A Guide to Nutrition for Older PetsYour dog or cat is considered a senior when they are around 10 years old, even though some breeds can live as long as 20 years. However, you need to change feeding habits with the times, similar to the way you would care for an elderly family member. Cats and dogs have different needs when they are seniors, requiring careful consideration of food quantity and quality. Proper nutrition for senior pets gives them a long life with a healthy attitude.
Key Nutrients for CatsLook for cat foods that offer multivitamin-packed ingredients. If your cat's favorite brand is not a multivitamin type, consider purchasing a veterinarian-recommended multivitamin supplement. Consistent vitamin intake allows the cat to have more mental stimulation, from running and alertness, for a healthy lifestyle. Instead of sleeping all day, for instance, they want to play like kittens. For skin and coat health, look for ample omega-6 fatty acid foods or supplements. Fatty acids work wonders in the body, providing critical anti-inflammatory benefits to aging bodies, including arthritis sufferers. With its cancer-fighting and healing aspects, fatty acids are a must for your cat's senior diet. Also, add in small amounts of sodium, phosphorus and taurine. All the cat's bodily organs need these nutrients for continual support and cellular maintenance. Find these nutrients in supplements, if missing from a food label.
Critical Dog NutrientsDogs also need their share of omega-6 fatty acids, such as gamma-linolenic acid, helping their skin, joints and coat remain healthy over time. Antioxidants are another key component to dog health, as free radicals are enemies of healthy tissue. These particles quickly damage internal organs without the help of consistent antioxidant intake of beta-carotene and vitamin E. Lean proteins are also a critical component of a healthy senior diet. Although protein may be high in calories, moderate amounts contribute to healthy muscles, supporting the internal organs and everyday movements.
Portioning FoodOne of the largest threats to a senior dog's lifespan is obesity. With a heavy body, diseases quickly set in. Portion your pet's food, based on their size. For example, a small cat or dog only needs between one-half and one cup of food each day. However, older pets have slower metabolisms. You can be cautious and purchase pet food designed specifically for older animals. The food often has less calories, allowing the pet to eat the same volume, but with less calories to burn.
If possible, offer dog and cat food that has natural ingredients. When you read the ingredient list, most of the listed items should be understandable. Long, chemical-based ingredients do not benefit the pet's health, and may even hinder digestion. A pet's body is designed to digest and utilize nutrients from natural sources. Look for ingredients, including real chicken and vegetables. Animal byproducts, in contrast, do not provide the same nutrition as a real chicken part.
Maintain your senior pet's health with ample food rich in nutrients. Encourage a lot of water consumption, especially during the warmer months. Pets need a constant water source to support bodily functions. Get outside with your pet, encouraging running and playing. Although your pet is not a kitten or puppy, activities keep their body and mind stimulated. A happy and healthy pet can fight off disease readily, allowing you to enjoy your loving pet for many years to come.
Erica Anderson is a veterinary technician and pet writer from Tucson, Arizona. She is an advocate for pet hospice, all-natural foods, and homeopathic veterinarians.