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Senior Dog Feeding Tips
February 15, 2024

Is your canine buddy a furry, four-legged senior? Fido is cute at all stages of his life, but he’s extra adorable as he grows older. As your dog ages, his nutritional needs will change. You may need to adjust his diet a bit. Read on for some advice from a local veterinarian on changing your pup’s menu.

Choose the Right Senior Dog Food

Fido’s food options have gone far beyond the basic kibble. There are many dog foods out there that are formulated especially for seniors. Some may contain less calories, which can help prevent weight gain. Others may be geared toward specific health conditions, such as joint support formulas. The key thing is making sure Fido gets the right amounts of fat, protein, and nutrients.

Whether you feed your senior dog wet or dry food depends on Fido’s taste, health needs, and any dental or dietary issues he has. Both types of food have their own pros and cons. Wet food is preferred by most dogs, and is easier for dogs with dental problems. However, dry food can be more effective at keeping your pet’s teeth clean. It is also cheaper, and stores longer. You can also offer Fido a mix, or add water to his kibble. Consult your veterinarian for specific advice.

Keep Up With Doggy Dental Care

Dental issues are very common in older dogs, and can definitely affect your pet’s eating habits, not to mention his overall quality of life. Keep Fido’s choppers clean by brushing and/or providing dental treats and chews. If you notice anything strange, contact your Fayetteville, NC vet immediately.

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

The general rule here is to serve Fido’s food at room temperature. If you keep food in the fridge, take it out an hour before feeding your furry pal, to let it warm up. If you microwave anything, make sure it’s not too hot.

Provide A Quiet Dining Experience

This one will depend on the size and setup of your home, as well as how many pets you have. If Fido is an only pet, then it’s fine to place his bowls in the kitchen or wherever it’s convenient. However, if you have more than one pup, you might want to feed your senior in a separate room. Otherwise, mealtimes could get quite chaotic. Fido should be able to eat peacefully without being jostled or bullied by his roommates.

Consider Raised Dishes

Your pup may benefit from a dinnerware ‘pupgrade,’ but check with your Fayetteville, NC vet first. Your dog may eat more comfortably from a raised dish, since he won’t have to splay his feet or lower his neck so much. However, there is some concern that raised dishes may cause bloat, especially with larger dogs.

Don’t Overfeed Your Dog

Obesity is a big concern here: extra weight can cause or contribute to many health issues. Your canine pal will never outgrow his love of food. However, as dogs grow older, their pace will slow down. Fido won’t be as zoomy as he used to be. In fact, he may be content watching the squirrels in the yard, rather than running after them. All this means your pet won’t be burning as many calories as he used to. This can become a downward spiral when it comes to activity and obesity. The heavier Fido gets, the harder it will be for him to stay fit. The less fit he becomes, the heavier he becomes.

Monitor your dog’s body condition closely, and nip any weight gain in the bud. Ask your vet for specific suggestions on snack sizes and portion sizes. you may have to measure your pet’s food to make sure he’s getting the exact amount of calories he needs.

Adjust Your Senior Dog’s Meal Schedule As Needed

One common question here is how often senior dogs should be fed every day. Every dog is a bit different, so you should consult your veterinarian. Dogs with specific medical issues may require custom schedules. That said, Fido may benefit from eating smaller meals more frequently. Some older pups do best with five portions a day: others only need two.

Pay Attention To Your Senior Dog’s Portions

Another big question is how much to feed your dog. Go by your vet’s instructions here, not Fido’s cajoling expression. Check at the instructions on Fido’s food package and/or the pet food manufacturers. Just keep in mind that these are very rough estimates, and can vary quite a bit from what your pet actually needs.

Make The Changes To Your Senior Dog’s Diet Carefully

People also often wonder just when a dog reaches maturity or becomes a senior. The answer differs among different breeds. Larger dogs age faster than smaller ones. While some giant breeds are considered seniors at five years old, it may take a Chihuahua ten or more years to reach their golden years.

That all said, there are a few rules of thumb you can go by. Generally, a dog is considered mature when they hit the halfway point of their expected lifespan. Once Fido surpasses 75% of that expected lifespan, he’s officially a senior. Dogs who live beyond their expected lifespan are considered geriatric.

Your veterinarian can help you determine when it is time to switch Fido to a senior formula food. Make this switch slowly, over several days. Otherwise, you might upset Fido’s stomach.

Keep Your Senior Dog Hydrated

This applies to all dogs, but we can’t overstate its importance. If you have a large house and/or more than one floor, set out extra water bowls. Fido may also appreciate a smart waterer.

Consult Your Vet About Supplements For Your Older Dog

Vitamins and supplements can definitely benefit older dogs. There are many to choose from, including multivitamins, antioxidants, amino and fatty acids, prebiotics, and probiotics. Each type offers unique advantages. For example, Omega 3 and 6 oils promote healthy skin and coats, and also help with supporting bone and joint health. Other options for bone and joint care include glucosamine and vitamin K. If your furry friend has vision problems, a Vitamin A supplement could be helpful. However, excessive amounts of Vitamin A can be hazardous. Check with your veterinarian before adding supplements.

Stick With Healthy Treats

By the time your pooch is a senior, he’ll be a bona-Fido expert at begging. Treats are still great for bonding and just brightening up your pet’s day. Just be careful: many of the treats you’ll find in stores offer little nutrition and are high in calories and fat. Choose healthy brands, or even make your own treats.

Give Your Older Dog Safe Fruits And Veggies

Even though Fido belongs to the group Carnivora, he is technically an omnivore. You can offer healthy fruits and veggies. Some good options are carrot sticks, apple slices, dried sweet potato slices, and even bananas. Your veterinarian may also recommend adding small amounts of pureed pumpkin to your pet’s food. Just do your research first, and make sure that everything you offer is safe for your canine buddy.

Conclusion: You may need to make some changes as your pet reaches his golden years, such as switching to senior food, adding supplements, and changing meal schedules. Your veterinarian can provide specific advice on feeding a senior dog.

As your local Fayetteville, NC pet hospital, we’re here to help. If you have questions about your dog’s health or care, please contact us anytime.