Keeping your dog healthy throughout his life and into his senior years depends on a nutritious diet, good medical care and plenty of appropriate exercise. Over the years, it’s reasonable to expect his needs in all three areas to change somewhat, because what works for a 1-year-old dog doesn’t necessarily work for a 9-year-old. You also have to take into account hormonal changes, joint strength and any food allergies, to ensure you give him the most optimal combination for every stage.
Many veterinarians advocate a dog’s ribs should be visible for him to be at the “ideal” weight. This depends on several factors, however, including your dog’s breed, age and state of health. Keeping a dog slightly underweight might make your vet happy, but your dog is likely to be hungry all the time and a hungry dog doesn’t make for a happy one.
To maintain your dog’s optimum weight, you need to achieve a balance between healthy food, exercise and rest that results in a strong physical frame with good musculature and minimal fat. As dogs age, they are predisposed to gaining weight just like humans do. This is partly because of a slower metabolism, particularly in neutered dogs and spayed bitches, and often stiff joints contribute to lower exercise levels resulting in weight gain.
Although dog food doesn't come in quite as many types and flavors as human food, there are still several to choose from. No matter which type you choose, it’s important to find a food that meets all of your dog's nutritional needs at every stage of his life.
There are four main types of dog food:
Dry food is the most economical type of commercial dog food, and this is the primary reason many owners buy it for their dogs. It lasts a long time and doesn’t need refrigeration. Dry dog food helps keep your dog’s teeth healthy, because chewing crunchy textured kibble helps reduce tartar buildup.
The most popular types of canned dog food come in a wet form in several different flavors. These are both more nutritious and more palatable for dogs than dry kibble, and can be useful for seniors with dental issues or dogs recovering from illness or surgery. It can be expensive to buy good quality canned food with high levels of digestible protein.
Providing wholesome, healthy meals from scratch is a great way to ensure you know precisely what is going into your dog’s mouth. Many dogs suffering from allergies, skin conditions, or gastrointestinal upsets do well on a diet of home-cooked food, as long as they receive all the right nutrients in the process.
I first learned of the BARF diet in 1998 from Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst’s terrific book Give Your Dog a Bone. Although written 26 years ago, it has a wealth of relevant information that all dog owners could benefit from. A raw food diet for dogs comprises uncooked meat, bones and organs. This works well for many dogs, since the species has a short intestinal tract and strong digestive acids, both of which make it easy for them to ingest and digest raw food.
I currently feed my three dogs, who range from 5 to 10 years, Taste of the Wild - High Prairie (Bison and Venison) which is a grain free kibble, along with dog treats (also grain free), and whatever meats and vegetables we happen to be preparing for our meals.
Just as it’s not ideal practice for us to eat the same food day in and day out, it’s a good idea to occasionally change your dog’s food, too. In dogs with sensitive digestive systems, this change-over should be done gradually. Other dogs (like mine) don’t seem to exhibit any problems when introducing a new food.
Once a dog reaches the age of 7 years (or 5 for giant breeds) most veterinarians consider them to be seniors. At this point, it’s wise to change to a specially formulated product to ensure you’re giving your pets the best dog food in their circumstances. Here are some of the primary factors in maintaining a healthy weight into your dog’s senior years:
Regardless of your preferences, the important factors are that you keep dog food allergies to a minimum, while quality dog life expectancy rises to maximum level.
Natural supplements for dogs are essential to promote and support their healthy growth and development, a shining coat, and a strong immune system. Far too many pet owners believe if they feed their dogs a diet of commercial dog food, they’ll be getting all the nutrients they need. While there are a number of very good commercial foods available, I don’t think that’s entirely true.
Many foods contain nutrients that are depleted when the food is exposed to air or heat. Enzymes are destroyed by cooking, while fatty acids can turn rancid. Don’t wait until your dog is unhealthy or shows signs of food allergies such as itchy skin to include products like our MaxWell Pet Skin and Allergy supplement in his daily diet.
In my opinion, the best source of information for quality dog food brands is the Whole Dog Journal’s annual reports, once yearly each for dry foods and for canned foods. WDJ is subscription-based and does not accept any advertising, so their evaluations are unbiased.
Even if the brand of food you feed your dog was recommended or prescribed by your veterinarian, it doesn’t mean there can’t be problems with it. For those who follow us on social media, you’ll recall me posting just last week how the most widely veterinarian-recommended dog food was recalled because of potentially toxic levels of Vitamin D.
So, whatever you choose to feed, it’s still important to observe your dog and be watchful of any physical or behavioral changes. It could be food related.
Click here to learn more about the MaxWell Pet range of natural dog supplements, or to order your bottle of Skin & Allergy.