Feeding older dogs doesn’t have to mean drastic changes. Obesity is possibly the most common health related problem to affect dogs as they get older. An overweight dog is an unhappy dog and subsequent health problems can drastically reduce a dog’s life and render his later years void of any real quality. The key is to be aware of nutritional requirement changes when feeding older dogs, adjust slowly and gradually and keep on top of your older dog’s specific feeding requirements on a regular basis.
Feeding Older Dogs: Nutritional Requirements
All dogs relish a tasty treat and they are an excellent way to reward good behaviour, but if overused your dog could end up suffering from obesity before you even realise you are spoiling him. It is important to pay close attention to your dog’s diet for many reasons, but particularly if your dog is overweight. A balanced diet is essential to keeping a dog fit and healthy.
Modern prepared foods contain an adequate supply of essential nutrients without too many calories, as do many home mixed diets. Complete, dry dog food is popular today, as it is an easy to prepare meal which contains a good supply of all the right nutrients. Commercial canned foods, whether mixed or on their own, are a good source of nutrition and are easy to prepare and store. Some dog owners favour a nutritional supplement to add to the dog’s meal, rice is a good source of carbohydrates and is easily mixed with other foods.
Feeding Older Dogs: Be Treat Aware
Certain treats make a nutritious supplement to a meal and also serve as a good reward for him, but dog biscuits alone to not offer adequate nutrition to be served as meal on their own.
The majority of young, healthy and active dogs are at a low risk of becoming overweight as most of their calorific intake is used during play but as they get older and their metabolic rates slow in conjunction with a decline in expended energy, the chances of calories leading to a piling on of the pounds grows higher every day.
If you have ever taken your dog off the lead in a large forest or field you will have noticed that they will always do more miles than you because they run off and come back as you are walking and thus for every mile you walk, they will normally RUN four!
This is one of the reasons that young, active dogs stay healthy whether their diet is perfect or not. But there will come a point in the dog’s life when he or she is unable to do as much exercise so it is important to control the diet accordingly.
Scroll down for some expert nutritional advice in our Q&A with Suzie from Pawtions.co.uk about the benefits of portion control
Monitor Lifestyle Changes in Your Older Dog
During the more active years, it is still important to take care of your dog’s diet to ensure that they are receiving a good balance of protein and other valuable nutrients. Your vet will be able to advise you on this matter should any uncertainty arise.
You may not notice it at first, but should your dog become obese there are certain tell tale signs apart from the obvious physical weight gain. A diminished level of activity not conducive to their age is always a cause for concern, but a likely cause is that he or she has put on a little weight.
Another symptom is laboured breathing. If your dog struggles for breath after an activity which he or she could once perform effortlessly then perhaps it is time to get the scales out.
Avoiding Weight Gain in Older Dogs
As a dog owner it is often difficult to notice if your dog is putting on weight because you see them every day. Paying close attention to other elements of their physical state may enlighten you to any weight problems.
As the majority of dogs become less and less active in their later years it is often difficult for them to loose weight through increased exercise, so it is up to you as an owner to monitor and control what your dog eats. Prevention, as is so often the case, is better than cure, especially when it comes to a more senior dog and weight control.
A good way of monitoring weight is by simply reducing portion size. It is often the case that a regular portion of dry or complete dog food offers more than enough nutrition and therefore it is quite possible to reduce the meal sizes without affecting the nutritional intake of the dog. In this day in age, with the science behind many commercial pet foods, you may be able to find the perfect, balanced diet your breed of dog needs, relating to their age, on your supermarket or pet shop shelf.
Target Weight When Feeding Older Dogs
You should have a target weight in mind and plan thoroughly to ensure your dog does not err over or above it to any great degree. Your vet should be able to advise what your dog’s ideal target weight is – don’t go on breed averages – one Labrador could be as many as 10lbs heavier than another yet still be perfectly fine weight wise.
If your dog has put on a few too many pounds as they have gotten older, a diet is needed. Unlike us, a dog is unable to steal biscuits or cakes in the middle of the night so they are not reliant on their own will-power to lose weight, they are reliant on YOU ensuring they don’t become dangerously obese, so don’t give in to his pleas for a chocolate digestive every time you go to the kitchen!
As a dog owner it is important for you to be disciplined. Your dog will probably not notice the reduced size of his meals. But you will, so ensure you don’t sneak him a treat unless you have reduced a similar amount of calories from his main meal – it’s a balancing act of which you have complete control and your dog is relying on you to get right.
Older dogs have special needs in many areas and diet is one of the most important.
Don’t let your dog’s later years in life be ruined by health problems that can easily be avoided when it comes to weight, too many calories or general nutritional mismatch between your dog’s age and their specific daily nutritional requirements. If you feed a natural diet, monitor the volumes. If you feed a commercial pet food, make sure you have the most suitable one for your dog’s age, weight, breed and activity level. When it comes to feeding older dogs, the science is all there, you just need to follow it.
Expert Advice from Suzie, Pawtions Veterinary Nurse and Nutritionist
Why is portion control so important for dogs?
