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Food for the Senior Dog: Eat Well Be Well

Dogs in Motion article about Food for the Senior Dog: Eat Well Be Well by Michelle Monk and Helen McNall

There are many things we can do to support dogs in their senior years to enable them to have lives as long, happy and healthy as they can. They rely on us to meet every single need for them and food for the senior dog is no exception. We know how important it is for us to have a good diet to maintain our health and it has become much more commonplace now to use food as medicine – changing our diet can actually eliminate so many health issues and turn our health around. Its just the same for our dogs and they depend on us to make great decisions about what they eat. Its with great pleasure I invite Helen McNall from Wellbeing for Dogs to share some tips with us for feeding our senior dog.

Food is the foundation of health, and this is nowhere more noticeable than with the senior companion. Diabetes and Obesity are at epidemic level with our dogs and Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs. (US Data). These are modern diseases so we must ask if we are really doing them any favours. Old age in dogs is often marked with pain, disease and suffering, much of which could be avoided or at least lessened. It is NEVER too late to improve the way your dog is nourished, through improving the dinner bowl. Dogs in Motion - The real food revolution for dogs ebook

Have you noticed that dogs LOVE food? Real food, human food, your food –In the final years, we want them to have as much joy as we can give them for the years of service, for being our friends and companions through their life, but where to start: You can download this e-book right here. 

I recommend you do this and read it all!

How to make that transition to homemade food? Concern about upsetting their gut/bowel or missing vital nutrients is often cited as the reason for not starting but Wellbeing Essentials makes this easy. You will be astounded at the difference it can make, so it’s well worth the effort.  Here are some key points for you to consider:

1.)  Myth that older dogs need less protein

In reality, they need more protein and better quality. Protein is the key to body repair. A lifetime of eating kibble (dehydrated pet food) is very hard on the dog’s kidney and protein is the more complex to process.

The Petfood industry’s answer to this is decreasing the protein, not improving or recommending the food be hydrated. Sad really.

If you must feed kibble buy the best quality you can, ensure you re-hydrate it –1cup kibble needs 2 cups of water – and add some extra good quality protein, like eggs, cottage cheese, sardines or meat.

2.) Importance of bowel health

Keeping their works working is vital, sadly many dogs go over the rainbow bridge too early because they have less control or get into problems of incontinence or irritable bowel. Keeping their gut healthy will help them, and you, to have a better quality of life. Wellbeing Essentials is designed to help with gut and bowel with fibre and prebiotics and can be added to any diet – cooked, raw or kibble.

I am a fan of Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) these can be easily achieved in your dog’s homemade food by adding cooked and cooled rice, potato or pasta. 50% of the cooked and cooled carbohydrate becomes resistant starch and these are fuel for the large intestine to convert to SCFA.  Importantly these are anti-inflammatory to the GI tract, and the body generally. Great for older dogs!

3.) Green leafy vegetables

The benefits of vegetables in the “food as medicine” world can’t be overstated when it comes to choosing the right food for the senior dog. We would all live longer and better if we all ate our greens. Don’t believe the hype that dogs don’t like vegetables, it is a matter of thinking of them a bit like children, you need to make the veggies taste a bit better, disguised and well camouflaged.  Green vegetables do not keep well once cooked and go sour if leftover – easier to cook at the time or process and freeze. Here’s how to add some Salsa Verde for your dog’s dinner.

4.) Stock or Bone Broth

All the rage at the moment, but our grandmothers knew the health benefits of a good chicken stock. When bones are gently cooked in water they release their collagen and collagen is a great healer, skin, joints, gut – anywhere there is permeability. It is a wonderful addition to the older dog’s dinner bowl, any time, anywhere. Chicken soup is good for the old dog’s soul indeed. Click here for Chicken Stock Recipe.

5.) Cognitive decline

Wellbeing Essentials has shown effect with the senior dog so it is well worth trying irrespective of diet. Good quality fats, including flaxseed oil or high-grade fish oil are important. Include Sardines in the diet or Spanish mackerel for their Omega 3 (much better than farmed salmon or canned tuna). The ground nuts and seeds in Wellbeing Essentials help to balance fats.  Antioxidants, such as berries help as well – add a handful with some yogurt, and beta-carotene from yellow vegetables (good fibre too in pumpkin and sweet potato). Click here for Pumpkin Recipe.

6.) Less activity means less calories

This is important with the high calorific kibble. It can be hard to cut this back so I suggest cutting back after hydrating by adding some of the foods listed above.

While fats are good for the joints and bones they also pack a punch with putting on the pounds so all things in moderation.

7.) Aid digestion

Warm their food. Sounds obvious but it does increase the pleasure too, it also smells better when warm. Raise the bowl off the floor. This means they won’t have to strain to eat, helps gravity work in their favour. A simple footstool with a non-slip mat is all you need.

8.) Home Made Food for the senior dog – cooked or raw?

My preference for food for the senior dog is cooked. Cooked food is easier to digest as cooking starts the ‘digestion’ process. It also creates a more tempting smell/aroma. Plus, the risk of pathogens is eliminated (bearing in mind food safety). The high meat diets of raw food may also be difficult food for the older dog and while there is no requirement to reduce protein in the older dog (with no kidney disease) excess protein still needs to be excreted as urea. My primary concern is the gut and bowel, as high meat diets are low in fibre and in the older dog we want insoluble fibre to keep their bowel healthy and regular.

9.) Last but not least – why give your older dog Wellbeing Essentials.

It’s real food, human food, mostly organic, delicious, bioavailable and improves the nutritional profile of any diet.

Apart from the mentions already Wellbeing Essentials may aid the older dog with some challenges and issues:

  • Joint mobility
  • Rough or dry coat
  • Bowel and gut health
  • Cognitive decline

And it is vitality that we so miss in the older dog. Try it out for a month and see if you notice a difference in your dog.

– Helen McNall

Wow, what great advice from Canine Nutritionist Helen McNall. Nutrition is such an important part of our dog’s lives and their health. What is your dog having for dinner tonight? Make sure you add Wellbeing Essentials available in our clinic here.

About Michelle Monk

I am completely passionate about providing access to rehabilitation for as many dogs and their owners as possible. Not just through my own clinics but also by teaching other health professionals such as Vets, Vet Nurses and Physiotherapists how to provide quality rehabilitation in their clinics.

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