How is a Senior Pet Food Different?
Puppy diets are widely accepted within the industry, with clearly defined nutritional guidelines. Yet, in contrast, the nutritional requirements of senior dogs and cats are not strictly defined by FEDIAF, AAFCO or the NRC. Despite our pets spending proportionally more time categorised as ‘senior’ or ‘geriatric’, their nutritional requirements are based on adult parameters. Nevertheless, senior pets can benefit from nutritional changes tailored to support the physiological changes known to occur within this life stage.
When to Start Feeding a Senior Diet?
Like humans, dogs and cats do not age consistently, and chronologic age does not always match physiologic age. The breed is highly influential on the lifespan of dogs, with small breeds expected to outlive their large breed counterparts. This variation in lifespan makes it difficult to establish an exact age for ‘senior’ dogs. Signs of ageing may be noticeable in large breed dogs as early as 5 years old, whereas small breeds may be as late as 10 years. In cats, the breed is less influential, and the ageing process is more gradual. A suggested classification is that cats become ‘senior’ around 7-8 years and progress to ‘geriatric’ from around 12 years 5.
Nutrition can play a key role in aiding healthy ageing. The varying demands of the senior life stage require the regular review of dietary requirements. At all times, the diet must address the challenges to maintain a lean muscle mass and optimum body fat. However, nutrition can also play a role in reducing the physiological stressors experienced by our senior companion animals. In particular senior diets can aid a reduction in the risk or rate of age-related illnesses. Alongside feeding a senior diet, reasonable adjustment to the environment and routine of an ageing pet can aid welfare. Considerations such as an increased number of feeding stations around the home can aid the maintenance of daily rations.
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Article written by Emma Hunt