As the working dog reaches 7 years old, they are now in the senior years of dog life. These years mean changes in metabolism, muscle tone, joints, eye sight and hearing, as well as the skin and coat. Many of you are familiar with some of these issues. I would like to explain how nutrition can help prevent these issues as well as supplement those already in the senior years.
First, let me say that a working dog, in my opinion is any dog with a job that requires extreme workouts in the outdoors. Boykin’s that retrieve put their bodies through some of the most extreme conditions and sacrifice the muscles and joints to get to where they need to be. In doing so, they are in the sun, cold, water and mud. These conditions play a part in the skin and coat. The skin is dried by the heat, water and mud as well as chapped by the cold.
How can diet help? I recommend feeding your senior dog a grain free diet that is lower in protein, higher in fiber and has less Kcals per cup than many of the grain free foods on the market. Grain free means less grain to wick away moisture from the digestive tract, and less empty calories. There are some that target the senior dog, but using common sense and reading labels can be just as good.
The senior dog needs less protein because they do not have the same muscle building ability that they had. This means the kidneys will work harder to filter the protein not used by the body. Keeping your protein under 30% will keep things more in balance for seniors. Higher fiber plays an important role in keeping the bowels consistent and keeping down over production of the anal glands. For the senior dog that is less active and not working, rather in “retirement”, should be able to maintain on a protein level of 24% or so. Keeping the Kcal per cup down, helps keep excessive weight off of the senior, less active dog.
Adding glucosamine and chondroitin to your dog’s diet will help ensure the mobility of the joints. I recommend feeding this from puppy to senior. It helps play an important part in the building and strength of the joint as well as maintaining the over used joints. Senior dog foods do not have an adequate amount nor are they absorbed well . You will see a much better success rate using a high quality supplement.
Omega 3, 6, and 9 are important for the joints, eyes, skin and coat. Organic Coconut Oil or pure salmon oil are two of the best sources for this. It helps to put back in to the skin what the outdoors can take out. Dry skin allows bacteria from ponds and wetlands to invade the skin causing infection. Dry coat becomes brittle and sparse. Both lead to an itchy dog. There are no products that can completely repair dry skin and coat from the outside. This has to be done from the inside out. Using non detergent shampoo and a silk protein conditioner can help maintain the healthy skin and coat that the omegas have made.
Well balanced nutrition that targets the senior issues can prolong the ability to be a working dog during the senior years.
Pictured above is Ali Semler;
Below are some links with some great resources for your dog.