Why Size Matters When Feeding a Senior Dog

Senior Great Dane
Thinkstock
Not sure when you should switch your dog to senior food? It's important to consider his size. Giant dog breeds like Great Danes and Mastiffs tend to show their age earlier.

The age at which dogs become seniors can depend in part on their size. Some toy dogs can remain youthful up until their double-digit years but giant breeds can show their age earlier. This means the age at which you might consider switching your dog to a senior food could differ depending on his size.

Not all senior foods are formulated alike, so there's no specific group of components that will make a senior diet ideal for every pet. Some senior foods are lower in fat or calories, and some are higher in fiber. Some contain supplements that can help some dogs with joint problems like  arthritis. And some senior dogs may have age-associated health problems, such as heart or kidney disease, that can influence their nutritional needs. Your veterinarian can tell you if a senior diet may be appropriate for your dog or if he might benefit from a prescription diet aimed at specific disease.

It's also important to consider the environment in which your senior dog eats. Some large dogs can develop back or neck problems or weakness in their legs that can make eating off the floor while standing up difficult. This can happen to any dog, but a larger dog who is farther away from the floor may have an even more difficult time. This is even more challenging if you feed your dog on a slippery floor. Consider feeding your larger senior dog on a carpeted area (or another non-skid surface, like a mat) and from slightly elevated bowls so he doesn't have to reach down as far to get to his food and water.

Aging may also bring on dental problems. Dental disease occurs in dogs of any size, but for smaller dogs, the problem can be exacerbated because their small mouths can cause "crowding" of their teeth. The normal factors that promote plaque build-up, which in turn can lead to tartar, gingivitis, gum recession and tooth loss, threaten dogs of any size. Frequent tooth-brushing is a good way to help slow tartar buildup, and even small dogs can benefit. Be aware, though, that if your dog already has dental problems, brushing and even regular eating can be painful. Your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning to address any dental problems. For some pets, soft or canned food may be less painful to eat. No matter what size dog you have, it's important to attend to his teeth and make sure eating is comfortable for him.

And remember, regardless of his size, it's important for your senior dog to have a  wellness exam at least twice yearly to promote his health and detect any illnesses early.

More on Vetstreet:
Common Health Problems Senior Dogs Face
Help Keep Your Senior Dog Mentally and Physically Sharp
10 Senior Dogs Who Have No Idea They're Old
Don't Overlook These Common Aches and Pains
Invisible Health Issues You May Not Realize Your Pet Has

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!