As with humans, the likelihood of getting sick increases significantly with increasing age. Older dogs from the age of seven do not necessarily have to get sick. Many four-legged friends stay healthy into old age. Diet also plays an important role in this. You cannot stop signs of aging through optimal feeding, but you can at least delay it or influence it positively.
Older dogs seven years and over have special needs that should be considered when feeding:
Since the physical activity of the senior dog is usually significantly reduced and the sleep periods are longer, he has a significantly lower energy requirement in contrast to the adult younger dog. If he is given too much food or too high-energy food and thus too many calories, the risk of obesity increases and, as a result, the tendency to disease.
To prevent obesity, you should reduce the energy intake of older dogs by 20 to 25 percent. Check your senior’s body weight regularly to be able to adjust the amount of food. In stores or at the vet you can get a large selection of ready-to-eat foods that are suitable for the changed energy requirements. Special feeds such as “GranCarno Senior Beef + Turkey Heart” from animonda (6 x 400g for 7 euros) are precisely tailored to the needs of older dogs from the age of seven.
Despite the lower energy requirement, the senior needs just as many nutrients as the adult dog, i.e. vitamins, minerals and trace elements. For certain nutrients, such as vitamin E, the need is even higher.
The protein intake should never be below the requirement, but neither should it be excessive. A protein intake that is too low can increase the age-related muscle breakdown, whereas a very high protein intake puts an excessive strain on the kidneys and liver, which may already have been impaired by age.
Since fat provides a significantly higher energy supply compared to carbohydrates and protein, the fat content in senior feed should be low. However, unsaturated fatty acids are essential for the body. This means that they cannot be produced in the body and must therefore be taken in through food. These unsaturated fatty acids are found in salmon oil and vegetable oils (such as linseed oil).
Nutrients in food for old dogs are especially important. © chendongshan-stock.adobe.com
Among other things, zinc plays a major role in the immune system and should be contained in senior feed well above the requirement. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and carotenoids also play an important role in the diet of old dogs, as they counteract the aging of cell structures. Antioxidants are found in relatively high amounts in most types of commercially available senior foods.
Some substances can have a positive effect on certain signs of aging or illnesses. Below is a small selection of these substances that you can get from your vet or pharmacy.
Before you give your dog one of these feed additives, you should have a brief consultation with your veterinarian and check whether some of these substances are not already contained in the finished feed anyway, so that you do not give your dog too much of it.
Old dogs have a lower energy requirement. © methaphum-stock.adobe.com
In addition to the food components, there are other aspects to be considered when feeding old dogs:
Many dog owners prefer self-cooked or BARF rations for their dogs. The rations should be calculated or checked by a veterinarian who specializes in animal nutrition so that there is no nutrient deficiency.
The usual BARF rations are not suitable for dogs with kidney, heart or liver problems due to the high protein and connective tissue content due to the innards. Rations based on lean muscle meat with little connective tissue and dairy products, i.e. proteins that are easy to digest and of high quality, such as white meat (e.g. turkey or chicken) or fish, are preferred for old or sick dogs.
There are also special features for old dogs when it comes to baref. © Lilli-stock.adobe.com
If a senior dog is already ill, this must of course also be taken into account when feeding, by adapting the principles mentioned to the individual circumstances. For example, if the dog suffers from kidney disease, it needs a protein- and phosphorus-reduced diet to prevent the disease from progressing rapidly.
In such a case, you should definitely give a special diet, as this can significantly extend the quality of life and lifespan. However, you should definitely consult a veterinarian for this, as this differs from dog to dog and also from disease to disease.