Special Nutritional Needs of Older Pets

Food For Thought™ Technical Bulletin No. 99R

Innovative Research in Dog and Cat Nutrition™

Special needs of senior pets

As a dog or cat ages, changes occur in the way their body functions, so it makes sense that what they eat might also need to change. The following list of health issues may be more common in aging pets.

  • Decreased immune system function
  • More frequent intestinal problems
  • Decreased mobility
  • Dental issues
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Special nutrition for special needs

Decreased Immune System Function
Throughout a dog or cat's life, a process called peroxidation occurs. Peroxidation is a normal process that the body uses to destroy cells that outlive their usefulness and kill germs, parasites, etc. but also can destroy or damage healthy cells. As a dog or cat ages, the damage caused by peroxidation accumulates which, in turn, increases the risk of certain problems, such as infections.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring nutrients that help maintain overall health by neutralizing the peroxidation process of cellular molecules. Some antioxidants, such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lutein, are naturallyoccurring nutrients.

Recent research sponsored by The Iams Company found that dogs and cats fed a diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E, lutein, or beta-carotene had improved immune responses and vaccine recognition. This may be especially important in senior dog and cat care, because Iams research has found that as dogs and cats age, immune responses can decrease.

More Frequent Intestinal Problems
Older dogs and cats may have higher numbers of unfavorable bacteria and lower numbers of beneficial bacteria in their intestines, which can result in clincal signs of gastrointestinal problems (e.g., diarrhea).

Feeding a diet containing fructooligosaccharides (FOS) - a unique fiber source that helps nutritionally maintain healthy intestinal bacterial populations - promotes growth of beneficial bacteria. Beet pulp, a moderably fermentable fiber source, also helps maintain intestinal health by providing energy for the cells lining the intestine and promoting small, firm stools, aiding in senior dog and cat care.

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Signs that your dog or cat needs senior food

Different dogs show signs of aging at different times, and much of this variation is associated with size. Larger dogs generally appear "old" sooner than smaller dogs. The table below lists the age at which various groups of dogs should be transitioned to senior foods.

Dog Weight and Transition to Senior Food

Weight Range Age to Begin Transition
More than 90 lbs 5 years
51 to 90 lbst 6 years
21 to 50 lbs 7 years
Up to 20 lbs 7 years

Cats don't vary as drastically in size as dogs. They generally are considered seniors at 7 years.

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Nutritional Application

  • Antioxidants to help support a healthy immune system
  • Special fiber sources to helpmaintain a healthy digestive environment
  • Glucosamine for healthy joints
  • Iams dental technology to help reduce tartar buildup with every meal
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