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Feeding Fido In His Golden Years 

March 1, 2024

Did you know that the age when a dog is considered mature or senior varies from breed to breed? This is primarily due to size differences. Large dogs age faster than little ones. Some large breeds can be seniors at five years old, whereas a Chihuahua may not reach his golden years until he is ten or older. Generally, Fido will be regarded as mature when he reaches halfway through his typical life expectancy. When he has gotten past 75% of that expected lifespan, he will officially be a furry, barking senior. Of course, your pooch will never outgrow his love of food. However, his dietary requirements will shift over time. As your dog gets older, you may need to make some changes to his diet. Continue reading for suggestions from a local Des Moines, IA veterinarian on feeding a senior dog.

Adjust Your Senior Dog’s Meal Schedule As Needed

People often ask how many times elderly dogs should be fed every day. Fido may benefit from receiving more frequent yet smaller meals, so you may need to divide those meals into two or five daily servings.  Every dog is different, though, so consult your veterinarian. 

Offer The Proper Portions

Sorting out exactly how much to feed Fido can be tricky, as it depends on his size and the food he is eating. Begin by reviewing the instructions on the packaging. You can also find charts on the websites of many pet food companies. However, these vary slightly from site to site and frequently overestimate calorie requirements. For instance, Purina recommends that an adult dog weighing 26-50 pounds consume 2 to 2-⅔ cups daily. Rover estimates 2½-3¼ cups.

Some older dogs need to eat fewer calories. Your vet may recommend reducing your furry senior’s caloric intake by 20 to 30 percent. However, that isn’t always the case. Fido’s calorie requirements could actually increase as he grows older. Weather might also be a factor: a pup with thin fur may require extra food in the cold months.

As always, your Des Moines, IA veterinarian should be the final authority in this matter.

Make Sure Fido Is Staying Well-Hydrated

Keeping your canine companion adequately hydrated is critical! You may want to consider purchasing a fountain or a smart waterer. If you have a large house and/or multiple floors, set out additional water bowls.

Consider Supplements

There are numerous vitamins and supplements available for older dogs, including multivitamins, antioxidants, amino and fatty acids, prebiotics, and probiotics. All offer different benefits. For example, Omega 3 and 6 are beneficial to your dog’s skin and coat, and are good for his bones and joints as well. Other bone and joint supplements include glucosamine and vitamin K. It’s important to choose the right one. Before adding supplements, see your Des Moines, IA veterinarian. Keep an eye out for any reactions.

Choose Healthy Treats

Your canine companion will still enjoy snacks and treats. Just be careful: many dog cookies are rich in calories and fat, and offer little nutritional value. Choose healthy products, or better yet, make your own. Just stick with safe ingredients.

Incorporate Safe Fruits And Vegetables

Fido may be classified as a Carnivora, but he is not a true carnivore. Rather, your dog is omnivorous. In the wild, dogs eat largely meat, although not exclusively. Your dog will benefit from eating fruits and vegetables. You can serve carrot sticks, dried sweet potato slices, apple slices, and even bananas. Just double-check before offering anything: you’ll want to ensure that it’s secure.

You can also explore adding small amounts of pureed pumpkin to your pet’s meal. Check with your veterinarian.  

Choose the Right Senior Dog Food

Pet food has evolved well beyond the simple kibble; you can now obtain food designed specifically for Fido. There are some excellent options available, and they do not  necessarily have to be expensive.  Food formulated for senior dogs may be lower in calories, which can assist prevent weight gain. Other foods are meant to treat specific conditions, such as joint support solutions. The main thing is to find something that gives Fido the right balance of fat, protein, and nutrients. Ask your veterinarian for advice.

Keep Up With Dental Care

Dental problems are fairly common in elderly dogs.These can significantly affect your pet’s eating habits, as well as his overall quality of life. Brush Fido’s teeth and/or give him dental snacks and chews to help keep them clean. If you notice anything that seems off, please contact your Des Moines, IA veterinarian.

Make The Switch To Senior Foods Carefully

Check back with your veterinarian about Fido’s diet during his regular appointments. They will be able to advise you on when to convert to a senior formula food. You’ll want to make this modification gradually, over several days. Otherwise, you risk upsetting Fido’s hairy belly!

Make Sure Your Dog’s Food Is At The Right Temperature

In general, we recommend providing Fido’s meals at room temperature. If you store food in the fridge, take it out an hour before doggy dinnertime, to allow it to warm up. If you microwave anything to warm it up, be sure it is not too hot.

Give Fido A Quiet Dining Spot

If Fido is your only dog, you can place his bowls in the kitchen or wherever it is most convenient. However, if you have several pups, you may need to feed your senior in a separate area. Fido needs to be able to dine comfortably, without his roommates jostling him or taking his supper!

Consider A Dinnerware Pupgrade

Ask your veterinarian for specific advice on selecting Fido’s bowls. An elevated dish may allow your pet to eat more comfortably, by reducing the need for him to splay his feet or lower his neck. However, there is a risk of bloat with these dishes, especially with larger dogs.

Avoid Overfeeding The Pup

As your furry best friend gets older, he will slow down. He won’t be as fast, agile, or playful as he used to be, and he may prefer watching the squirrels in the yard rather than chasing them. All of this means that your dog will be expending less calories than he used to. This can lead to a negative spiral in terms of activity and obesity. Fido will have a more difficult time staying fit as he gains weight. He will gain weight as his fitness level declines, and so on. 

Pay special attention to your canine companion’s physical condition. Senior dogs are more likely to become obese. Fido may look cute if he’s chubby,  but extra weight is very bad for his health. Ask your veterinarian for precise instructions on meal sizes and snacks. You might have to measure your pet’s food to ensure that he receives the exact number of calories he requires.

Conclusion: Your dog’s nutritional requirements will vary over time. As your pet ages, you may need to make some adjustments, such as switching to senior food, adding supplements, and altering meal timings. Consult your veterinarian for specialized guidance on feeding a senior dog.

Do you have any questions about your dog’s health or care? Contact your nearest Des Moines, IA pet hospital today!

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