How to help your senior dog to maintain their bodyweight

How to help your senior dog to maintain their bodyweight

Health & Safety

As dogs age, their metabolism, activity levels and physical condition will all begin to change, as part of the gradual slow-down towards the end of their lives. Obviously it is impossible to turn back the clock on canine aging, but there are several things that you can do to help to keep your dog healthy, well and fit for life well into their senior years, and these things can all help to prolong your dog’s life, and quality of life as they age too.

Elderly dogs tend to go one of two ways in terms of their bulk and weight as they get older-they will either be more prone to weight gain and carrying too many extra pounds, or they may begin to lose condition instead, and with it, muscle mass and tone. In this article, we will look at the latter problem, and share some tips on how to help your senior dog to maintain a high enough body weight to support good health well into old age. Read on to learn more.

Why do some older dogs lose weight?

As mentioned, whilst some dogs are apt to gain weight as they become older, a great many become leaner and thinner than usual, due to a combination of weight loss, and loss of muscle bulk and tone.

This is due to a combination of factors, which may include:

  • The dog’s appetite diminishes as they become less active.
  • Less activity means loss of muscle mass.
  • Loss of appetite of course leads to eating less, and so, weight loss in and of itself.
  • Dog’s senses of smell and taste diminish as they age, making food less appealing to them.
  • In some older dogs, a lifetime of dental neglect can lead to problems with the teeth and gums, which makes eating difficult or uncomfortable for them.
  • In some cases, age-related brain degeneration can lead to problems similar to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in people, which can have a wide-ranging impact upon all of the dog’s bodily functions and usual behaviours.

Why is maintaining weight vital for health?

Obviously, being overweight is no better than being underweight, and comes with a whole range of problems and challenges of its own. However, if a dog is underweight or unable to maintain condition, they will have less energy, want to do less, lose muscle mass, and also, be at higher risk of suffering from bone and joint problems that can be helped by exercise.

Added to this, being underweight has an impact on the dog’s ability to stay warm enough, and can also affect the immune system, making the dog more prone to developing coughs, colds and other contagious illnesses that can be very serious for older dogs.

The role of exercise in weight maintenance

The more exercise that your dog receives, the more they will need to be fed in order to maintain a healthy weight and not get too skinny. However, reducing the dog’s exercise levels is not the best way to go about helping the dog to gain weight, for a variety of reasons.

Exercise is integral to maintaining good health, and the combination of fresh air, stretching, exertion and movement all help to keep dogs healthy, by maintaining muscle mass, supporting flexible joints, and allowing the dog to spend time outdoors.

Muscle weighs more than fat, and so loss of muscle through reduced exercise also causes loss of weight, and added to this, exercise stimulates a whole range of bodily systems, including those for appetite-exercise can actually help to encourage your dog to eat more, and to increase their appetite for food.

Feeding and treats

If your dog is continuing to eat the same amount of food that they always used to but is losing weight nonetheless, you should speak to your vet to ensure that there is not an underlying health issue causing a problem for your dog. However, if your dog’s appetite and desire to eat has diminished and this is what is causing your older dog to lose condition, there are various different approaches that you can take to this.

First of all, it is important to ensure that your dog’s diet is appropriate for their life stage, by feeding a food designed for older dogs. However, as many older dogs go the other way and tend to gain weight, some such diets are lower in calories and energy than others, so check this out carefully while choosing what to buy.

Changing your dog over to a food that they find more appealing, which may mean one that smells more strongly, or is of a different texture can help, as can picking higher calorie foods with less bulking agents, which provide more calories per portion than other offerings.

There are also various different things that you can give to your dog as treats or add to their food that will help to tempt them, and get a few more calories into them, and some more tips for doing this are suggested within our previous article.

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