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Keep Your Senior Dog Trim and Fit

We're accustomed to the phrase "you are what you eat." The health and well being of senior dogs also is reflected in their diets. Nearly all of the veterinarians recently surveyed in a study sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health and The Iams Company concurred that nutrition is a key factor in the health of aging dogs. And they further acknowledged that the nutritional needs of dogs change as they age.

While obesity is a common health problem for all dogs, older canines are more likely to be overweight due to decreased activity and reduced daily energy needs. Obesity increases the risk of serious diseases and health problems, such as diabetes and cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal disorders.

Although some medical conditions (especially metabolic diseases) can cause obesity, overfeeding generally is the culprit. As a senior dog's metabolism slows, caloric needs decline. If you do not adjust the food intake of your older dog, weight gain is likely to result.

If your senior dog is already overweight, a weight loss program should be considered. First, however, have it thoroughly evaluated by a veterinarian to identify any other problems that could be causing it to gain weight.

Generally, treatment of senior animal weight loss is very similar to recommendations for humans seek ing to lose weight. Program steps include:

  • limiting the amount of calories consumed
  • feeding two or three small meals (vs. one large meal) daily to increase the amount of energy used to digest food
  • increasing exercise to burn more calories
  • modifying behavior to prevent regaining the lost weight. A daily or weekly log of exercise duration and dog weight yields the best results.

Selecting a food for your senior dog has been made easier thanks to recent advancements in senior nutrition. Dog foods are now available that have been formulated with fewer calories, more protein, antioxidants, and vitamins to meet the specific nutritional needs of senior dogs.