And changing their diet to address their changing nutritional needs is one of the easiest.
What’s A Senior Dog?
When a dog has reached half their expected life span, they’re considered older. Once they’re in the final 25% of that they’re senior. Your dog’s life expectancy will be based on their breed. Smaller dogs tend to live longer, while large and giant breeds have shorter lifespans and are therefore considered to be senior at a younger age. A large dog might be senior between the ages of 5-8, while smaller dogs might not reach their senior years until they’re 8-10. Once a dog outlives this expectation they’re considered geriatric.
What happens to dogs when they reach old age?
Once a dog has passed their expected mid-life point, it’s not unusual that they might start displaying signs of ageing. Weight gain and some behaviour changes are the most common examples. This is because their metabolism begins to slow, their dietary needs change slightly, and the aches and pains that begin to develop with old age can impact their physical abilities.
It’s important to look out for these signs of ageing in your dog, as tackling the associated issues early can help prevent age-related diseases from developing. Because some of the illnesses linked to ageing can be spotted early and others can’t, it is often recommended that the nutrition profile of senior dogs is altered to meet their body’s changing needs.
Why Do Older Dogs Have Different Needs?
Your dog’s nutrient profile – or the specific combination of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, and minerals they need to stay healthy – will change as they age. An older dog will need 20-30% fewer calories than younger dogs.
Because of issues like dental and gastrointestinal diseases, older dogs might struggle to absorb nutrients from food. However, they also need less energy than younger dogs. This means your older dog will need higher quality levels of protein in their food than a puppy, because they need to be able to absorb it with ease.
Portion control, regular activity, and a lower need for fat can help prevent your senior dog from becoming overweight. However, if they struggle with their joints they will probably be less likely to exercise as much as they used to. So it’s important to consider the known issues your dog has, if any, when altering their nutrient profile to suit their age.
How Do I Know What Nutrients My Older Dog Needs?
The best way to ensure your dog is getting all the nutrition they need as they get older is to work with your vet to establish a healthy diet. However there are some simple things to consider, even before you’ve consulted a professional for guidance:
- Are your dog’s calories controlled?
- Do they intake more nutrients than they need?
- Are they properly hydrated?
- Do they get the right mix of fat, protein, phosphorus, and sodium
Why Do I Need To Alter My Senior Dog’s Diet?
The main aim of adapting your senior dog’s nutrient profile is to minimise the negative effects of ageing. The ageing process is heavily impacted by nutrition, so if your dog is getting the goodness they need in their diets you can slow some of the signs and illnesses related to getting older. This will enhance your pet’s quality of life, and also ensure they stay healthy for longer.
Simply reducing your dog’s calorie intake can also be effective in reducing their risk of cancer, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, and immune problems.
What Supplements Does My Senior Dog Need?
Because arthritis is one of the most common afflictions in older dogs, a supplement targeted at supporting their joints can be one of the most useful additions to their diet. Glucosamine and chondroitin are two of the most effective joint supplements, as they work to rebuild the tissue that supports the joints and degenerates as your dog gets older. These two naturally-occurring compounds are usually found together in dog joint supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA are also good for treating arthritis, and have been found to support dogs’ cognitive abilities. Often derived from shellfish, these fatty acids promote cell membrane health and can reduce inflammation in the joins.
Like humans, dogs’ immune systems begin to wear down as they age. So supplements that are rich in antioxidants are another way to ensure your dog’s diet is helping to control their wellbeing. Vitamins, fibres, and prebiotics are all useful in immune support and can be found in immune boosting supplements for dogs.
Front of the Pack’s Move supplement contains all these nutrients and more. It’s a targeted joint support and mobility supplement that reduces inflammation, eases pain associated with joint issues, and bolsters your dog’s immune system so they can stay happy and active for longer.
How Do I Know If My Dog Needs A Supplement For Ageing?
Alongside understanding when your dog is considered senior and keeping an eye out for visible signs of ageing, there are ways to know when your dog might benefit from supplements. Monitoring the condition of the muscles and movement can be a useful indicator that will help you spot joint and muscle issues before other, more painful symptoms arise. If your dog is moving stiffly they might not be in pain, but it could be a sign that their joints are starting to wear. Similarly, if your dog has started to gain weight they might need digestive or immune support.
By paying attention to your dog and altering their diet to match their needs as they age, your pet can live a long and healthy life. And even if you think your dog is too young and spritely to succumb to the effects of ageing, the best thing you can do to ensure an enhanced quality of life when they do start getting older is to understand the benefits of certain supplements and ingredients for your dog’s health.