There is a popular school of thought out there that senior dog food should have a different nutritional make up than food for puppies and adult dogs. The pet food industry and some veterinarians tell us that older dogs need a special diet to maintain optimum health or prevent serious diseases. Popular ideas aren’t necessarily correct, however, and dog’s diets should be suited to their individual needs, regardless of age. So what should you consider when picking out a great food for your senior dog?
WHAT’S IN SENIOR DOG FOOD ANYWAY?
A recent study conducted by Tufts University found that many senior dog foods contain:
• Reduced calories, protein, phosphorous, and sodium
• Increased fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, joint supplements, and antioxidants
What do these adjustments tell us? They reflect beliefs that older dogs tend to be overweight, have problems with constipation, and require less protein in old age. In addition, they indicate that dogs can absorb nutritional supplements from dry food, which they cannot. These generalizations stem from flawed logic, so tweaking dog food formulas to fit those misconceptions is not the answer to improving your dog’s health.
FACTS & SOLUTIONS
1. FACT: Protein requirements do not decrease as your dog ages. The low quality, rendered protein found in many dog foods puts a strain on your pet’s organs. Kidney and liver function are compromised and dogs who have spent their whole lives on a poor diet cannot handle the amount of protein they actually need. That is why commercial senior dog foods contain less protein than adult formulas, not because older dogs require less protein.
SOLUTION: A dog food containing high quality, named sources of meat at biologically appropriate protein levels is the way to go for dogs of all ages.
2. FACT: Not all older dogs are fat. In fact some stages of aging – decreased appetite, reduced sense of smell or taste – can lead to senior dogs becoming too thin.
SOLUTION: Reduced calories won’t help those dogs, and if your dog is overweight, portion control and regular exercise are nutritionally appropriate solutions for that problem.
3. FACT: Adding fiber to senior food doesn’t work. It may make your dog poop more, but if he takes in too much fiber, his body will be unable to assimilate antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
SOLUTION: Constipation can be prevented by feeding dogs a moisture rich, species-appropriate diet, adding digestive enzymes and probiotics to their food, and making sure they get plenty of exercise. If your senior dog needs more fiber, canned pumpkin, psyllium husk powder, or other healthy alternatives can be added to his diet.
4. FACT: Dry food doesn’t supply your pet with appropriate levels of nutritional supplements. Many commercial senior foods have Omega-3 fatty acids and joint supplements added to them. The process of making kibble, however, renders omega-3s useless because they are very sensitive to heat and light. In addition, the levels of glucosamine are too low to benefit your pet.
SOLUTION: Add a joint supplement like Phyto-flex or Joint Rescue to your senior pet’s diet to make sure he’s getting properly formulated amounts of glucosamine and MSM. Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3s that can be easily added to dry food. And dogs usually love the taste!
With so much conflicting nutrition information out there, it’s a good idea to do a little research when choosing the best diet for your dog. For more info on senior diets, check out Dr. Karen Becker’s website: www.healthypets.mercola.com.