A little bit extra gray around the muzzle, problems seeing and hearing clearly, and slower movements overall all point toward your pup reaching their golden years. After a lifetime of companionship and loyalty, there’s nothing you won’t do to ease this transition.
But keeping your old dog thriving doesn’t always require grand gestures. Sometimes, you just need to change what you’re feeding them. Ready to make that happen? Here’s what you need to know about senior dog nutrition – and how to best support your pup in aging gracefully.
Senior Dog Food Basics
In the past, it was recommended that all dogs switch to a senior dog food formula upon reaching an advanced age. Dogs with health issues would likely get a prescription senior food instead.
Although well-meaning, this approach left a lot to be desired. Senior formulas are typically designed with a one-size-fits-all approach, resulting in an across-the-board reduction in both fat and protein. This works well for dogs struggling with obesity or kidney issues. But it’s not beneficial for all older dogs.
In fact, some pups benefit from a boost in protein to slow canine sarcopenia, a common form of muscular atrophy affecting senior dogs. A higher fat content can make the food more palatable to dogs that grow reluctant to eat in their old age. The healthy fats also help boost low energy stores, keeping them active for better muscle retention and joint health.
So, unless your dog’s health issues demand less protein or fat, it’s best to keep them a good balance of both nutrients. Better yet, choose a high-quality digestible protein, like Jiminy’s insect-based dog foods, and then take a balanced approach with a rotational diet.
Just be sure the senior dog food has other beneficial nutrients for your healthy older dog, like fatty acids, amino acids, vitamin B, choline, and a wide range of minerals. Plus, consider going beyond the basic formula to give them even more support through the golden years.
Nutritional Support for Health Issues
The aging process triggers many changes in your dog’s body, often leaving them with the need for additional nutritional support. Every dog is different, too, so you have to dial in your dog’s diet to match their unique needs. Here’s a look at how to use senior dog nutrition to ease common issues associated with aging.
Just like humans, dogs often experience a cognitive decline with aging. You can slow that process down by giving them a boost of antioxidants each day. Although supplements are an option if approved by your vet, it’s often easier to switch to a food naturally filled with antioxidants, like cricket-based dog foods.
Joints wear down all throughout life, taking the pep out of the step of even the healthiest older dogs. Fortunately, chondroitin and glucosamine help slow joint degeneration, while omega 3 fatty acids lubricate the worn joints. For the best results, give them to your pup on a daily basis alongside a healthy senior dog food.
The gastrointestinal tract becomes less efficient as time goes on, making it difficult to properly absorb key nutrients. On top of that, senior dogs often develop allergies to chicken and other common proteins after eating them for years. Switching to a highly digestible protein source, like insect-based proteins, is often key in resolving both of those problems.
If you’re ever unsure about how to best support the nutritional and health needs of your senior dog, don’t hesitate to go to the vet. They can provide smart food formula recommendations that help your dog feel their best even as the years go by.
When to Switch Dogs to a Senior-Friendly Food Formula
In general, small dogs reach the senior stage at about 11 years old. Large breeds, on the other hand, hit that stage by age six. Medium dogs are somewhere in the middle, of course. Like their nutritional needs, every dog is different in when they start showing their age.
So, you’ll have to look for the signs to decide just when to switch your pup to a senior dog food, such as:
- Gray fur around their muzzle and beyond
- A decline in their ability to see and hear clearly
- Advanced dental disease, including tooth loss
- Cognitive issues causing behavioral changes
- Inability to reliably control their bowels and bladder
Oftentimes, it’s the mobility issues that serve as the key indicator that your dog is getting older. They may not jump up to bark at the doorbell. Or they may just trot over to the ball rather than all out sprinting to its likely landing place.
Once you notice the signs, it’s likely time to reassess their food and see if a change could benefit your dog. If so, consider switching to Jiminy’s cricket- and grub-based foods. Designed to meet your dog’s nutritional needs through every life stage, these foods provide the ideal balance of protein, fat, and other key nutrients.