Which dog food should I choose for my senior pet?

Walking down the pet food aisle at the local market can be overwhelming and intimidating. There are so many options, it’s hard not to choose by whichever brand fits into your budget. The best food for your dog depends on his dietary needs, his life stage and his breed. If your dog seems fit, eats well, and has firm stools, then his dog food is probably just what he needs. But, check the label. If the label on the food you buy states that it meets the nutritional levels established by AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles, pat yourself on the back. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has strict guidelines to ensure products are complete and balanced. “But,” don’t recommend a dog food that’s “made for all life stages.” In most cases, this is not an ideal diet for adult dogs. Instead, says Dr. Nicky at Animal Care Hospital in Morris, IL, “I recommend the one that states, “made for maintenance” by the AAFCO.”

Senior pets do have different nutritional needs, as do puppies. And, large breed dogs have different nutritional needs than small breed dogs. It can be overwhelming but if you and your pet are happy with a particular brand, most do offer options for the different stages of a dog’s life. Dogs should be on senior diets starting around age seven. They’re more nutritionally right for aging pets, easier to digest, and better meet their energy needs. Some nutrients and supplements such as Omega-3’s and glucosamine are often added to senior diets and are good ingredients to look for when choosing a food.

If your senior pet is overweight, you could be giving him too much food. Consider increasing his exercise level and/or offering less food per serving. But before making any changes, discuss this with your vet because increasing exercise or changing diet may not necessarily be advisable.

Cats need a senior diet around age seven as well. Just as with dogs, senior cat food is more digestible and gives cats the nutrients they need for this stage of their lives. They’re generally lower in calories but higher in fiber and often contain supplements for joint support and antioxidants. If your senior cat is under or overweight, your first step is to make sure there are no underlying health issues before making a dietary change. Cats are prone to kidney disease, particularly seniors, and may not be interested in eating at all. Has your cat examined by our veterinarians before making any changes?

The right food can make a big difference in your pet’s longevity and energy levels.

Cindy Pervola, Lifetime dog owner, Business consultant, and writer.