What is a ‘senior’ dog?
Watching what your older dog eats
Hints and tips:
- Regardless of your dog’s age, it’s always good to keep an eye on their weight. This can be done using a resource called body condition scoring
- As your dog gets older, it’s a good idea to switch over to a diet that is lower in calories. Always speak to your vet before changing your dog’s diet
- If you’re concerned that your dog is overweight, contact your vet to discuss an action plan on how best to help your dog
- Ensure your dog is getting enough exercise. If your dog has joint problems then this may be difficult to do, but you can always speak to your vet about the best ways to do this and find possible alternatives, such as hydrotherapy
Changing what they eat
Changing feeding habits
Changing how much and how often they’re fed – Many dogs are used to being fed twice a day, but older dogs may prefer to be fed smaller amounts more frequently.
- Enhancing their enjoyment – If you feed your dog anything that is refrigerated, ensure that you take it out of the fridge two hours before giving it to them. Food served at room temperature will taste and smell much nicer, even if your dog’s senses have been impaired by age. If you forget or it’s not possible to do this, then you can briefly warm wet food in the microwave, but make sure it’s not hot as this could burn their mouth. If giving dry food, make sure it’s kept somewhere dry and clean and ideally in a re-sealable or airtight package to keep it tasting and smelling fresh.
- Give them peace and quiet – Your older dog may prefer to eat at their own pace in a quieter area, so try to feed them somewhere that is less busy. If you have more than one dog, try to feed them separately so that your older dog is able to eat without being interrupted.
- Make it easier for them to eat – Arthritis in senior dogs can make it more difficult for them to bend down to eat their food, so try putting their food in a slightly raised bowl.
- Watch how much you’re giving them – If your older dog is less energetic and burning fewer calories, then it’s easy to give them too much food for their energy requirements. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the quantity of food to give your dog and remember to weigh it out to avoid giving them too much. Manufacturer’s guidelines are, as the name suggests, just a guide, so keep an eye on your dog’s size and adjust the amount if you need to.
- Give them access to water – an important part of any dog’s diet is access to clean water. Staying well hydrated can help to keep them healthy.
Think your dog may be affected?
If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!
We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information
Find a vet near you
If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.