As our dogs age, we pet parents notice some of the changes that gradually occur in our dogs. Some of our dogs show signs of age with a little gray or white on their fur while most dogs tend to just slow down. Every dog’s timing is different in hitting his or her golden years and can depend on your dog’s size, breed and genetics.
As dogs age, particularly the larger breeds, their joints start to feel the repercussions of aging. Typically cartilage regeneration is not as strong in older dogs (or older people), so the cartilage will start to deteriorate. Thin cartilage where two bones meet can lead to inflammation and pain. Many veterinarians will prescribe anti-inflammatories that act similarly to regular aspirin, but there are some nutritional tips that can help as well.
Fish Oil is great for inflammation
Incorporating fish oil into your senior dog’s diet can help with the inflammation that occurs in joints. Some food already has these oils incorporated but the amounts are often not significant enough to be effective. Additional fish oil may be needed and a safe recommendation is approximately a 1/4 teaspoon per 10 lbs in body weight each day to get your pooch moving a little better.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfate
Other supplements that may be effective are glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate. As dogs age, the ability for them to make chondroitin sulfate in their body decreases, so an addition of glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate may help supply the building blocks for this important substance in the cartilage. Additional chondroitin sulfate synthesis in the joint cartilage may mean a slower degeneration rate, which may help keep your senior dog moving for a longer time.
Cognition loss might benefit from antioxidant therapy and there are many products out there that may help. Some supplements may help diminish the progression of this cognitive dysfunction. Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene help eliminate free radical particles that can damage body tissues and cause signs of aging. Senior diets for dogs should contain higher levels of these antioxidants. Antioxidants can also increase the effectiveness of the immune system in senior dogs.
Protein and fat intake
All senior dogs will lose some muscle mass over time, which is called Sarcopenia. This is a commonly observed change in aging dogs and cats. There is some evidence that a higher protein diets can help diminish the effect over time. Sarcopenia may be more evident in the lean senior dog, but it is also occurring in your overweight senior dog as well.
This brings up an important difference in your senior pet; is your senior dog getting leaner or getting heavier? The lean and obese senior dog will both benefit from adequate protein content, while the lean dog will benefit form a higher fat diet as well.
Each dog is different and may need different diets based on his or her weight and issues, but one universal concept is that all senior diets should include highly digestible ingredients to allow your senior pet to get the most from their food.
Although you may not be able to prevent these aging changes, you can influence and slow their progression with good diet and supplement choices. All of these steps will improve quality of life and keep your canine companion by your side living a longer and healthier life.
As always, talk to your veterinarian about effective doses before beginning this or any kind of supplementation.
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