Senior Dog Nutrition. Feeding our Senior Four Legged Companions

As an owner of three senior dogs our family has had to take stock of where each one is individually with their diet. Our Border Collie, Charlie is the oldest at nearly 15 years old and the other three are all over the age of seven. They all have great appetites and we are lucky that they eat all most anything we put in front of them. But they also have different needs.

Charlie was stiff and very arthritic, and Lola the Cocker Spaniel was a little bit overweight. The two Miniature Poodles, Poppy and Noodle found it difficult to maintain weight. They all more or less have the same diet except Charlie who has more protein in his now. We also supplement all our dogs with MAX STRENGTH from Winston & Porter ®.

All our dogs are living much longer than they did say 25 years ago, which is mirroring our own human longevity, relatively. There are a number of factors which have contributed to this but the main ones are improved vaccines, veterinary care and improved nutrition through better diets.

Most Dogs gain senior status between the age of six and twelve. There is a lot written about older dogs and what their diets should be. Do older dogs need less protein and more carbohydrates? Or does their diet really remain the same as when they were younger? Some Dog food manufacturers may tell you that senior dogs are unable to cope with too much protein and need a high fibre diet combined with low fat. These brands tend to be marketed as Senior Formulas.

According to Lew Olsen, PhD (Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals, 2010), these senior formulas end up having a negative effect rather than a positive one. A senior dog will be craving high protein and high fat foods and as a result can end up hungry all of the time. High fibre diets for dogs can damage the coat, skin and internal organs.

A much more supportive diet is a one high in animal protein and low in carbohydrates. In short, you don't really need to change your senior companion's diet too much at all to keep them healthy and happy.

A Few pointers to remember about an older dog's diet:

1. Plenty of Protein

Older dogs find it difficult to process protein and therefore need more to fill the gap. Animal proteins such as pork, lamb, beef, fish eggs and dairy products are a great source

2. Overweight Dog? Limit the Fat content!

You can trim off some of the fat from meat you give your dog and use leaner meats like chicken and beef. Avoid meats like lamb and pork. You could also use low fat dairy products like low-fat yogurt and cottage cheese too.

3. Reduce Carbohydrates

Don't feed foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and green peas which are starchy and hypoglycaemic. Avoid grains and rice.

So, enough protein is essential for an older dog and should not be reduced as some commentators have previously claimed. A diet lacking in protein can result in loss of lean body mass, lethargy, an impaired immune system and hypersensitivity to drugs.

So let’s look after our senior companions and think before we prepare that meal for them. They have given us years of love, friendship and loyalty so lets do the same for them.

Devin McManus

Winston & Porter ®

0191 379 0077

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