As you may or may not be aware, the nutritional needs of your pets change over the course of their lifetime, just as the nutritional needs of people change when they transition from childhood to adulthood and even into their twilight years. But if you are unaware of the ongoing (or changing) needs of your pet when it comes to nutrition, you may be giving them food that is inappropriate in some way. And if you’ve never really considered how one pet food is different from another, you could even be speeding the aging process. So when your best friend starts to get along in years and you’re wondering what that means for his diet, here are a few things you can do to figure it out.
1. Research your pet. Not all animals are built the same. Dogs, for example, will gain weight as they age if you continue to feed them the same food, while cats will experience just the opposite. So before you try to switch the food your pet is eating, consider that you may not know precisely what he needs and take the time to do your homework so that you don’t end up basing your choice on an assumption rather than fact.
2. Talk to your vet. If you’re having trouble choosing a food for your senior pet, it behooves you to talk to your veterinarian. Not only can your pet’s doctor give you the 411 on changes your pal is likely to experience with age; he can also base a recommendation on your pet’s particular needs since he is familiar with them.
3. Read labels. You should have started doing this from the moment you brought your pet home, but it’s never too late to start taking an interest in the nutritional needs of your little friend. Here’s what you’ll see at the top of most ingredient lists on pet food: corn. You might think to yourself, “That’s great! Corn is a vegetable!” As a matter of fact, it’s not a vegetable, it’s a grain, and it turns out that it doesn’t actually have much nutritional value. Most companies that manufacture pet food use it as a filler. So start by looking for food that has meats and bonafide veggies listed before corn. And take your pet’s special needs into consideration when it comes to calories, fats, and any extras (like food specifically designed to meet the needs of overweight dogs or cats prone to urinary tract problems, for example).
4. Consider organics. If you really want to do something good for the health of your pet, at any age, then organic pet food bears consideration. Although there is, as yet, no USDA Certified Organic pet food on the market, there are several organic options of varying levels. You can tell by looking at the ingredient list; every ingredient that has been grown or raised free of chemicals will have the word “organic” listed before it.
5. Learn about supplements. There’s really no such thing as anti aging products for your pets, but the right supplements can certainly make it seem like you’ve turned back the clock for your elderly pets. These could include vitamins, minerals, and even healthy oils. Again, your vet can probably give you an idea of which ones are right for your senior pet.
Jennifer Dubrow is a contributing writer for Get Prograde where you can find articles and tools to help you start losing weight.