As your dog gets older you’re likely to notice some changes in their behaviour and appearance, so it is no surprise that there are certain physiological changes taking place inside too.
It is important to consider how you can help keep your dog in the best possible health and condition as they age – and because nutritional needs can alter in response to these changes, you’ll want to make sure your older dog is on a diet appropriate to its age as well as its size.
So what changes do we need to consider as dogs age?
You may notice that your dog slows down as it gets older. Body shape can change and a reduced activity level may mean that it is prone to weight gain.
At the same time it can begin to lose muscle condition. Your dog’s skin and coat condition changes too and there’s a higher risk of dental health problems and tartar accumulation.
There are invisible changes too. Your dog’s joints, heart and kidneys, for example, are all ageing progressively, increasing the risk of mobility issues, cardiac concerns and renal problems. Natural defenses can become fragile as well.
When does ageing start?
We can notice that the ageing process takes place in two stages. A dog is considered to start ageing when it reaches half its life expectancy – eight years for extra small and mini dogs, seven for medium sized dogs and five years for maxis. At this stage, a dog is ‘mature’.
While the ageing process starts to affect your dog’s physiology, initially there may be few outwardly visible signs.
Then, at around two-thirds of its life-expectancy, a dog is considered ‘senior’ and you may start to see more obvious changes. For extra small and mini dogs this is at 12 years, for medium dogs at 10 and for maxi dogs at 8.
At this time you may want to make some management changes to help support your dog’s quality of life – giving shorter, more frequent walks and using extra soft, warm bedding for example.
Choosing the right diet for your older dog
While we cannot stop or reserve these age-related changes, nutrition can really help to support health in those key areas on sensitivity. For mature dogs, energy intake can be adapted to account for metabolism changes and certain nutrients can help to support vitality.
Incorporating a combination of antioxidants, for example, in the diet can help to maintain cellular health and natural defences. An adapted phosphorus level will help to support renal health.
Into the senior years, adding lycopene helps enhance the antioxidants benefits and incorporating the omega 3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA helps to process. Further controlling the phosphorus continues support for the kidneys.
The addition of glucosamine and chondroitin helps preserve joint health in larger dogs, while calcium chelating agents help delay tartar formation in smaller dogs.
Royal Canin’s size health nutrition range accounts for the changing nutritional needs of mature and senior dogs and different sizes: x-small dogs under 4kg, mini dogs under 10kg, medium dogs between 11 and 25kg and maxi dogs between 26 and 44kg.
Choosing the right diet for your dog’s age and size will give them the health nutrition they need to help them grow older gracefully.