Just like puppies, senior dogs often need special food to maintain proper weight and nutrition. With decreased activity, most older dogs gain weight and should be placed on a low-activity or senior formula food. However, any number of common health issues may be affecting your geriatric dog, causing it to lose weight. If your dog appears gaunt or its bones start sticking out, you need to change your dog's diet and start fattening it up.
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Move away from a senior formula if your dog loses too much weight after switching to it. Dogs all age at different rates and burn a different amount of calories. As senior formula foods have less calories, your dog may actually need more calories to maintain a proper weight. As long as your dog is healthy and not overweight, an adult dog food works fine at any age.
Select easier to eat food. Some dogs may have tooth issues or just not have the energy to gobble down hard food anymore. Smaller kibbles or canned food may be easier for your senior dog to eat. You can also try adding a bit of water or broth to your dog's food to soften it.
Look for food that contains a balance of protein and healthy carbs. If your dog is dangerously thin, you can even switch to a diet of chicken or lamb and rice. Consult your vet for advice.
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Add supplements to your dog's diet. A multivitamin geared towards senior dogs will provide adequate nutrition, especially if your dog is eating less than it used to. Probiotic enzymes cause the body to absorb more nutrition and will help fatten your dog up. Gentle proteins also help, like cooked eggs or cottage cheese.
Treat underlying cause of weight loss. Your dog may have a thyroid issue or other health condition, which can be treated through medication or supplements. Consider visiting a natural veterinarian, who can prescribe herbs, vitamins and other supplements to treat health problems. Most geriatric dogs do not need more medicine and chemicals filtering through their livers and kidneys.
Split your dog's meals up to two or three a day. Many geriatric dogs lose their appetite, and will walk away from their bowl before it's empty, but will eat smaller portions throughout the day.
Increase the amount of food you feed your dog. You may need to add an extra meal to add more food, but the extra calories will help boost weight.
Add healthy snacks to your dog's diet. If your dog needed to lose weight, vegetables would add nutrition without adding calories, but to fatten your dog up, you need the calories. Choose high-quality jerky snacks or treats. Look for treats geared towards camping and outdoor dogs for treats that contain extra calories.
Tips and warnings
- Food is a very personal choice for both you and your dog, so find the one that works best. Everyone has an opinion, but it comes down to what works. Just remember that no one dog food works for all dogs, so don't fall into the trap of feeding your dog what someone else feeds her dog.
- See your vet. It is more important than ever for your geriatric dog to visit the vet regularly for checkups.
- There is much debate about the amount of protein an older dog needs and should consume. A higher protein diet can help fatten your dog up, but may also put strain on the kidneys.
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