Long life is a matter of good genes, good care and good luck; and a major part of good care is good nutrition. However, since senior dogs vary so much in their dietary needs, there hasn’t been any official nutrition requirements set.
And this explains why commercial foods for older dogs differ so widely in nutrient levels. Clearly, you are not supposed to be a nutritionist but at least you should be aware of the best food for an older dog and the major nutrition factors that apply to them.
Tips for a healthy diet for an older dog
How Much Protein Should My Senior Dog Eat?
You shouldn’t increase the protein intake as it overexerts the kidneys—Wrong. A study that compared the protein requirements for a 2 years old Beagles with that of a 13 years old one, showed that older dogs needed at least 50% more dietary protein.
There is no need to decrease the protein intake protein, on the contrary, senior dogs are more prone to muscle mass loss, and this requires extra protein to fuel their muscles. Low levels of protein not only deteriorate the muscles, but it impairs the immunity, making your dog more prone to disease and stress. A senior dog diet must provide a minimum of 25% of calories from protein.
Underweight is common in older dogs, while overweight is more common in younger seniors. So, the same food that can be suitable for one, can be a bad choice for the other. Generally, studies have shown that eating a low-fat diet with fewer calories improves longevity and reduces illnesses in older dogs.
Vitamin B, C and E
L-carnitine and antioxidants like vitamin C and E strengthen the dog’s immune system and fight free radicals. Sunflower oil and corn oil are rich in vitamin E, so If you prepare your dog’s food yourself, you can add some with meat or vegetables. Water-soluble vitamins like vitamin B should also find their place in your senior’s dog diet. Be careful with vitamin A as it can overload your dog’s liver if he consumed it in excessive amounts.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids
Dry skin, infections and hair loss are all common problems in senior dogs.
A high proportion of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in your dog’s food strengthens his skin and maintains his coat shine and overall health. Flaxseed oil is incredibly rich in Omega 6 while Omega 3, which is even more essential for your dog’s health, is found in fish oil like salmon oil. It not only improves the coat but also strengthens the joints and act as a pain reliever.
Related: How To Take Care Of Older Dogs?
Just like humans, dogs tend to drink less as they age. However, sufficient water intake is a pre-requisite for a senior dog’s balanced diet. Canned (wet) food is more suitable than kibble if your dog doesn’t drink enough water. It can also be handy to add a slight “flavour enhancer” to his water bowl, you can try, for example, a spoonful of poultry juice or broth.
Ready-made food or homemade food?
When it comes to your senior dog’s food, quality should be your top priority. If you prepare your dog’s food yourself, then you already have a good idea of what he likes and you can ensure the quality of the diet and choose fresh ingredients. But, if you prefer to provide processed, ready-to-eat food, you can find some very healthy options as well.
Unfortunately, not all are created equally. Quality food is not only recognized by its price but also by its list of ingredients. Make sure that the meat is of good quality and that the nutrients mentioned above in this article are included.
On the other hand, sugar has no place in dog food; it can seriously harm the health of senior dogs with dental problems. Unfortunately, a large amount of dog food is high in sugar, so they are often cheaper but refrain from buying them, for the sake of your dog.
Homemade recipes for older dogs:
- Beef with carrots and zucchini: ⅓ cup coarsely cut beef meat, ⅓ cup raw grated carrots, ⅙ cup sticky rice, 1/6 cup cooked zucchini mashed, 1 drizzle of sunflower oil, 1 pinch of brewer’s yeast flakes.
- Mixed hen and chicken with rice and green beans: ⅙ cup pot-cooked hen, 1/6 sautéed chicken fillet, ⅓ cup well-cooked rice, 1/3 cup green beans, 1 fillet corn oil
- Vegetable pate with egg: 1/3 cup melted leek, 1/3 cup carrots, 1/3 cup rice, 1 or 2 raw egg whites. Mix the egg white with the various vegetables and cereals and then sprinkle brewer’s yeast flakes.
- Sautéed pork with vegetables: 1/3 cup lean pork meat, ⅙ cup green beans, ⅙ cup half-cooked carrots, ⅙ cup rice cooked in the meat broth.
- Duck and chicken terrine with rice and green beans: 1/6 cup duck, 1/6 cup chicken, 1/3 cup rice, 1/3 cup mashed green beans.
Other aspects that can help you provide the best food for an older dog:
- Place the meals on a raised platform to prevent your dog from bending down and getting uncomfortable.
- Consider warming the food as it increases your dog’s appetite especially if his food intake isn’t enough.