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Senior dog

Nutritional Needs for Senior Dogs

Nutritional Needs for Senior Dogs

Just like humans, senior dogs require specialized care to ensure their golden years are filled with comfort and joy. Nutrient-rich foods that cater to aging needs become even more critical during this stage.


Senior dogs can vary drastically in their energy requirements, and every dog must be seen and fed as the unique individual they are. As dogs (and humans) age, their voluntary activity level decreases and they will spend more and more time inactive. This can put many dogs at risk of gaining excess weight if their energy intake is not adjusted appropriately. On the other hand, some older dogs will reduce their voluntary food intake and can be at risk of losing weight if not fed a diet higher in energy to accommodate their reduced intake. Although changes in food intake can be a normal component of aging, it can also be a sign of underlying health issues, so be sure to book a checkup with your veterinarian if your dog's appetite or interest in food changes.


In some circumstances the protein needs of senior dogs can be more similar to puppies than to younger adults. This is due to a phenomenon known as sarcopenia - loss of muscle. Sarcopenia can be a normal age-related change in dogs (and again in humans). While no amount of dietary protein can magically increase muscle mass, a higher dietary protein intake may help to maintain muscle mass for longer in comparison to a diet that is only just meeting minimum requirements. Here again the balance of amino acids and provision of essential amino acids is critical. Not all senior dogs do well with a higher protein diet, however, as the risk of certain health conditions can increase with age. In particular, chronic hepatitis and chronic renal insufficiency (also known as chronic kidney disease) are both commonly found in older dogs. In both of these conditions, consideration of dietary protein is necessary, as excess protein can exacerbate the conditions. Routine health check ups and monitoring can catch these conditions before clinical signs even develop, so a good relationship with your veterinarian is even more important as your dog starts to graduate into their senior lifestage. 


While fat requirements do not necessarily change from adult to senior, the previously-mentioned omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are very beneficial at this time. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered to be anti-inflammatory in comparison to omega-6 fatty acids, while EPA and DHA specifically have additional health benefits to support heart, kidney, joint, and skin function. For an excellent source of omega-3 DHA+EPA, you may want to consider Vivus Pets' Gastrointestinal Support Supplement which is rich in omega-3 DHA+EPA, offering comprehensive support for your dog's overall well-being.

Additional system-specific nutritional support

Joints support

As they accumulate life experience, dogs (and humans) also accumulate microdamage to their bodies. Even if your dog isn't a flyball or agility champion, given the active, playful nature of even the most sedentary of companion dogs, their joints take quite a beating over the course of their life. Degenerative joint disease, also called osteoarthritis or just arthritis, is very common in senior dogs. Incorporating anti-inflammatory and joint-supporting nutrients or supplementation such as Joints and Mobility Support Supplement into their diet may help to slow progression and improve joint comfort. Plant-based glucosamine and chondroitin may help to support joint cartilage, while EPA and DHA from algae oil can help to reduce the inflammation. For dogs with reduced comfort or mobility, speak with your veterinarian for other options for support.

Brain support

Akin to dementia in humans, canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCDS) is a degenerative condition that some older dogs acquire. The signs of CCDS include any and all of: disorientation (some dogs may wander into corners, get lost even in a familiar environment, stare blankly at walls, the floor or into space), changes in social interaction (some dogs may be more or less irritable/fearful/aggressive with humans or other animals, may lose interest in social interactions), changes to the sleep/wake cycle and vocalizations at night, changes in learning or memory including loss of house training, reduced activity and playfulness, and general anxiety. Antioxidants from bright and dark fruits and vegetables may help to slow progression of CCDS, while medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil may help provide an energy boost to brain cells. If you suspect your dog has CCDS, speak with your veterinarian as there are also non-nutritional strategies to maintain cognitive function. Consider exploring Vivus Pets' Calming Support Supplements, which offer cognitive function support and may complement your efforts to help your furry friend.

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