Feeding old dogs
Time to change nutrition
Nowadays, dogs are living longer than previously and the proportion of older and old dogs in the total population continues to rise. This is due to good accommodation conditions, more balanced nutrition and better veterinary care. The age at which a dog becomes a senior cannot be generalized in numerical terms and depends on various factors that include the animal's breed and state of health. The ageing process is most easily recognised on the basis of physical changes and changes in character: The coat becomes grey, sight and hearing deteriorate, the teeth show signs of wear, the dog becomes calmer and its urge to move reduces. The behaviour of some animals changes and they become more affectionate, while others prefer to withdraw into themselves. Even conditions such as dementia are increasingly frequent. Click here to calculate your dog's age in human years >
Obvious signs for a rethink
Many dogs lose their appetite as they grow older. Reduced consumption of food is caused by worn teeth, gum disease, tooth loss as well as "sensory loss" such as lower attentiveness, deteriorating sight, deafness, etc. Reluctance to move as well as discomfort associated with movement can indicate age-related degeneration of joint cartilage. Restricted movement represents the primary risk of age-related weight gain, resulting in a shorter life-expectancy for dogs. However, digestion and metabolism also undergo changes that are not always immediately apparent: The stomach lining degenerates, making the digestion more sensitive and impairing the absorption of food. In addition, the stomach muscles become flaccid and intestinal motility (defecation) worsens. Consequently, microbial activity in the stomachs of old dogs increases and harmful metabolic end products start to accumulate.
What to watch for in terms of food quantity?
Extreme cases tend to occur during old age: Many dogs put on weight more easily due to their diminished urge to move and slower metabolism, and this excess weight causes a further deterioration in their general health. Diabetes, heart diseases or disorders of the musculoskeletal system are the result. Conversely, other dogs suffer from substantial weight loss. Causes in this case are painful teeth or impaired absorption of nutrients in the stomach. The quantity of dog food should be adjusted to both situations because ideal weight is a decisive factor for maintaining vitality.
The composition of a suitable senior dog food
Dog food for seniors should be specially formulated. The most important ingredient is a high-quality meat to maintain the muscular system. An easily digestible carbohydrate source such as rice is also a recommended part of the nutrition for older dogs. High-quality fibre (and especially prebiotic inulin) supports healthy digestive flora and controlled digestion. L-carnitine encourages fat burning and prevents excess weight.
Since the ability to absorb and store vitamins decreases, food with a higher vitamin content should be used. Vitamin C and E in particular are essential for older animals as they act as antioxidants and protect the cells from free radicals. The mineral content of the dog food must also be adjusted to take account of the changed situation. The kidney function of old dogs is often impaired, which results in reduced passing of phosphates. This then accumulates in the blood and forms deposits in tissues and blood vessels, which can lead to arterial calcification. Moreover, the higher phosphate concentration in the blood causes calcium to leach from the skeleton and the bones become more brittle. This can be prevented by choosing a dog food with a lower phosphate content. A good dog food for seniors will also contain less sodium. This reduces water retention in dogs. The mobility of our four-legged friends in old age often suffers from signs of wear in the musculoskeletal system. Chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine are components of the joint matter and of the cartilage and can be delivered to the dog as part of a high-quality food.
Observe your dog and pay attention to any changes. Visit your vet regularly in order to detect and treat illness at an early stage. The sooner you start with appropriate nutrition for seniors, the more positive and lasting the effects on the fitness and health of your dog will be in later years. You should pay particular attention to the issue of excess weight. Our dog food types Meradog High Premium Senior and Meradog pure Senior build on these comprehensive insights into the specific aspects of nutrition for seniors. They meet the individual nutritional requirements of your older and old dog in a unique way. Chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine, for instance, maintain your dog's mobility. Fibre and inulin provide for stable digestive flora while the addition of L-carnitine mobilises the fat metabolism, with the result that this food can make an important contribution to the health and well-being of your dog.