At Pawtions we believe that portion control is very important to maintain a healthy life for each and every dog. When faced with the massive choice of dog foods available to us, it is very easy to become confused when trying to work out how much food our dog actually requires. Feeding guidelines are often very generalised and can’t take into consideration your dog’s age, breed, level of exercise, or whether your dog has been neutered.
We often over-indulge our dogs out of love, but a quick treat a little too often or a bowl of leftovers from your own meals may lead to dietary problems or your dog becoming overweight. This can also upset the careful balance of nutrients provided by the dog food. By feeding a portion size which has been recommended for your individual animal – such as that provided by Pawtions – you know that you are providing enough nutrients, vitamins and minerals to meet your dog’s unique needs.
In their PAW report of the last year the PDSA assessed the weight and general health of nearly 30,000 dogs across the UK. They discovered that 35% of UK dogs are overweight. This is a very alarming figure, especially when we consider ourselves a nation of dog lovers. An overweight dog cannot possibly enjoy life to the full, is likely to encounter more health problems, which may sadly lead to an early grave.
What are your key priorities when choosing the perfect plan for dogs from Pawtions?
We understand that all dogs are unique, so we make sure we have all the information we need to really help us to understand each dog better.
By asking the owner relevant questions about their dog, our veterinary nutritionist can work out the portion size for each and every dog individually. This takes the confusion away from the owner when trying to work out how much food their dog actually needs. It also means continuity in the household when the job of feeding pets is shared by several people.
In order to provide customers with a recommended feeding plan, we ask them to provide us with vital pieces of information including:
• whether your dog is neutered
• daily exercise
• any special dietary requirements
• your preferred flavour
It’s very important that the information customers provide is as accurate as possible and also kept up to date. We recommend that owners regularly weigh their dogs so that we can change their portion size should their nutritional requirements change.
However, the Pawtions perfect plan isn’t just about the food! We also include treats, poop bags, flea and wormer treatment (just when they’re needed) and free gifts to provide a complete care package.
Do you think age and breed make a difference in selecting the right diet for your dog?
Yes, definitely! By telling us your dog’s breed we are able to check whether this falls into the recognised weight bracket. If the dog’s weight doesn’t fall within this bracket, we discuss this further with the owner, as all dogs are unique, and breed standards can very significantly.
We understand that small dogs may prefer a smaller kibble, and larger breeds a larger one. Also, different breeds are classed as puppies and senior dogs at different ages. Therefore knowing the breed allows us to decide when to recommend a change from a puppy diet to a maintenance one, or a maintenance diet to a senior one.
Puppies require very different levels of nutrients to adult dogs, so must be fed a diet that meets their specific needs. They also need more regular feeding, and we take this into consideration when calculating portion size.
However, as dogs age, their energy levels decrease, reducing their calorific need. Their nutritional requirements also change with the aging process and we believe the diet should change to support this.
What 5 top tips would you give dog owners who might be thinking about changing diet to a more portion controlled diet?
When thinking about changing your dog’s diet to a recommended Pawtions plan you should consider the following points:
1) If your dog has serious medical problems, we strongly advise you contact your vet before
you make any change of diet.
2) Provide us with as much information as possible so that we can recommend the right Pawtions plan for your dog.
3) It’s really important to make sure you gradually introduce a new food. The best way is to start adding a small amount to the current food. Slowly increase the proportion of new food to current food over the period of a week until a complete change is achieved.
4) We encourage you to weigh your dog regularly so that we can make any alterations to the diet as necessary.
5) If you have any questions regarding your dog’s health or diet, we encourage owners to ask, it could be important. We are here to help.
Lastly, tell us a little about Pawtions. Where did your inspiration to start the company and healthy menu for dogs come from?
The idea for Pawtions stemmed from our founder’s own frustrations with looking after and feeding Bella, his cocker spaniel. First he would have to drive to a supermarket or pet store and carry a big heavy bag back to the car. Then, once home he would have to find somewhere to store it. He found there was a tendency to be over-generous when the bag was first opened and the food fresh, whilst towards the end of the bag the food often become dried out and crumbly, losing its appeal. He also found that he would run out of food, treats and poop bags at the most inconvenient times.
But the biggest problem came with the inconvenience of deciding how much to feed, due to the vague feeding guidelines, and then weighing out the correct amount every day!
At Pawtions we know what it means to be lucky enough to own a dog and we want to encourage people to be more aware of their dog’s nutritional needs. Through our complete care package we hope to promote responsible dog ownership. The package includes wormer and flea treatment throughout the year, so you’ll never forget when treatments are due, free tasty treats, and free poop bags. Now and again we’ll also pop in a surprise toys as a little present for your best friend. All this is delivered to your door every 4 weeks.
To find out more about Pawtions and investigate a plan for your dog, visit www.pawtions.co.uk today!
Resources: Older Dogs
- Diet & Feeding of the Older (Senior, Geriatric) Dog
- Feeding Older Dogs
- All about Dogs: How to Feed, Train and Care for Dogs of All Breeds
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