Albion Park & Gerringong

Feeding our Older Friends

Just like us, our pets’ needs can change as they get older. You’ve probably noticed foods specifically tailored to older pets, and may be wondering what needs to change and when for your own senior dog or cat.

When is my pet considered “senior”?

For small breed dogs, we consider them to be senior from around 10 years old. Larger breeds hit their senior years at around 7 years old.

Cats are considered senior from around 10 years old.

What needs to change?

While every pet is different, as a general rule there are a few things that we consider changing in senior pet diets.

Protein

Older pets don’t tend to synthesize protein as well within their bodies, which means they can lose muscle condition. Because of this, we may want to increase the protein in their diet.

The best way to tell whether your pet is losing muscle is by feeling their thighs and shoulders – if you notice these areas getting smaller then it may be worth considering their protein intake.

Energy

As older pets start to slow down, the amount of energy they need from food becomes less. If they are eating more calories than they use throughout the day, they can start to gain weight. This can be particularly problematic for older pets as most will have some degree of arthritis, and extra weight puts extra pressure on their joints.

If you notice your pet starting to put on weight, try reducing the amount of food you give them each day or swap to a food that is designed to help with weight loss.  

Flavour

Your pet’s sense of smell can lessen as they age, which means they might start to lose interest in eating. If you notice this happening, try adding in some wet food into their diet. Wet foods are generally smellier, which usually means tastier!

Supplements

Arthritis is usually one of the first things people notice as their pets start to get older. Symptoms can range from a little stiffness through to limping or reluctance to move in general. Starting joint supplements early can help to slow the progress of arthritis and keep your pet comfortable.

We recommend pet-specific supplements like Antinol or 4Cyte, which can be added to your pet’s food daily.

Medical conditions

Conditions like kidney disease are common in older pets. Fortunately there are a range of prescription foods available that are designed to help a variety of medical conditions. You might be surprised how much a change in diet alone can help.  

How do I know if I need to change my pet’s diet?

You know your pet best, so if you start to notice changes in their behaviour or demeanour it might be worth a vet consult to discuss what’s going on. We can do blood tests to check for common diseases, or just do a basic assessment of their overall condition.

Please keep in mind that this is general information only, and may not be appropriate for all pets. If you’d like to chat about what’s right for your pet, give us a call or book a consult online.

Reference:

Choosing food for your senior dog: Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine