Low calorie dog food for small breeds
In that case, foods labeled “multi-stage” would be acceptable for puppies, adults, and seniors. “You make some compromises when you do the ‘multi-stage’ diets, ” Nunez says. “So they’re my second choice. But some people just can’t separate the foods. The puppy will get into the senior diet, and the senior dog will get into the puppy food.”
Metzger tells WebMD that when it comes to snacks, you should serve your senior dog healthy, low-fat, low-sodium treats. Although many dog owners think of bones and milk biscuits as snacks, there are alternatives. “Vegetables are great, ” Metzger says. “Most dogs like carrots and apple slices.” But avoid grapes and raisins because they’re harmful to dogs.
Dogs may also need more water as they age. “The body’s ability to maintain water balance is decreased as they get older, ” he says. It’s important to make sure that senior dogs have plenty of water.
What health problems can affect a senior dog’s diet?
If your dog has medical problems in its later years, you may need help from a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to plan a proper diet. “Older pets with specific conditions, like diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease may require special veterinary diets to assist in the treatment of their conditions, ” Metzger says.
“The goal of a diabetic diet is to delay absorption of a food, " Nunez says. That's important for dogs with diabetes. When foods are absorbed slowly, blood sugar tends to rise more slowly.
Lower-fat, higher-fiber foods are best for diabetic dogs, Nunez says. Consult your veterinarian about which type of food to buy.
Many senior diets have higher-quality protein sources than standard foods. This helps to maintain body weight and muscle mass without putting too much strain on the kidneys.
Should senior dogs take supplements?
Metzger also says that owners who decide to give their dogs glucosamine and chondroitin supplements should use veterinary formulations, not human ones.
Although such supplements may be useful, dogs with joint problems and arthritis benefit more from slimming down, Nunez says. “People think glucosamine is the best thing, but the very best thing is weight management.”
What should an owner do when a senior dog won’t eat?
It’s common for older dogs to have reduced appetite, Nunez says. Causes vary. For example, some dogs have gastrointestinal problems that bring on nausea, while others lose their appetite because of cancer.
“When a dog won’t eat, ” Metzger says, “make sure your veterinarian rules out any underlying health problems, such as dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer.” He also says that when dogs lose interest in dry food, adding warm water, chicken broth, or a small amount of canned food can make it more appealing.
Home-cooked meals can be enticing, too. “That extra smell and that extra TLC can get the dog to eat, ” Nunez says. Some owners feed their dogs combinations of foods, such as cooked chicken and barley or cooked lamb and rice.
Pet stores also sell bottles of flavor enhancers that owners can add to food. “Also, as a last resort, there are medications - appetite stimulants - that can help dogs eat, " Nunez says.
But these treatments should be used only after veterinarians have ruled out serious diseases, Metzger says.
Fred Metzger, DVM, Diplomate ABVP, owner, Metzger Animal Hospital, State College, Pa., and adjunct professor, Penn State University.