- Protein: There is no evidence that a diet low in protein or high in protein is optimal for an aging pet. The subject is still quite controversial and unless your vet suggests otherwise, no adjustment to the amount of protein your pet gets is advised.
- Phosphorus: Lowering dietary phosphorus has been shown to be beneficial in pets with kidney disease, but it is not known whether low dietary phosphorus can reduce the risk of development of kidney disease. It is important to work with your veterinarian to determine how much phosphorus is recommended for your pet.
- Sodium: Sodium levels vary widely in senior diets. Restricting dietary sodium is unnecessary for the general population of older dogs and cats, but may be recommended if heart disease, high blood pressure, or kidney disease are present.
- Calories: Older pets may tend to gain weight as they age (although some lose weight) and calorie consumption may be a concern if either situation exists. Extra pounds around the middle can cause or worsen other diseases, such as diabetes or arthritis. The calories in commercial senior diets for dogs and cats vary widely so you should work with your veterinarian to carefully select the most appropriate diet for your senior pet to maintain his or her optimal body weight.
- Fiber: Increased fiber intake may be useful for dogs and cats that have certain intestinal issues, but high fiber foods are not right for all older animals. For example, many of the commercial high fiber diets would not be ideal for animals that have difficulty maintaining weight since these diets are typically low in calories. It is important to consult with your vet if your pet has difficulty maintaining weight.
- Supplemental vitamins and minerals: If you’re feeding your pet a good quality commercial food, supplementation is typically not unnecessary. While some supplements may be helpful if your pet has certain illnesses, it is important to note that supplements are regulated very differently from drugs and there may be concerns with safety, effectiveness and quality control. It is important to discuss any supplements you are considering for your pet with your vet because many have side effects and possible interactions with medications.
If your senior dog or cat is healthy, in good body condition, and eating a good quality nutritionally balanced diet, there is no reason to change foods. However, if your pet has developed arthritis, diabetes, cancer, dental problems, heart disease, or kidney disease, dietary adjustments may help improve symptoms or even slow progression of the disease.
There are many good quality commercial diets available today, and their variable nutrient content provides many choices for optimizing the health of your elderly dog and cat. We strongly encourage you to work with your pet’s vet to find the pet food that would be best for your dog or cat’s medical situation.
We do not endorse or promote any of these products or companies. Products are listed for demonstration purposes only based on available information at the time of publication. You should always consult your vet to determine what is most appropriate for your senior pet.