Diet Considerations for Your Elderly Dog

Elderly dog diets should be adjusted to meet your dog's changing needs. Just as puppies and nursing dogs have special dietary requirements, geriatric canines also need some special nutritional consideration.

Elderly Dogs Have Special Needs

Your elderly dog will no doubt become less active than he once was and will need less energy and less food. He may develop complications with his health that could be improved by diet and nutritional supplements. Conditions such as liver and heart disease, which are common in elderly dogs, require special dog diets.

Many companies manufacture dog food engineered especially for older dogs. These foods are designed to meet your elderly dog's unique nutritional needs, including your dog's decreased need for protein, and his increased need for kidney and liver support. Give your older dog plenty of water with his meals, to make up for any decrease in kidney function that may come with age.

Elderly Dog Feeding Considerations

As you dog ages, his eating habits and dietary needs change. Your geriatric canine will eat less; he may experience a lack of appetite and display an unwillingness to eat. Here are some tips to help you encourage your dog to eat:

  • Don't leave your dog's food out all day. Put it away after he has finished eating. Your dog may prefer fresh dog food over old, stale dog food.
  • Create a calm, quiet place where your dog can eat his meals in peace.
  • Instead of feeding your dog just once a day, try dividing his portion into two or more smaller ones.
  • Your dog may appreciate a change from dry kibble to canned food, especially if his teeth are no longer what they once were.
  • Warm up your older dog's food to body temperature to make it more appealing.

Foods to Avoid

There are some foods that can cause your elderly dog discomfort, especially if he suffers from medical complications associated with old age. The most common geriatric canine complaint is arthritis; red meat and dairy products can aggravate the painful inflammation associated with this disorder, so eliminate these foods from your dog's diet if he suffers from arthritis.

Changing Diets: When and How

As your dog begins to reach an advanced age, you can slowly change his diet. It's a good idea to make such changes before your older dog exhibits medical complications associated with old age; this can keep him healthier longer. Change your dog's diet slowly, over a period of several weeks, by gradually mixing larger and larger parts of the new dog food with his old dog food. This can help prevent the gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhea, to which your elderly dog will be more vulnerable.

If your dog is overweight, dietary steps should be taken to help him lose weight. Excess weight puts strain on your dog's joints, which could worsen the symptoms of arthritis. Obesity also increases your dog's risk of heart problems.

An exercise regimen of brief, but frequent, walks can be instituted to help your overweight older dog lose weight. Swimming is also an excellent exercise for the overweight dog.