Unlike larger-breed dogs that are considered mature or senior at age 5, small-breed dogs usually don’t experience age-related changes as early. But by age 7, your small dog is mature or senior, and his nutritional requirements are changing. You can help keep your dog active, happy and healthy with a specially formulated mature diet that delivers highly digestible, enhanced nutrition.
The Signs of Aging in Small-breed Dogs
The changes your small dog is going through affect him in many ways. You may notice a dull, dry coat and flaky skin, energy loss or weight gain, more frequent intestinal problems, joint stiffness and a loss of lean muscle mass. It’s true that an aging dog may require fewer calories, but your mature or senior dog still needs high-quality protein and carefully balanced nutrients.
What to Look for in Mature or Senior Small-breed Dog Food
What your dog needs is a high-quality, balanced maintenance food formulated for a small dog’s changing metabolism. Look for options with these age-essential nutrients:
- Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene to help boost the immune system
- High-quality animal-based protein sources to help maintain muscle mass
- Special fiber sources such as beet pulp to help maintain intestinal health and support your dog’s ability to absorb age-essential nutrients
- A special carbohydrate blend of healthy grains for sustained energy
These ingredients are the keys to mature nutrition whether you feed dry or wet dog food or give your dog treats.
Additionally, small dogs have small mouths and small stomachs. A nutrient-dense mature formula with smaller kibble may help make food easier for your dog to chew.
Special Needs of Mature or Senior Small-breed Dogs
Older, less-active dogs are prone to weight gain. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight can help minimize the risk of developing diabetes or joint stress. Your dog can benefit from a weight-control diet with these key ingredients:
- A reduced fat level that still offers essential nutrients for skin and coat health
- L-carnitine, a key nutrient that helps burn fat during weight loss
- Special carbohydrate blends that help maintain energy while managing weight
While your mature or senior dog’s nutritional needs may be changing, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have many active, happy years ahead. Make sure your dog can make the most of them by feeding him a proper diet designed for mature small-breed dogs.
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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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