1) Watch the Fat-
As animals age they begin to loose lean muscle mass. This happens even for pets who get regular exercise. Since older dogs tend to have less lean muscle and more fat its a good idea to try and limit fat in their diet. This can be done by looking for foods with high quality, low fat protein, or feeding treats such as skinless chicken or low fat cheese, rather then richer fattier foods. Its also important to realize that the amount your dog ate as a youngster may need to be greatly reduced. Norbert, for example, eats about half the amount he did as a two year old and his weight remains the same.
2) High Quality Protein- With pets living longer and longer lives there is an ever increasing dizzying array of senior diets for our animal companions. Unfortunately, many may do more harm then good. In an effort to lower calories many senior foods skimp on the protein. This is really unfortunate because current research indicates that dogs and cats need more, not less, protein as they age. Make sure you are feeding your senior pet a food with a high quality protein source. For example the first three ingredients in Wellness Core Grain Free Reduced Fat are Debonbed Turkey, Turkey Meal, and Chicken Meal. These are all high quality meat sources. In contrast the first three ingredients in IAMS Pro-Active Health are Chicken, Chicken By Product Meal, and Corn Meal. Corn meal is NOT a high quality protein source and since its very high up on the ingredients list in this food it means that dog who eats it is going to be getting a lot less quality protein then a dog who eats the Wellness food.
3) Consider Adding Antioxidants-Antioxidants are nutrients that help prevent the cellular breakdown caused by aging, as well as strengthen the immune system. Studies have shown that diets rich in antioxidants help prevent cognitive decline in aging humans, and they may very well do the same for older dogs. High quality pet foods already contain antioxidants, but its a good idea to give an extra boost. You can add some fresh fruits and vegetables to your pets diet or consider a supplement, such as Cell Advance 880
4) Remember Aging Teeth-As our pets age their jaws get weaker. In addition many older pets have gum disease or may have had some teeth removed during dental cleanings. Its a good idea to feed softer chews and treats to our older pets. One option is senior chewz from antler chewz these antlers are softer and easier for older dogs to chew and our still a safe and natural chew.
5) Consider Adding Curcumin-I sprinkle a curcumin capsule over my older dogs food every day.
Curcumin is an extract of the spice Tumeric and it has dozens of health benefits. Its an anti-inflamatory that helps with arthritis and its anti-carcinogenic. Studies have shown that tumeric helps prevent the formation of cancerous tumors. Its also a great detoxifier and benefits the liver.
6) Add Some Coconut Oil-I am just starting to use this one myself. I'm not sure why I missed the coconut oil craze for so long, but its probably because I was so focused on using fish oil.
The big plus of coconut oil, and the reason I will be adding it to my pups food, is that it helps to reduce cancer risk. It also aids in the absorption of other nutrients and helps to regulate thyroid function, a problem for many older dogs. Make sure you get an organic, cold pressed, coconut oil. As I add coconut oil to my dogs daily diet I'll write more about the subject.
7) Fresh Food Add Ons-As pets age there sense of smell often decreases and they may get a bit pickier. A good way to ensure that your older pet will keep eating their meals is to boost the flavor with some fresh add ons. I regularly add cooked meat, yogurt, low fat cheese, squash, and other vegetables and fruits to my dogs food. It keeps there meals interesting and healthy, which should keep aging pets eating. Of course raw meat is very healthy too but it probably should not be fed in the same meal with kibble.
If you keep your dogs food healthy and tasty then hopefully your senior pet will be enjoying their meals for years to come.