Offering your pet a nutritious, well-balanced diet is important no matter how old he is, but it’s particularly vital that older pets get the nutritional support they need.
As pet owners we can get stuck in the habit of feeding our pets the same foods throughout their lives. However, your dog or cat’s needs will change as he gets older (once your pet reaches about seven years of age he is considered senior) and it’s possible that the diet that met all those needs when he was four or five just isn’t going to cut it when he’s eight, 10 or 13 years old. That’s when your pet could become deficient in certain vitamins or nutrients, which can lead to health problems.
Of course, it’s important to talk to your vet if you have health concerns for your pet, but the staff at your local pet store should also be able to help you out with diet advice for your dog or cat.
If you’ve decided to move your pet onto a commercial senior’s pet food, it’s really important to make the change a gradual one. Introducing a new diet overnight can cause tummy upsets for your pet and might also mean your pet rejects the new food because it’s just too different to what he’s used to. So, for the first few days, add a small amount of the new food to the old diet (be sure to adjust the portions so you’re not overfeeding). Over the next week or so after that, increase the ratio of new food to old and then after a few weeks you can offer your pet the new food on its own.
A good diet for senior pets will include high-quality protein, easy-to-digest carbohydrates and low amounts of fat. The food will have vitamins that support an ageing body and minerals for joint health.
You’re older pet’s jaw and teeth won’t be as strong as they used to be, so if you choose a dry food, choose a brand that has small-sized kibble. And if you’re moving onto a dry-food diet from fresh or canned food, remember to top up the water bowl more frequently as your pet will need to drink more fluids.