Diets for geriatric dogs
Geriatric or senior dogs are the ones that are in the last 25% of the life expectancy calculated for their breed. At this stage, the dog's body undergoes some changes, such as the loss of skin elasticity, the deterioration of bone and cartilaginous tissue, a decrease in the percentage of muscle and the accumulation of fat, in addition to alterations in the digestive system...
Diets for geriatric dogs
General considerations for geriatric or senior dogs
Índice de Contenidos
Specificities of senior dogs
Geriatric or senior dogs are the ones that are in the last 25% of the life expectancy calculated for their breed. At this stage, the dog’s body undergoes some changes, such as the loss of skin elasticity, the deterioration of bone and cartilaginous tissue, a decrease in the percentage of muscle  and the accumulation of fat , in addition to alterations in the digestive system .
The latter include an increase in bacterial plaque, breakage or loss of teeth and constipation due to a decrease in colon motility. In addition, senior dogs are also more likely to suffer from heart problems.
These changes should be taken into account when feeding the dog in order to minimize the consequences of ageing and have a better life quality.
|8 – 10 years||Bobtail, Akita Inu, Great Dane|
|Up to 15 years||Cocker Spaniel, Beagle|
|Up to 20 years||Chihuahua, Yorkshire terrier|
Table 1. Average life expectancy of dogs according to the size of the breed.
Diets for senior dogs
In general, an aged dog needs the same nutrients as young dogs: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals; but in different concentrations.
Protein supply is very important in geriatric dogs, and there are two options to achieve a high intake: to increase the protein concentration of the diet, and to use high quality proteins to make sure they are available for the animal. This latter option is preferable in old dogs because it will counteract muscle deterioration and, will avoid additional pressure on the intestine and kidneys. Usually, the most digestible protein ingredients are meat and fish, while cheaper sources such as potatoes or soy are of lower quality.
Fats and Carbohydrates
A senior dog is usually less active and has lower energy requirements . They will be more likely to suffer overweight, a condition that adds more pressure to their joints and muscles. In general, a 20% calorie reduction is recommended.
Reducing the diet’s fat content helps to reduce energy intake and avoid overweight. Carbodhydrates are another ingredient to consider to reduce the caloric intake of the diet.
Despite this, some geriatric dogs tend to decrease their weight. In such a cases, the energy supply is important and it is highly recommended to visit the veterinarian to rule out other problems that may cause weight loss.
Fibre is an essential component of the diets for senior dogs. As mentioned in this article, many aged dogs suffer from constipation derived from a reduced motility of the intestines. Increasing the fibre supply of fiber has a positive impact on digestive health, since it stimulates intestinal motility.
Supplements: Fatty Acids, Vitamins, Pronutrients and Enzymes
Inclusion of some supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and pronutrients is highly recommended because they improve the functioning og the animal’s organs (the digestive and immune systems, among others) . Vitamin E is important for its antioxidant capacity, as well as some amino acids such as L-carnitine, which can help to prevent different problems derived from aging.
Other supplements to consider to improve the digestibility of the diet and reduce the effort made by intestines and liver are digestive enzymes and hepatoprotective additives:
The inclusion of subtilisin, an enzyme responsible for protein digesiton, can improve the protein utilization and prevent the loss of muscle in senior dogs. Subtilisin is especially useful in diets containing plant-based protein ingredients , such as soy, which have anti-nutritional factors that reduce protein digestibility.
Carbohydrases are useful in diets containing poorly digestible cereal by-products, such as distillers dried grains with solubles (DGGS) .
Hepatoprotectors help to maintain a proper liver function. This organ is essential for the dog’s health because it is responsible for the synthesis of proteins and immune effectors, the metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids and the detoxification of the body. Specifically, the inclusion of liver conditioner pronutrients, active molecules of plant origin that, is recommended, since, in addition to protecting the liver, they promote and recover an optimal hepatic physiology after suffering liver damage .
Diets for dogs with specific diseases
Some diseases such as diabetes, heart failure or arthritis are more common in geriatric dogs and require special diets.
Diabetic dogs should stay thin, for which highly energetic diets should be avoided. In addition, increasing the percentage of fibre in the food is recommended to slow down its absorption.
In dogs with heart failure, it is advisable to limit the intake of sodium and protein. High blood concentrations of the former cause an increase in blood pressure, while elevated levels of protein can damage the kidneys and, consequently, increase blood pressure. Reducing phosphorus intake may be beneficial  because elevated levels can act as a predisposing factor for heart and kidney disorders.
In animals with joint problems such as arthritis, it is advisable to include omega-3 fatty acids and to use chondroitin and glucosamine supplements with the aim of strengthening the cartilage, in addition to reducing the energy intake to avoid overweight.
Likewise, supplementation with pronutrients that promote the correct physiology of the organs (intestine, immune system, liver) is a differential factor to keep geriatric dogs with digestive, infectious or hepatic problems healthy.
Global Vet’s Lab Services
From Global Vet’s Lab we offer the service of feed analysis and formulation with the aim to optimize feed composition considering the inclusion of the most effective additives, as well as the age and characteristics of each individual. To use this service, please contact us thorugh our webpage www.globalvetslab.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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MV. Júlia Pié Orpí
Veterinary Technical support to the area of Latin America at Biovet S.A. Laboratories Official Veterinary Services (SVO) in poultry slaughterhouse