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3 Tips for choosing a Diet for Your Old Dog

Written by Megan McCorkle, LVT

The Pet food industry can be hard to navigate for many pet owners. Here are a few things to help you sort through marketing.

Pet foods are typically labeled for the life stage of the pet. The most common stages you see on the bags of dog food at the store are puppy, adult, and 7 years plus in age. However, they can be marketed in many more ways to include by breed and medical conditions.

When considering a diet for your pet choosing the correct life stage is important to provide complete and balanced nutrition as they age. A puppy diet would be too high in some nutrients and calories for our older dogs. Similarly, the diets for older dogs can lack some nutrients and the caloric needs for a puppy or young active dog.

The good news is there is a regulatory group to help you know if you are on the right track when choosing a diet for your older dog. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) requires a statement on every pet food label. The manufacturer can either meet the minimum requirements for nutrition according to AAFCO or they can complete feeding trials to ensure complete and balanced nutrition according to AAFCO. It goes without saying that you should choose a food that has an AAFCO statement that reads “ This food has been through feeding trials and ensures complete and balanced nutrition for senior dogs.” This is the first step in choosing the right food for your older dog. For additional information about AAFCO check out the website HERE.

Next, check out these guidelines for choosing a food. The Global Nutrition committee has created an official guideline to check and see if your pet food choice is right for your pet. Check out that guideline HERE. Knowing that the manufacturer is following these guidelines and can provide any additional information you request can help you choose the optimum pet food for your pet. If you have any concerns about these guidelines and the current food you are feeding it may be time to see if there is a more nutritious food that isn’t just pushing marketing schemes.

Some red flag terms on the label that should be avoided include foods that have “human grade”, “holistic” etc. These are strictly marketing words to target the consumer and hold no nutritional value for our pets. In fact, much of what we see on dog food bags is marketing and can confuse owners who just want to pick a good dog food for their pets. Asking your vet for their recommendation for your pet can be vital to not making mistakes with dog foods.

Consider avoiding dog foods labeled for “all life stages”. To meet the needs of all life stages it must meet the nutritional need for a lactating female who has the highest nutritional demand. This terminology would indicate that the food is too high in calorie or nutrient value for all the other life stages especially in regard to our older dogs. It would be convenient for multi-pet households but would not provide the best nutrition for your older four-legged members.

Finally, remember that calories are very important to our seniors. One of the best things we can do for the older members of our pack is to manage their weight. Allowing them to carry even a few extra pounds can make them more susceptible to other diseases and chronic pain. We recommend starting with the calorie intake to manage this important aspect of health.

Try these 3 simple steps:

First, discuss the ideal weight for your pet with your veterinarian.

Next, feed the amount recommended on the label for that recommended weight.

Finally, remember this calorie amount should also include any treats your pet might receive and should be adjusted accordingly.

These basic tips can help you ensure you are feeding the optimum food for your older dog. All of this should be under the supervision of your veterinary team. Being an educated pet parent when choosing a food for this critical life stage is crucial to giving your older dog his best Golden Years.


Want to learn more ways to help your senior dog?

Senior dogs have UNIQUE needs relative to their younger counterparts. Yet we don't talk about it enough!

Learn different ways you can help your older dog with our latest courses, products and free resources- all geared towards pets in their golden years.

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