All dogs need protein, but it can be difficult to determine the right amount. Everyone knows that dogs are related to wolves. While a wolf thrives on a diet that’s high in protein and low in fat and carbs, some dogs will benefit from a low protein diet, especially if they have kidney disease or gastrointestinal issues. Generally, as a dog ages, a vet will recommend this type of dietary change.
A Healthier Diet for an Aging Dog
If a dog eats a low protein diet, it’s important that you purchase a high-quality brand that includes a highly digestible protein that will increase their intake of amino acids. There are actually ten amino acids that a dog must get from the protein in their diet. For dogs, the best sources of protein is beef, eggs and fish. Corn is also a protein source, but it contains less than half of the amount of absorbable proteins of beef or fish.
This type of food is usually recommended for dogs that suffer from chronic gastrointestinal issues, kidney failure, excessive weight gain or skin and coat issues.
A puppy will thrive on a diet that’s high in protein. Some studies have determined that senior dogs do not have to be on a low protein diet simply because they’re less active. However, a vet can decide if this type of change is necessary by examining your pet, checking their coat and learning about the dog’s medical history. If you’re unsure if the brand you use is considered a low protein dog food, check the label. A low protein diet should contain less than twenty-three percent of protein. Some senior brands of low protein foods will contain around sixteen percent of protein.
There are several companies that produce low protein formulas. Certain brands may even require a prescription from your vet. This type of pet food is usually more expensive than regular brands for adult dogs.
Protein is very calorie dense and many high protein diets can lead to weight gain if your dog is not very active or does not get exercised regularly. If your dog has liver or kidney issues from consuming a diet high in protein, this can cause the organs to become overworked, upsetting the balance of nutrients, which can lead to a number of health concerns.
What Other Options are there for Senior Dogs?
Instead of switching over to a dog food that’s low in protein, you can first try finding a brand that is designed to match your dog’s lifestyle based on size, activity level and life stage. A dog that is three years of age will require a moderate amount of protein because these dogs tend to be very active. Dogs over the age of ten may need to be switched to a diet for senior dogs, which contains less protein and a higher carb content.
As your dog ages, they will undergo a variety of changes. Behavioral changes that occur are often associated with cognitive dysfunction or arthritis. Your dog may not be very tolerant of puppies, other animals or children and may have poor sleep habits and frequent accidents in the house. Their hearing may start to go and their vision may begin to fade, making it difficult for them to see in low light situations. Due to hearing loss, your pet may be easily surprised and will not have the same muscle strength or stamina he or she enjoyed during the earlier years of their life. Your dog will also be less active and need and crave a dark, comfortable place to sleep the day away. As your pet gets older their teeth will become worn and more prone to disease. Additionally, they might even begin to develop certain conditions that are associated with aging such as heart disease, kidney failure or diabetes. Special care must be given to their diet for all of these reasons.
Due to the decrease in activity and the increase in sleep during the day, older dogs tend to gain weight, making obesity a pretty common problem in geriatric dogs. Because they simply don’t have the energy anymore and may suffer from arthritis to boot, losing weight can be very difficult for them. However, if your pet is overweight, it’s important that you work hard to get that extra weight off. Losing weight can have a major positive impact on your pet’s quality of life.
Creating a Well-Balanced Diet
An older dog will need a well-balanced diet that’s higher in fiber and contains an adequate amount of fat and protein. It should also be lower in calories. For picky eaters, vets recommend feeding them the same food they have enjoyed over the years, just in smaller, more frequent quantities. A specially formulated senior diet will help to create a feeling of fullness due to the high fiber content. A lower fat content typically translates to fewer calories so most senior diets have fat levels that are lower than growth diets or adult maintenance diets. An older dog is more prone to digestive issues and can easily become constipated, which is another reason why a high fiber content is important.
Adding broth or a couple of spoons of canned dog food can help to make the low protein food more appealing to your pet. Some older dogs may actually have trouble gaining weight and can become uninterested in their food. If your dog normally eats dry kibble and has stopped, or doesn’t eat quite as much, it may be due to dental problems and the difficulty that comes with eating large kibble. Try feeding her smaller kibble or moisten her food with warm water, making it easier for her to eat.
Some dogs are able to tolerate a little dairy or eggs added to their dog food. A homemade diet that consists of potatoes, rice, chicken, veggies, or hamburger, mixed with the right amount of vitamin and mineral supplements can satisfy even the pickiest senior. Speak with your vet regarding healthy homemade dog food options. Because vitamin and mineral levels are critical, do not try and formulate one yourself.