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Tips For Feeding A Senior Dog 

February 15 2024

Has your furry best buddy gone grey around the muzzle? Your dog will never outgrow his love of food. However, his nutritional needs will change over time. You may need to make some adjustments to your dog’s menu as he ages. Read on as a local Oshawa, ON vet offers some advice on feeding a senior dog. 

Adjust Your Senior Dog’s Meal Schedule If Needed

People often ask about how many times senior dogs should be fed daily. Every dog is a bit different, so you’ll want to check with your vet. That said. Fido may benefit from being fed more frequently, but smaller meals. You may need to break those meals into between two and five daily portions.

Offer The Proper Portions

Knowing how much to feed your dog can be tricky. This very much depends on the size of your furry companion, and the food he is eating. Start by checking the guidelines on the package. You can also find charts on the sites of many pet food manufacturers. However, these vary a bit from site to site and they often over-estimate. For instance, Purina suggests that an adult dog who weighs between 26 and 50 pounds should have 2 to 2-⅔ cups daily: Rover puts that number at 2½ – 3¼ cups. 

That said, we can say that in general, you’d want to reduce a senior’s caloric intake by about 20 to 30 percent. 

However, once Fido becomes geriatric, he may need extra calories. Weather can also come into play: a pup with thin fur may need a bit more food in winter.

Consult Your Oshawa, ON Veterinarian Regularly

Fido’s doctor should be the final authority here. Ask your vet for specific advice, and revisit the topic regularly.

Time The Changes Properly When Changing To Senior Dog Food

When is a dog considered to be mature or senior? This varies from breed to breed, mostly according to size. Large dogs age more rapidly than little ones. Some giant breeds may be seniors at just five years old, while a Chihuahua may not reach his golden years until he’s ten or more. 

That said, there are some guidelines. Fido will be considered mature when he’s halfway through his average life expectancy. When he gets past 75% of it, he’s a senior. Pups that outlive their expected life spans are geriatric.

Keep Fido Hydrated

Keeping your furry companion properly hydrated is absolutely crucial! You may want to consider getting a fountain or smart waterer. If you have a large house and/or more than one floor, set out extra water bowls. 

Consider Supplements

There are many different vitamins and supplements available for older dogs, including multivitamins, antioxidants, amino and fatty acids, and prebiotics and probiotics. All provide different benefits. For instance, Omega 3 and 6 are good for your pet’s skin and coat, and are also benefit his bones and joints. Other bone and joint supplements include glucosamine and vitamin K. A pup with vision issues may do well with a Vitamin A supplement. However, too much Vitamin A is actually dangerous. 

Talk to your Oshawa, ON vet before adding supplements. Also, watch for reactions. 

Choose Healthy Treats

Your furry companion will still enjoy and benefit from snacks. Just be careful here: many of the treats you’ll find in stores are high in calories and fat, and offer little nutrition. Choose healthy brands or, better yet, make your own.

Incorporate Fruits And Veggies

Fido may be listed as a Carnivora, but he isn’t technically a carnivore. Rather, your pooch is an omnivore. In the wild, dogs’ diets are mostly, but not entirely, meat-based. Your pup will benefit from having fruits and veggies in his diet. You can offer things like carrot sticks, peas, spinach, dried sweet potato slices, apple slices, and even bananas. Just double-check before offering anything: you’ll need to make sure that it’s safe.

Another thing you can consider is adding small amounts of pureed pumpkin to your pet’s food. Just check with your Oshawa, ON vet first.

Choose The Right Senior Dog Food

Pet food has gone far beyond the basic kibble: you can now get food that is formulated just for Fido. There are some great ones to choose from, and you don’t have to break the bank.  Dog food that is geared for older dogs may be less caloric, which can help prevent weight gain. You may also find foods that are aimed at certain conditions, such as joint support formulas. You want to look for something that provides Fido with the proper mix of fat, protein, and nutrients. 

You’ll also need to decide whether to feed your senior dog wet or dry food. Both have their own pros and cons, but it will ultimately depend on Fido’s tastes, health needs, as well as any dental or dietary issues he has. 

Many pups prefer wet food. It’s also easier on dogs with dental issues. However, dry food can be better for keeping your pet’s teeth clean. It’s also cheaper, and stores longer. You also have the option of adding a mix, or adding water to Fido’s kibble. 

Ask your vet for specific advice.

Keep Up With Dental Care

Dental issues are very prevalent in older dogs, and can definitely impact your pet’s eating habits. Keep Fido’s choppers clean by brushing and/or providing dental treats and chews. Contact your vet if you notice anything amiss.

Make The Switch To Senior Foods Slowly

When it’s time to make the switch to a senior formula food, you’ll want to make this change slowly, over the course of several days. Otherwise, you could upset Fido’s furry belly!

Make Sure Your Dog’s Food Is The Right Temperature

In general, we would recommend serving Fido’s food at room temperature. If you’re keeping food in the fridge, take it out an hour before feeding your pooch, to let it warm up. If you microwave anything, test it first to make sure it isn’t too hot. 

Give Fido A Quiet Dining Spot

This one somewhat depends on the size and setup of your home and the number of pets you have. If Fido is an only dog, then by all means, put his bowls in the kitchen or wherever it’s most convenient. However, if you have a few pooches, mealtimes could get a bit frenzied. You may want to feed your senior in a separate spot. It’s important for Fido to be able to eat peacefully, without his roommates jostling him or helping themselves to his dinner.

Consider Getting Raised Dishes

Ask your vet for specific advice on choosing Fido’s bowls. Your pet may eat more comfortably from a raised dish, so he doesn’t have to splay his feet or lower his neck so much. However, there may be a concern of bloat with these types of dishes, particularly with bigger dogs.

Take Care Not To Overfeed The Pup

Fido will never outgrow his love of food. However, as he ages, he’ll slow down … just as we all do. Your pup won’t be as zoomy, and he may be content with watching the squirrels in the yard, rather than running after them. This all means your pooch 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 will get.

Pay close attention to your furry best buddy’s body condition. Older dogs are prone to becoming obese, so you’ll want to nip any weight gain in the bud. Ask your vet for specific recommendations when it comes to portion sizes and snacks. You may need to measure your pet’s food to ensure that he’s getting the exact amount of calories he needs: no more, no less.

Conclusion: Your dog’s nutritional needs will change over time. As your pet reaches his golden years, you may need to make some changes, such as switching to senior food, adding supplements, and changing meal schedules. Ask your veterinarian for specific advice on feeding a senior dog.

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

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