Geriatric dogs need special consideration when preparing a diet and exercise regimen. Health and joint problems may require different tactics than those used for younger obese dogs.
Geriatric dog diet
Before changing your senior dog’s diet, consult your veterinarian for advice. If your dog has health problems, he may not be able to eat the same diet as a younger dog. However, some foods recommended by veterinarians are high in corn, wheat and other cheap fillers, which are bad for your older dog.
Though senior dogs need less protein than younger dogs, don’t sacrifice the quality of your dog’s food. Many senior diets are filled with wheat, corn and meat byproducts, which provide no nutritional value. Look for high-quality senior diets that rely on protein and high-quality grain for their top three ingredients.
Senior diets often utilise lower fat proteins such as poultry and fish, rather than beef and lamb. They also utilize more high-quality grains such as barley, brown rice and oatmeal.
Another option is cutting back the amount of food and adding your own dietary enticements, such as replacing 25 percent of the food with ground vegetables. Since dogs can’t digest the nutrients in whole vegetables, grind them in your blender and add them to his food. Good vegetable sources are green beans, squash, broccoli and celery.
Since older dogs are also prone to constipation, replace a portion of the protein with healthy grains, such as wheat bran or oatmeal. One or two spoonfuls of canned pumpkin adds fiber while reducing calories.
Adding this to a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice is another way to reduce your dog’s calories without causing stomach upset from a rich protein-based food.
Don’t free-feed your senior dog, even if he isn’t interested in eating. Try adding a sodium-free broth or wet food to your dog’s food to entice him to eat. Leaving food out all day prevents you from monitoring exactly how much he’s eating and may cause you to feed him more than necessary.
Geriatric dog exercise
Though they may not have the energy of their youth, senior dogs still need physical and mental stimulation. Provide your dog with daily, steady exercise. Don’t push your dog. Instead, slowly build his energy level back up with short, daily exercise. Be consistent. Don’t exercise a lot one day to make up for not exercising the previous day.
Get him excited about games that he used to enjoy such as tug and ball, just play them more slowly and for less time.
Another exercise option is making him work for his food. Instead of feeding it in a bowl, toss it across the floor so he can search for it. Hide it in toys or in little piles around the house so he must search for it. Place it in a ball that spits out kibble when he rolls it across the floor or wet it down, stuff it in a hollow bone or toy and freeze it. If he has never used one of these toys, first teach him how to use it.
Geriatric dogs are prone to obesity because they consume the same amount of calories, even though their activity level is reduced. To keep your senior dog at a healthy weight, reduce his calories and keep him exercising, even if walks are slower than they used to be. By Dr Ruan Du Toit Bester
Hope this info helps
Till next week
Dr Ruan Bester
Ask the Vet: Royal Veterinary Centre
Tel: +853 28501099, +853 28523678
Emergency: +853 62662268