Old Dogs and Raw Feeding

Eventually, no matter what we do, our dogs age.  They get slower, they get more easily distracted.  They may suffer the illnesses that come along with aging.  Unfortunately they don’t live long enough, not nearly so.  Even though we know that they will go well before we are ready for them to do so, there are things we can do and things we can NOT do, that will keep our pups with us just as long as possible.

Often people are reluctant to feed their senior dogs a purely raw diet.  Some will take a dog off of raw as they age

This 12 year old German Shepherd Dog, still keeps up with the best of them after being fed an exclusively raw diet since age 7

whether because of a particular illness (most notably kidney issues) or simply because a vet or someone else told them they should.  In reality, a raw diet may be even more important to an older dog than it is to a young one.  Just because our dogs are older doesn’t mean that they are necessarily weaker, sicker, more fragile.  It means that they are, well, older.  They may have particular issues that means their diet needs to be tweaked but under no circumstances do they, except in rare cases, benefit from being taken off of raw and placed on kibble.

As they age, bodily functions can work less efficiently.  It makes sense to feed a food that is easily digestible.  Raw food IS just that.  Meat, bones and organs are what dogs are made to eat – no extras, no fillers, no processing – just food.  Its essentially a bland diet – digestion of raw foods is by far easier for a dog than attempting to digest processed kibble full of fillers.  We have all seen how digestion can be affected in an older dog – I call it “old dog skinny”.  They eat as much as ever but simply don’t hold the weight.  If this is the case – why on earth would we not choose to feed them the food that they are going to be most able to get nutrition from?  All of what you feed in a raw diet is usable – this is not so with kibble which is full of fillers that dogs don’t need and don’t use.  By feeding raw you increase the probability that your dog is getting actual nutrients while ensuring that their bodies don’t have to work double time to find that nutrition amidst the fillers and non usable items you find in pretty much all kibbles to some degree.  Why make it harder on them?  Raw gives them what they need in a form easiest for them to use.

Rumor has it that feeding your older dog too much protein will cause them to develop kidney problems.  We shouldn’t believe everything we are told!  It has been shown that older dogs actually need just as much protein as younger dogs.  ” Research done on dogs has now proved that protein does not damage kidneys, and feeding a lower protein diet does not protect them. In fact, senior dogs fed high protein diets live longer and are healthier than those that are fed low protein diets, even when one kidney has been removed.” (www.dogaware.com)  Lowering the amount of proteins that you feed to your older dog may actually cause harm since proteins are the one thing that dogs need most of in any diet. “When dogs are not fed enough protein, their bodies will break down their own muscle tissue to get what they need, leading to muscle wasting and other serious problems. Even mild protein deficiency can significantly impair immune function. Dogs who get too little protein are also more susceptible to stress, including stress from injury or infection.” (www.dogaware.com)

Nine years old and still going strong – good nutrition and proper supplementation can give your dog the energy of a puppy

In light of the importance of protein, let us not forget heart health and the importance of proteins, specifically amino acids carnitine and taurine, on keeping our dog’s heart pumping strong and true.  Meat is the best source of both of these proteins.  A lack of these proteins can cause heart disease.  As our dogs age it is true that their hearts work a bit harder – making sure that their hearts have all the tools they need to keep beating should be a number one priority and there is no better place for them to obtain these amino acids than in raw meat itself.

Senior dogs, much like senior humans, do have slightly compromised immune systems.  It comes with age and can make them more susceptible to minor illnesses as well as being more likely to have those minor illnesses turn into something more serious.  Keeping immune function at its highest is a must for older dogs.  Good nutrition along with certain supplements can offer the extra boost that our pets need.  Again, feeding entirely usable food means a stronger healthier animal – no malnourishment here!  Giving supplements like Vitamin C, salmon oil and North Atlantic sea kelp can cover just about everything else.  Strong immune systems lead to healthier dogs – something that is especially important for our older friends.

In addition to the above supplements, another that can prove beneficial is the use of probiotics in the form of a Digestive Enhancer.  Adding good bacterias and digestive enzymes to our older dog’s diet can make a lot of difference to their nutritional intake.  Efficiency is again the key and with the aid of these things our dogs can assimilate and use even the most usable food even more efficiently.  By simply adding a daily powder to their evening meal you can definitely make a difference.

Keep your seniors around as long as possible.  If you are counseled to stop feeding raw or to not start feeding raw simply because your dog is a senior and for no other reason – don’t follow that advice blindly.  If there is a REASON other than age, make sure you do your research before blindly accepting what you are told.  It may not be entirely correct and it is our job as pet owners to make certain that we educate ourselves on what is best and the reasons behind any decisions made.