Changing nutritional needs in the older pet.
To meet the nutritional demands of old age a good quality senior pet food is advised from the age of 7 years.
In old pets it is important to keep the quality of life top priority and to change to an age appropriate diet at the correct age and not to wait for health problems to be symptomatic.
Senior diets are different than normal adult food to support the following old age changes:
1. Arthritis support
Joint ageing can occur as early as 6 years of age. Good senior diets are supplemented with glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulphate to help maintain healthy joints and assists joint mobility.
2. Kidney function
Kidney insufficiency leading to kidney failure in senior pets is unfortunately very common. Symptoms of kidney disease will often only be visible to the owner when the disease is already advanced. Senior diets have reduced protein, calcium, phosphorus and sodium to decrease the work load on the ageing kidney.
3. Gastrointestinal support
The cells in the gastrointestinal system are very active cells which often get replaced by new cells. In the older pets the digestive processes slows down which can lead to constipation, poor absorption and diarrhea. Senior diets often will have added fiber and probiotics to support this system.
4. Skin problems
Older pets will often develop skin problems. This can vary from dry skin to allergic skin. Added zinc in the diet will support the skin. Omega 3 supplementation is very important to act as a natural anti-inflammatory.
5. Weight gain
If activity decreases in old age the pet will be more prone to excess weight gain which increases the risk of weight related disease like diabetes. Added L-carnitine helps maintain lean body mass and reduced calorie content combats the extra kilograms.
6. Brain ageing
Brain ageing in the canine patient is comparable with ageing in human brains. Cognitive dysfunction in pets can lead to symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. It is important to support the ageing brain before symptoms are visible. A good quality senior food will have added antioxidants and omega 3 to support the brain.
It is important to distinguish between a standard senior diet and a prescription diet. Prescription diets are used when a specific problem in the patient (diagnosed by your vet) requires certain nutritional support.
Article written by: Dr Adel Ferreira