It’s just a fact of life: Our faithful, furry friends won’t stay young forever.
Dogs hit maturity between 5 to 7 years of age and are considered senior between 7 to 11 years, depending on their size. As your pet enters their golden years, their activity level might slow down and common conditions like arthritis, diabetes and kidney disease may arise.
That’s why keeping tabs on your senior dog’s nutritional needs is essential. “It is so important to monitor the eating habits of older pets,” says Tom Carpenter, DVM and president of the American Animal Hospital Association.
“Generally, older pets do not need as much protein, sodium and phosphorus. But your veterinarian needs to address this for your individual pet.” He also recommends scheduling semiannual vet visits for your older pup.
So how do you make sure you’re providing your senior dog with the nutrition they need to thrive? It’s simple, really: Choose a dog food tailored to their life stage, and keep an eye on their weight and their eating habits.
Is your dog getting on in years? Time to reassess their food.
A premium dog food like IAMS™ Mature Adult includes antioxidants to help support a strong immune system and L-carnitine to help burn fat and maintain healthy metabolism, and ingredients like beet pulp that support your dog’s digestive system.
As your dog ages, watch their weight.
Some senior dogs are prone to obesity. To test whether your dog is at a healthy weight, move your hands along their sides. If you can feel the ribs but can’t see them, your dog is at a healthy weight. But if you can feel a layer of fat, or if your dog has a rounded abdomen, they might be overweight.
Does your dog need to lose a few pounds? Consult your vet, who will advise on a combination of diet and exercise changes to help support healthy weight loss. Though your dog may be slowing down as they age, exercise is still important. Find lower-impact ways for your dog to stay active. Walks on grass or sand, a short game of fetch, or even yoga or Pilates for dogs are options to explore.
You never thought you’d see the day your dog refused dinner.
Believe it or not, some mature pets can become finicky eaters and lose weight as they age. "Very old pets may actually need a more calorie-dense diet," Carpenter says. Older dogs can lose their sense of smell and have a harder time chewing their food. To make mature dog food easier to eat, try topping their dry food with room-temperature wet food, like IAMS™ Proactive Health™ Senior with Slow Cooked Chicken and Rice Pâté.
If your dog is losing a lot of weight, slightly increase his daily feedings. A sudden change in weight or appetite might be a sign of disease, so you should also check with your vet. And remember that water is essential. "Older pets are at a higher risk of dehydration," Carpenter says. Provide a clean bowl with fresh water at all times.
Some call them “senior” dogs; we prefer “experienced.”
From summer hikes to winter romps in the snow, your senior dog has lived through many seasons and seen and done a lot. Not to mention all the love, sloppy kisses and snuggles they’ve given you! As they age, make sure they stay in optimal health by feeding them a nutritious food designed for their needs.