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How to Find the Right Food for Your Mature Dog

If you see signs of aging in your dog, don't wait to feed him the proper diet. Feeding a high-quality, premium food throughout your dog's life is the best way to help him age gracefully. When your dog reaches his mature years, choose a food like IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Mature Adult for nutrition suited to this stage of life. "Good nutrition starts early," says Dr. Michael Hayek, an IAMS research nutritionist who specializes in geriatric nutrition. "It should be viewed as proactive health care because it may be a deterrent to aging later on."
 

If your dog already exhibits signs of aging, look for a high-quality, balanced maintenance food that caters to his changing metabolism. When you're shopping for a formula that's right for your dog, look for and compare these important points:

  • High-quality animal protein. Just like us, as dogs grow older, they naturally tend to lose lean muscle mass. High-quality protein can provide the essential amino acids your dog needs to minimize the loss of lean body tissue. Dogs function best on high-quality animal-based proteins from sources such as chicken or lamb. Some believe that aging dogs should be fed less protein to prevent kidney disease. However, the evidence is just not there. Reduced protein has a significant effect only after a certain level of kidney dysfunction occurs. If you're concerned about your dog's kidney health, your veterinarian can run assessment tests and recommend appropriate treatments if they are needed. "If your dog is generally in a state of good health," explains Dr. Hayek, "protein should not be restricted. Rather, it should be available for building those all-important muscle reserves."
  • Lower fat. A less-active, mature dog needs fewer calories. Look for a food that's low in fat compared to adult formulas, but don't eliminate fat completely. Pick a formula with at least 10% fat. Older dogs still need essential fatty acids in their diets to help promote healthy skin and coat.
  • Moderately fermentable fiber. Fiber promotes digestibility and helps your dog absorb nutrients. At the same time, it should help maintain a healthy intestinal tract, which can be problematic for aging dogs. IAMS includes dried beet pulp, a patented fiber source, in all of its foods to make elimination easier and regular.
  • Antioxidants. These help maintain balance within the body by ridding it of harmful free radicals, which increase as a dog ages. Antioxidants fend off free radicals and help protect cell membranes. To maintain your dog's immune-system response to free radicals, feed a formula with antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin E.
  • Vitamins and minerals. A high-quality, nutritionally balanced dog food should include all of the essential nutrients in the proper proportions. You might think your mature dog needs vitamin and mineral supplements. In fact, unless your veterinarian specifically identifies a deficiency, vitamin and mineral supplements are unnecessary and, in some cases, may do harm by creating an unhealthy imbalance.

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  • Your Senior Dog’s Health from 7 Years On
    Your Senior Dog’s Health from 7 Years On

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    Your Senior Dog’s Health from 7 Years On

    Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy and Active

    It depends on the breed of dog, but your pet's senior years generally begin at age 7. Louise Murray, DVM, director of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City and author of Vet Confidential (Ballantine, 2008), tells you what you need to know to keep your older dog spry and happy.

     

     

    Senior Dog Health: Preventive Health

    At this stage, Murray recommends taking your dog to the vet twice a year. "So much can happen to an elderly dog," she says. Your veterinarian can take blood annually to test liver and kidney functions. "Discovering problems early is extremely important," she says. Your vet can be on the lookout for conditions that often affect older dogs, such as anemia and arthritis.

     

     

    Senior Dog Health: Urination, Bowel Movements, and Appetite

    Pay attention to what might be subtle changes in your dog's habits: Is she drinking more water or urinating larger amounts? These behaviors might indicate a liver or kidney problem. Have your dog's bowel movements shifted? This could indicate a digestive issue. Diabetes or digestive problems might cause your dog to eat more but still lose weight. Knowing the dog's patterns can help the veterinarian determine a course of treatment.

     

     

    Senior Dog Health: Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicines

    Continue to use preventive medicines.

     

     

    Senior Dog Health: Dental Health

    Clean your dog's teeth daily. If she has tartar buildup, you might need to have her teeth professionally cleaned at your vet's office, which requires sedating your pet.

     

     

    Senior Dog Health: Exercise

    Your dog is probably less active, so steady, moderate exercise is best for her now. Don't turn her into a "weekend warrior" who, after lying around on weekdays, accompanies you on a 10-mile hike on Saturdays. This is especially hard on an older dog's joints.

     

     

    Senior Dog Health: Diet

    Your veterinarian might wish to put your dog on a senior diet, such as IAMS™ ProActive Health™ Senior Plus. These formulations contain nutrients specifically geared toward older-dog health.

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