In the past, veterinarians recommended diets for senior dogs largely based on the nutritional management of diseases common to the aging process. Research, however, has shown that special nutrition can help manage body-condition problems in aging dogs, such as obesity and loss of muscle mass. Senior dogs also benefit from special nutrition to help maintain bone and joint health.
Learn more about how you can help your senior dog manage common health issues associated with aging.
Managing Obesity in Senior Dogs
Senior dogs tend to gain weight, despite consuming fewer calories, due to changes in their metabolic rate. Therefore, they can benefit from eating a diet with reduced fat levels and lower caloric density than adult maintenance foods.
Recent IAMS™ research in dogs also indicates that L-carnitine — a vitamin-like compound made in the body from the amino acids found in red meats, fish, chicken and milk — can help reduce weight in overweight dogs by escorting fat into cellular mitochondria where it is turned into energy.
Addressing Loss of Muscle Mass in Senior Dogs
Protein is the building block of muscle tissues. It is important for maintenance of muscle tissues, muscle strength and mobility. Recent research conducted by The IAMS Company has shown that senior dogs that eat a higher-protein diet better maintain muscle protein stores. By providing optimal protein levels from muscle maintenance, we can help senior dogs continue being physically active.
This research is contrary to conventional opinion that senior dog foods should contain lower protein levels than adult maintenance formulas to avoid progressive decrease in kidney function. However, senior dogs fed a high-protein diet had stable renal function and a lower death rate than dogs fed a lower-protein diet.*
Maintaining Bone and Joint Health for Senior Dogs
During the aging process, cartilage between joints often begins deteriorating. Nutritional management can help maintain healthy bones and joints and mobility in dogs in several ways:
- Optimal levels of vitamins and minerals promote the efficient production of cartilage and nutritionally support bone and nerve function.
- A complete and balanced diet with an adjusted omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio nutritionally supports joint health.
Some pet-food manufacturers have endorsed reduced levels of calcium and phosphorus based on the belief that excesses of these minerals are harmful to the kidneys. However, research has shown that no damaging accumulation of calcium or phosphorus was found in the kidneys of older dogs fed diets containing maintenance levels of calcium and phosphorus for four years.*
* Finco, DR. “Effects of aging and dietary protein intake of uninephrectomized geriatric dogs.” American Journal of Veterinary Research; Vol. 55, No. 9. Sept. 1994.