How to Adjust a Senior Dog's Diet
A dog is mankind's best friend. They are family through and through, so when your dog begins to age, it's only natural that their diet change with them. The following is a step by step guide to help you determine both how and why your dog needs a change in diets.
Determine if your dog needs a change in diet.There are a number of factors to consider before changing your dogs diet. In many cases, the dog is not sick, but is coming to terms with the fact they are getting older, so they exert themselves less, sleep longer, or consume less food. These are all perfectly natural occurrences, and do not warrant any immediate action unless accompanied by negative effects such as considerable weight loss or hot spots, as these could be indicators of a deeper issue.
- As with any situation you have not experienced before, it is both completely acceptable and reasonable to ask for help. Visit your veterinarian if your dog is behaving strangely. They will be able to determine whether or not the issue is medical, physiological or even the result of a developed allergy. Once the issue has been determined, you may form an action plan for your dog.
Choose an appropriate food.Now that your vet has given you an idea of your dog's current issues, you can look for a food that meets specific requirements and is the perfect fit for your aging dog. Depending on your dog's diet throughout its life, it may require more or less of a certain vitamin or mineral. For example, dogs with liver or kidney disease require much less protein in their diet.
- Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a "universal food". What may be right for a 5 year old Golden Retriever, may not be suitable for a 2 year old St.Bernard, or a 12 year old Chihuahua.
Search for a food that is specifically tailored for a certain life stage (eg:puppy, adult, senior, etc.). While this doesn't guarantee that it will meet every criteria you're searching for in a food, it does indicate that the food in question is formulated to meet the average standard of nutrition for that life stage, as per AAFCO's regulations on "Labeling and Labeling requirements."
- Be proactive. Start the puppy off on a quality food specifically tailored for puppies, and work through the life stages without switching brands when possible.
Consider how much protein to feed your dog.One common misconception people have is that an older dog needs less protein. This is entirely false unless the dog has developed a disease in the kidney and is already showing signs. Speak to a veterinarian regarding the specific nutrient amounts for your individual dog.
Remember that simply changing a dog's diet may not be enough.Your dog may need more exercise, more or less of a vitamin or they may need to eat only a specific protein or carb in the case of an allergy.
- Even if trying to determine why your dog is not the same as they used to be can be frustrating, it is important to understand that your dog's metabolic rate changes with age and environment.
- While the average human's heart-rate at rest is between 60-80 BPM (beats per minute), the average dog's heart-rate is between 80-120 BPM.
- The average dog breathes roughly 10-35 times per minute vs. 12-20 breaths per minute for the average human.
- Even though dogs have 4 legs to balance on compared to our 2, the hips and joints take much more wear and tear throughout the years. This is due to improper bedding, injuries and general everyday use such as stairs and daily walking. By no means should you limit your dog walks; just be mindful that in your dogs old age, their hips may start to hurt after only a few minutes. If this is the case, stop and have your dog lay on a soft surface such as grass for a rest. Be sure to provide them with cool, clean water, and after you and your dog are feeling relaxed, turn around and head home. Speak to your veterinarian regarding supplements you can add to improve joint health, such as chondroitin sulfate.
- Take regular trips to the vet regardless of your dog's age. Blood work can show changes in organ function that your pet is not showing yet.
- Small breed dogs are prone to dental issues due to the overcrowding of teeth. Many times, a vet will remove excess teeth from a small dog at a young age, eliminating the possibility of overcrowding in the future.
- Larger breed dogs may need to have their diet fortified with chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid or glucosamine. All of which provide the building blocks of healthy joint lubrication, and introduction into the body at a young age can help stave off future hip and joint issues.
- Injured dogs can behave very unpredictably and uncharacteristically. If your dog is experiencing pain, approach them cautiously. They may be scared, and if the pain is new to them, they may not trust you touching the affected area. Try to comfort your dog using a soft, soothing voice and bring them to a vet to be checked out.
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