There’s definitely reason to panic if your older buddy suddenly stops eating the food he used to love. But relax: these changes are normal in ageing dogs. You will also have to make changes regarding what to feed elderly dogs.
But first, how do you know when a dog is considered old? For small breeds that weigh less than 20 pounds, 7 years is the mark to consider them old. The same goes for medium breeds that are 21 to 50 pounds. Larger dogs that are between 51 to 90 pounds get old at around 6 years old. Giant breeds 91 pounds or more will get old by the time they reach 5 years old.
When your dog gets old, it’s time to change their diet in order to keep them healthy and prevent any chronic illnesses from striking them. Some health issues that you want to prevent are deterioration of their skin and coat, loss of muscle mass, obesity, dental problems, and CDS to name a few.
Older dogs have been shown to progressively put on body fat in spite of consuming fewer calories. This change in body composition is inevitable and may be aggravated by either reduced energy expenditure or a change in metabolic rate. Either way, it is important to feed a diet with a lower caloric density to avoid weight gain, but with a normal protein level to help maintain muscle mass.
Avoid “senior” diets that have reduced levels of protein. Studies have shown that the protein requirement for older dogs does not decrease with age, and that protein levels do not contribute to the development or progression of renal failure. It is important to feed older dogs diets that contain optimum levels of highly digestible protein to help maintain good muscle mass.
Talk to your veterinarian about increasing your senior dogs GLA intake. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid that plays a role in the maintenance of healthy skin and coat. Although it is normally produced in a dog’s liver, GLA levels may be diminished in older dogs. Does your older dog’s diet contain GLA? (Read more here.)
At your dog’s old age, you might also want to turn to antioxidants, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, as these can eliminate radical particles that damage your body’s tissues and even speed up the effects of aging.
At this point, you will need to have routine care for your senior pet. It might be a bit costly, but it’s important if you want to prevent skyrocketing costs when you find out that your pet has a chronic illness.