- Start by assessing your dog's health. Have a veterinarian evaluate your dog before you change its diet. You need to know if any specific nutritional deficiencies or other concerns should be addressed through the new diet. Regular checkups are even more important for a dog as it moves into its elderly years.
Dry or Moist?
- A common concern involving many senior dogs is tooth loss, which could lead to difficulty chewing. You may want to immediately switch him over to soft food once he has lost a tooth. This is not always the best choice, however, as chewing on dry food helps to remove some of the tartar that causes dental problems. This condition can be a real Catch 22 for many pet owners. Your veterinarian may recommend performing dental cleaning procedures on a more frequent schedule, and also supplementing some soft, moist food, while still keeping the majority of the dog's diet in the form of dry food. Keep good track of his weight in order to assess how well he is processing his food.
- The other common diet concern relating to senior dogs is the absorption of protein. Even though your dog may be eating the same amount of protein as a younger dog, he may be experiencing less digestibility of the protein due to changes in his ability to absorb this nutrient. By increasing his amount of protein, as well as alternating his feedings between heavy protein meals and carbohydrate mixed meals, he may be able to better assimilate the protein.
- The best formula for homemade dog food for the elderly dog will contain up to 50 percent in animal-based protein, an easily digested carbohydrate source and some fat. Many elderly dogs tolerate both red and white meats, as long as they are not salted or saturated with fat. Many owners choose to use cooked rice mixed with lamb, chicken or beef. Cooked eggs are a good source of protein and are well tolerated by most dogs. Experiment with different grains and vegetables to determine which your dog prefers. Vary your mixes to include different kinds of meats, vegetables and grains to ensure your dog is getting all the nutrients he requires.
- When making your own dog food, refrain from using seasonings. We may crave flavorful foods but older dogs do not tolerate them very well. Additional salt can cause health risks including consumption of excess water, which can put a strain on the aging dog's kidneys. Be sure to cook all meat. After mixing your meats, grains and vegetables, you can refrigerate part of it in airtight containers for up to a week. The rest can be spread on cookie sheets and baked slowly in a 200° oven until all moisture has been removed. It is still a good idea to refrigerate this dry mix also, since you have not added any preservatives. Making a nice batch of dog food once a week can be fun for you and very nutritious for your furry friend.