There’s no question that a dog’s nutrition requirements change with age. But when it comes to whether or not a dog should eat a senior-specific dog food formula during his golden years, the answer isn’t always clear cut.
Generally speaking, a senior dog needs less calories and more fiber than during his younger years due to a slower metabolism, a decrease in activity level, and a higher likelihood of constipation. Most senior specific dog foods complement these nutritional changes. Another potential benefit of switching your canine companion to a senior formula is the additional supplements that might be included. Some senior foods contain joint health supplements or omega acids for coat and heart health.
One important thing to note is the protein content of a senior food because some formulas have a decreased amount. According to the ASPCA, a dog’s protein requirement does not decrease with age, and protein is essential in helping to maintain healthy muscle mass. For this reason, it’s best to avoid senior foods with less protein than your dog’s adult formula.
When is a dog considered a senior?
Dogs are typically considered seniors for the last 25% of their expected lifespan. For example, a Golden Retriever reaches senior status at about 7 ½ years old because their typical lifespan is 10-13 years. A smaller dog, like a Toy Poodle, is considered a senior at about 10 ½ years old because their average lifespan is 14-16 years. Generally speaking, larger dog breeds have a shorter lifespan than smaller breeds.
When not to switch to a senior food:
A lower calorie, senior-specific food may not be appropriate for dogs with a decreased appetite, those that have trouble chewing, or those that are underweight and experiencing muscle atrophy. Several underlying conditions can contribute to these issues.
Always speak with a vet regarding your dog’s health and the best food for his individual circumstances.