If you have an aging dog and you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what you should be feeding her and at what age you should consider her a senior. The best dog food for older dogs and really for every dog at any stage of life is homemade, non-GMO food with supplements added.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time to cook for our dogs every day. Most of us also don’t know exactly what vitamins and nutrients we should be adding. You can’t just cook up some chicken and rice and think that’s good enough. It needs to be nutritionally balanced.
As far as the “when” to change the diet, it depends on the size and the individual dog. Some dogs age faster than others. Smaller breeds tend to live into their teens, whereas large breed dogs may only live 10 to 13 years. About half way through your dog’s expected life span is when you should consider her as becoming a senior citizen.
It really depends on the individual dog and your own judgement, though, as each dog is different.
If you’re interested in feeding raw or home-cooked meals to your senior dog, here are some good book resources. They explain what vitamins and minerals to add to the food. “Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats“ and “Unlocking the Ancestral Diet” by Steve Brown
Also, these supplements may help old joints last a little longer:
Wholistic Pet Organics Canine Complete Plus Joint Mobility Supplement, 2 lbAzestfor Canine Nutritional Supplements – Homemade Dog Food VitaminsMissing Link Ultimate Hip, Joint & Coat Dog Supplement, 1 LB
GMO – Stay Away From It!
According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, the consumption of products containing GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) may pose many serious health risks, “including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.”
This statement is directed toward human consumption of GMO products. Yet, it only makes sense that it would also effect dogs the same.
Dr. Becker, of Healthy Pets at Mercola.com has recommended the following dog foods and treats that are GMO free:
Alaska Dog Treats
Answers Pet Food
Grandma Lucy’s Dog Treats
Horizon Pet Nutrition
Lucky Dogs Bakery
Malibu Dog Kitchen
Natural Balance Pet Food
Natural Planet Organics, Nutri Source, & Pure Vita
Nature’s Variety (Instinct Raw variety)
Orijen Dog Food & Treats
Plato Pet Treats
Snook’s Dog Treats
Victor Super Premium Dog Food
Wellness Dog Food
Dr. Becker also has a very informative video on what she recommends you feed any dog.
What to Feed an Old Dog That Won’t Eat
I’ve heard several people tell me, as their dog is edging toward the end of its years, they can’t get him or her to eat dry food anymore. You can’t hardly blame them for that.
Most dry foods are not nutritionally balanced and who knows? – maybe dogs can sense that it’s making them sick or maybe it’s just not tasting good anymore. Some of those low quality foods can even cause cancer in the long run.
They are based on genetically engineered or genetically modified grains such as corn, wheat and rice, along with starches such as potatoes. These aren’t meant to be ingested by our pets.
Again, you might try finding some homemade recipes using real meat and vegetables for those finicky eaters. This will usually take care of the problem, but be sure to add supplements and understand that once you start fixing your dog’s meals with that good tasting stuff, you might not be able to go back to bland old dry food.
Could There Be a Link Between Low Quality Food and Behavior Disorders?
Throughout the day, the grains and starches that can be found in commercial dry dog food can actually cause spikes in stressful insulin, cortisol (a type of hormone which is normally released during such events as a fight or flight incident where stress is involved) and glucagon (a type of hormone that helps control the glucose levels in the blood).
It only makes sense that these spikes could be associated with sudden aggression, anxiety disorders, hyper-activity, etc.– incidents that leave you scratching your head wondering “why is he acting that way”?
I’ve heard and seen dogs that seem to develop odd behavior that is atypical to them as they get into the geriatric period of their lives. Is it possible that spending several years eating grains and starches of low quality and lacking a proper nutritional balance could cause these behavior disorders?
What Are Other Health Risks From Dry Foods?
Carbohydrates found in these dry foods also break down into sugar, causing health risks such as obesity, diabetes and the dreaded cancer.
When most dry dog foods are being processed, the starches are combined with low-quality proteins and fats. Then they’re cooked at high temperatures, creating cancerous by-products and cooking out any beneficial nutrients or vitamins. To counteract that, synthetic vitamins and minerals, usually from China, are added.
Are There Any Good Companies Out There?
In fact, not all companies produce these low-quality foods. The quality of dog food has gotten much better over recent years and there are some legitimately health-conscious companies out there really trying to produce the best food for our pets.
One of those is DynamiteSpecialty.com Not only do they provide a great dry kibble dog food called Super Premium, but they also offer a supplement, TNT, that provides nutrients that are cooked out of dry foods.
So even if you can’t afford the 40 lb bag of dog food that runs about $60, you can still add the supplement to just about any other dry food and at least know your dog is getting the supplements she needs.
And, dogs love it!
The best scenario, though, is to get away from those unhealthy commercial dry foods entirely, if possible.
TNT is still a bit expensive at about $45, but you only use a small amount depending on the size of your dog and mix it with water. It’s a complete vitamin and mineral supplement.
And chances are you might have a Dynamite distributor in your area so you wouldn’t have to have the dry food shipped to you with shipping fees added.
I also like Blue Buffalo Co. They have a senior dog food that contains NO chicken (or poultry) by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
If you decide to purchase through Amazon, you can get there through the above link and then look around at their other foods, read the ingredients, which are usually found further down the page from the main product display, and make the best choice for your dog.
Protein – More or Less?
As dogs get older, studies show that they actually need more protein.
Unfortunately, though, some commercial pet food companies use very low quality proteins in their dog food, which makes it difficult even for a young healthy dog to process. You can imagine how much more difficult it would be for a senior dog to process that same low quality protein.
Years of feeding low quality food to your dog can cause kidney and liver damage. So if that’s the case, and you think your dog has possibly been on this low quality food for years, then as a senior dog, you would want to feed her a low protein diet. You want the kidneys and liver to function properly for as long as possible.
What About Feeding Any Brand of Senior Dog Food?
One problem with feeding “senior” dog food is that most of these foods have a lower calorie content. That’s fine if you have a dog that tends to put weight on easily or is already overweight, but there are many older dogs that are at the perfect weight or may even be on the lean side due to health reasons or a decline in appetite. You wouldn’t want to feed a lower calorie formula to those dogs.
So the best thing to do if you are feeding dry dog food is read the labels, do some research and feed the best quality dog food you can find. If the calorie content is higher than you think your dog needs as he becomes more sedentary, feed less food and take him for walks – get him moving to work off some of those calories.
What it really all comes down to when you’re trying to decide what to feed an older dog is that every dog is different.
If your dog has gone through life eating high quality food, you’ll want to feed her more quality protein as she ages.
If she’s overweight, you’ll want a lower calorie food or feed less, exercise more. If she’s underweight, you’ll want to give her more calories.
So it will benefit you to do your research – read labels of commercial dog food. Or put together your own homemade food so you’ll know exactly what she’s getting – and don’t forget to add supplements.