White dog holding food bowl.

As your dog ages, its dietary needs change. Dogs have different nutritional needs at different stages in their lives. So what food is best for your dog’s optimal health? The team at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital is here to help you figure it out.

Fewer Calories, More Fiber

An aging dog may need fewer calories and more fiber. As their metabolism slows and muscle mass decreases due to natural aging, a dog’s diet will likely require fewer calories than when they were younger. 

Fiber can help reduce inflammation and maintain your dog’s gut health. Fiber may also help with allergies, arthritis, and other joint problems.

Proper Dog Nutrition Can Help Prevent or Manage Common Health Conditions

Dietary changes and supplements may help avoid or manage many health conditions associated with aging in dogs.

The aging process may make it more difficult for your dog to maintain a healthy weight. Dogs often lose their sense of smell and taste as they age, so they may not be as interested in eating as they once were. They also become less physically active and may have more difficulty chewing their food. These factors can lead to weight gain, which increases the risk for diseases such as diabetes mellitus and osteoarthritis.

To help keep your pet at a healthy weight, consider making the following changes to your dog’s diet:

  • Reduce calories by cutting back on high-fat treats or table scraps.
  • Increase fiber intake by adding canned pumpkin or bran to dry food.
  • Add water to dry food to make it easier for your pet to chew and swallow.

Adding supplements to your dog’s diet can support the immune system and help prevent or manage common conditions of aging, including hip dysplasia, arthritis, and degenerative myelopathy. 

Vitamin C helps maintain healthy connective tissue and supports immune function. Vitamin E protects cell membranes from damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules). And glucosamine supports joint health by promoting cartilage production and maintaining joint flexibility.

Consider Increasing Protein

As your dog ages, it will likely need more protein in its diet. Protein is the building block of muscle and a good source of energy. Aging dogs can lose muscle mass, which can cause weight loss, fatigue, and weakness. Increasing the protein in your dog’s diet may help maintain muscle mass. Dogs also need protein for healthy skin and coats.

The optimum protein level depends on your dog’s age and activity level, but it’s generally recommended that adult dogs receive 20-25% of their calories from protein. The amount required will vary depending on size, breed, and lifestyle. Your veterinarian can recommend the ideal percentage of protein to include in your dog’s diet

Find the Best Food for Your Dog’s Specific Needs

Many different commercial dog foods are available, some formulated specifically for senior dogs or dogs with special needs or health conditions. But just because one food is more expensive than another doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better. Finding a nutritious, high-quality, safe diet for your aging dog is essential.

Your Dog is Unique

Remember that your dog is an individual, and its nutrition needs may differ from those of other dogs. Your veterinarian is an expert on your pet’s health and can recommend foods, dietary changes, and supplements to help keep your best friend healthy and energetic as time passes. 

The Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital staff enjoys helping our senior patients stay healthy and vibrant. If you have concerns about your aging dog’s diet or nutrition requirements, please call us at (210) 681-1391.