Prioritizing Senior Dog Nutrition
Keeping your dog at their ideal weight is a lifelong aspiration and is directly related to optimal, age-appropriate nutrition. While many dog owners struggle to control weight gain as their dog ages, pet obesity doesn’t affect all animals. In fact, lots of dogs lose weight in their golden years, prompting owners to reassess senior dog nutrition. A bit of weight loss might not be cause for concern, but it can also indicate one or more health problems.
The Natural Ways of Things
An aging dog will naturally lose some muscle mass. This is part of the normal aging process, and if everything else checks out healthwise, it may not be necessary to be overly worried about gradual weight loss. However, if your dog drops 10% of their normal body mass between veterinary check ups, we recommend scheduling an exam. We can help determine any potential causes for weight loss and pivot toward a solution.
Dogs benefit from two wellness visits per year starting around age 7. The opportunity to see your dog every 6 months increases our ability to detect problems before they take root. These exams, when paired with routine bloodwork and urinalysis, can help us understand what’s really going on with a senior dog’s overall health.
We can address their behavior, exercise, and of course, senior dog nutrition. In addition to the development of age-related, chronic diseases that can occur, senior dogs may experience changes in metabolism, immunity, and the natural ability to regulate their internal temperature.
The Causes of Weight Loss
Rapid or severe weight loss in senior dogs can be tied to the following conditions that require medical intervention:
- Periodontal disease
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Kidney disease
- Intestinal disease
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Depression or anxiety
- Cognitive dysfunction
Early detection of age-related illness is critical to effective treatment, and we’re always here to help figure out possible underlying issues that cause weight loss. Once the above listed conditions are ruled out, we can begin to make gradual changes to senior dog nutrition.
A Slow Pivot at Mealtime
Your dog will appreciate slow change much more than a swift shift. Over time, you can make the following adjustments to your aging dog’s meals:
- Opt for smaller, more frequent portions
- Slowly add age-appropriate kibble or wet food to their normal diet before eventually phasing out their previous food.
- Make the most out of moist or canned food. This will be easier to chew and digest.
- Add healthy calories to your dog’s meals with cubed cheese, small bites of lean protein, plain yogurt, or protein-rich supplements.
- Pay attention to how many calories are going in and compare it to the level of exercise they participate in every day. It may be worthwhile to decrease or change the type of workout they receive.
If a senior dog’s weight loss is connected to a diagnosis like hypothyroidism, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease, we may add certain supplements to their daily meals and/or prescription medication to prevent further weight loss. When we properly and effectively manage symptoms, we can influence positive change.
Senior Dog Nutrition
Whether your dog simply needs a bit more fiber or protein in their daily diet, or requires a prescription diet to boost a specific health condition, your support team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is here to help. Please call us at (732) 531-1212 with any questions about your senior dog’s health, or to schedule an appointment to address concerns.