By Dr Ockert Botha BVSc CEO SVD
We all love our pets but as time goes on we seem to develop a particularly strong bond with our older dog companions. These are normally the dogs that have served and loved us for many years and for that reason, they deserve the best we can possibly give them. Nutrition is the mainstay of the care that we as loving pet owners should give our dogs. The science of canine nutrition has evolved rapidly during the last two decades and is continuing to do so. What may seem to be correct today may be proven to be wrong tomorrow. Many articles published on nutrition in the lay press and on the internet are rife with conjecture and in some instances even lies based often on self-interest.
What Age Is Senior?
The definition of when a dog qualifies as being senior differs for breeds as well as size. It is very difficult to make a definitive recommendation. Normally we consider large dogs (above 20 kg) above 5 years and small to medium dogs (below 20 kg) above 7 years as being senior. The toy breeds (below 3 kg) may only be considered as senior when they reach an age of 9 years. In spite of the above recommendations dogs are like humans in the individual way that they age, so at most the above is a general guideline. The following signs are attributable to old age: graying muzzle, less energy, sleeping more, a change in habits, change in weight, bad breath and hearing or vision change. Once a few of these signs appear in your beloved pet you should consider starting to pay him the respect and special care that old age affords.
Formulation Of Senior Pet Food
The formulation of a good quality dog food is a specialised science, but to formulate an excellent dog food for senior breeds is even more demanding. Although the science of formulation is important there is also often an element of experience and talent involved. The senior range of Ultra Dog Ultra Premium has been formulated through the collaboration of two experienced veterinarians, an acclaimed pet nutritionist and a human food technologist, taking into account the newest research in senior dog food nutrition.
The quality and percentage of protein, starch and fat are the main determining factors in the quality of an exceptional senior dog food. Of these three, protein is the most important. Generally the percentage of protein in a senior diet is lower than that of an adult maintenance diet. However the percentage of protein is not as important as the protein source. The higher the quality of the protein the less will be the load on the older dog’s kidneys and other vital organs. As dogs and cats are true carnivores they cope better, especially in old age, with animal protein rather than plant-based protein. As dogs grow older their digestive system slows down and they find it more difficult to digest certain sources of starch such as maize starch. A highly digestible source of starch such as rice is vitally important in a senior dog’s diet. Just as important, however, is the fact that senior dogs require more fibre in their diets. Fibre prevents constipation and helps to prevent obesity. A good source of fibre such as is found in beet pulp will also aid the good bacterial growth that is responsible for digesting the food in the colon of dogs.A senior canine diet should contain less fat and the fat should be of high quality. Although the percentage of raw materials is important in a senior diet the ingredients are of paramount importance in maintaining the health of your senior dog. The senior range of Ultra Dog Ultra Premium contains only the best sources of high quality chicken protein, rice and fat combined with all the essential vitamins and additives to ensure the optimum nutrition for older dogs.
Over and above vitamins, minerals, trace elements and the omega 3, 6 and 9 ratios premium senior diets are often fortified with neutriceuticals to prevent early ageing and support organ systems. Some of these specialised additions include antioxidants, joint support products (Glucosamine and Chondroitin), and obesity-preventing agents (L – Carnitine and Chromium picolinate). Specialised oils such as Salmon oil will support the cognitive function and prevent early senility as well as help maintain optimal skin health. It is imperative that senior diets be low in salt (sodium) to reduce the load on the older dog’s kidneys. Ultra Dog Ultra Premium senior diets contain all of the above but also contain the very strong anti oxidant and immune stimulant Thioctic acid that assists the function of the kidneys, liver and heart in older dogs. It is also one of the few senior diets that contain Green-lipped mussel extract that is a natural pain killer and joint support agent.
Your older dog has served you well for many years. Reward him in the best way possible by supplying him with the best possible food formulated and manufactured specifically for senior dogs. By spending the extra money on these specialised diets you will assist your dog in enjoying his golden years – you owe him this!