In the past, veterinarians recommended diets for senior dogs largely based on the nutritional management of diseases common to the aging process. Research, however, has shown that special nutrition can help manage body-condition problems in aging dogs, such as obesity and loss of muscle mass. Senior dogs also benefit from special nutrition to help maintain bone and joint health.
Learn more about how you can help your senior dog manage common health issues associated with aging.
Managing Obesity in Senior Dogs
Senior dogs tend to gain weight, despite consuming fewer calories, due to changes in their metabolic rate. Therefore, they can benefit from eating a diet with reduced fat levels and lower caloric density than adult maintenance foods.
Recent IAMS™ research in dogs also indicates that L-carnitine — a vitamin-like compound made in the body from the amino acids found in red meats, fish, chicken and milk — can help reduce weight in overweight dogs by escorting fat into cellular mitochondria where it is turned into energy.
Addressing Loss of Muscle Mass in Senior Dogs
Protein is the building block of muscle tissues. It is important for maintenance of muscle tissues, muscle strength and mobility. Recent research conducted by The IAMS Company has shown that senior dogs that eat a higher-protein diet better maintain muscle protein stores. By providing optimal protein levels from muscle maintenance, we can help senior dogs continue being physically active.
This research is contrary to conventional opinion that senior dog foods should contain lower protein levels than adult maintenance formulas to avoid progressive decrease in kidney function. However, senior dogs fed a high-protein diet had stable renal function and a lower death rate than dogs fed a lower-protein diet.*
Maintaining Bone and Joint Health for Senior Dogs
During the aging process, cartilage between joints often begins deteriorating. Nutritional management can help maintain healthy bones and joints and mobility in dogs in several ways:
- Optimal levels of vitamins and minerals promote the efficient production of cartilage and nutritionally support bone and nerve function.
- A complete and balanced diet with an adjusted omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio nutritionally supports joint health.
Some pet-food manufacturers have endorsed reduced levels of calcium and phosphorus based on the belief that excesses of these minerals are harmful to the kidneys. However, research has shown that no damaging accumulation of calcium or phosphorus was found in the kidneys of older dogs fed diets containing maintenance levels of calcium and phosphorus for four years.*
* Finco, DR. “Effects of aging and dietary protein intake of uninephrectomized geriatric dogs.” American Journal of Veterinary Research; Vol. 55, No. 9. Sept. 1994.
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For some dogs, a simple fence isn’t enough to keep them in the yard. Maybe you’ve got a little escape artist that’s too smart for their own good. Maybe you’re raising a brave explorer who loves to get lost. Or maybe you’ve been unlucky enough to have your dog stolen from their own backyard. Creating a safe and secure space to keep your pet can be a challenge, but we’re here to help. Understanding the common reasons dogs get out and what you can do to prevent it from happening goes a long way toward keeping your furry friend safe.
Why Does Your Dog Want to Escape?
Securing your yard starts with understanding the impulses that drive your dog to see what’s beyond your property. Spaying or neutering is an important first step in curbing a dog’s desire to roam, but there may be other factors at play. Creating a safe yard for a lonely Labrador in search of a friend is an entirely different exercise than securing a burrow-happy beagle on the hunt for a squirrel. We’d recommend trying to learn as much as you can about your dog’s breed and underlying instincts. The most common reasons dogs try to escape are:
- Feeling socially isolated
- Lack of stimulation (think toys)
- Desire to escape something that scares them, like thunder
Countering these behaviors starts with understanding which one is at the heart of your dog’s desire to break free. Once you’ve got a theory of what’s motivating your pup, it’s time to give your safety measures a second look.
How to Keep Your Dog Safe and Secure in Your Yard
Microchip Your Dog and Scan Their Nose
If your dog is committed to getting out, your most useful tool will be the ability to track and locate them wherever they’re found. There are a huge variety of products and services designed to help you keep your dog safe, but the most important thing you can have is a plan. You’ve most likely heard of GPS tracking chips that can be implanted in your pet, but you may not know that you can also scan their nose. Through a new app called NOSEiD, you can capture your dog’s unique nose print, which will give whoever finds them a faster, simpler way of reuniting the two of you. It’s that easy! Just download the app, call your pup over and start scanning.
The Best Defense Is a Good … Fence
Even though they’re not technologically impressive, a sturdy wooden or metal fence still plays an important part in protecting your dog while they’re in your yard. Not only does it keep your dog from wandering, it also keeps unwanted animals and people away from your dog’s space. If your dog can leap over it, you’ll obviously need to raise the height, or you can add an overhang that makes it harder to clear. You might also consider planting some shrubs along the inside of the fence to discourage jumping. If your dog is burrowing beneath your fence, consider adding a barrier beneath it or putting a bumper collar on them, which makes it harder to squeeze into small spaces.
If you have a particularly territorial dog, you may want to cover any open spots in your fence that your dog might spy adversaries through. A solid fence may help them feel safe and diminish their need to patrol their surroundings.
When it comes to electric fences, using one successfully depends on your dog’s personality. If your dog has recently been ignoring the electric fence, you may want to consider retraining them or investing in a physical barrier.
Make “Yard” Mean “Yay!”
Making your yard a dog-friendly and entertaining space is a huge part of keeping your dog safe at home. With enough toys, space to burn energy and ideally a friend to play with, your dog won’t have any reason to see if the grass is greener elsewhere. A few popular dog-pleasers you may want to provide are:
- A bit of shelter or shade
- A source of water
- A rotating lineup of toys
- Their favorite playmate (you)
Use Your Yard Wisely
Last, but not least, if you leave your dog unattended for a long period of time in your yard, there’s a good chance they will get bored and look for a way to burn off some energy. To prevent them from getting mischievous, limit the amount of time they’re out on their own, and check in frequently. Also, for dogs with separation anxiety or that may be afraid of loud noises, your presence will help keep them calm and close to home.
With your dog chipped or their nose scanned, you’ll always have an option in the event that your dog strikes out on their own. Beyond that, understand what makes your dog unique and check your yard’s safety features regularly for holes or weak points. As usual, a little preparation now can save you a ton of time and energy in the long run.
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