There are some challenges that come when your once boisterous pup turns into a senior right before your eyes.
One of the most concerning though is when they start losing interest in their food, and you have no idea how to help them.
Dogs are just like any other animal, and without an adequate diet, they’ll start to feel the side effects somewhere. For older dogs especially, they must get adequate nutrition to assist them with the health conditions that target canines of this age, as well as to give them the energy to get through the day.
Why do senior dogs not eat as much?
There are many reasons why your older pooch might not eat as much, including pain when they chew, change in how the food tastes to them, and feeling tired and withdrawn from life. If your dog no longer seems interested in eating, there are some methods you can try to help them out.
We’ve created this guide as your go-to for an old dog that’s stopped eating, with lots of tips and tricks you can try at home. We’ll also show you the best food for senior dogs and possible toys and accessories that can help them find some joy from eating once again.
Why Do Senior Dogs Have Problems With Eating?
As your dog ages, it’s completely normal that they start to lose energy and interest in things that once excited them.
Older dogs naturally have a reduced appetite because they’re no longer running around and burning the calories that they used to, so it’s not always something to worry about.
Sometimes a dog might stop eating or eat less because they don’t have energy, they’ve changed their taste and no longer like that food, or it’s harder for them to chew in their old age. Otherwise, it can be a temporary condition like gastrointestinal upset or another illness that’s put them off their food.
If you’ve noticed your dog eating less or having problems with their food, the first step should be taking them to the vet.
From here, they’ll be able to rule out serious health conditions like kidney disease, cancer, and dental problems that make it hard for dogs to eat, so you know where to go next.
Tips to Help Senior Dogs Eat
Unless your dog has a medical condition that’s affecting their appetite, you might only have to make some simple changes to get them engrossed in food again. Follow these tips to help your older dog take an interest in mealtime once more.
Make their food more enticing
Do whatever you can to get them excited about eating again and switch things up from their plain old kibble. Flavor enhancers, beef stock, mixing wet and dry food, and giving them new things like peanut butter and egg whites can all help.
Cut the snacks
If your pooch is used to getting snacks in between meals, it could be these are now filling them up. Cut out the snacks for a week and focus only on the main meals to see if it makes a difference.
Get your dog to burn off more energy so they’re hungrier, only if they can handle it. This isn’t ideal if your dog is in pain or uncomfortable, so it’s not the right approach in all cases.
Switch to wet food
When it becomes harder to chew, wet food can be a more comfortable choice for your dog. Try making the switch to senior canned dog food that has all the nutrients they need.
Smaller meal sizes
If your dog is struggling to eat larger meals like they used to, you can try breaking them up into smaller meals but more frequently. For a dog that’s used to eating once a day, split it into two and do a feed in the morning and evening to see if it helps.
Senior feeding dishes
Your dog might feel more comfortable feeding from a senior-approved dish that makes it easier for them. These are elevated feeding bowls that let them eat without straining their neck and can help dogs with issues like hip dysplasia and arthritis.
Dog Toys That Can Help With Eating
Sometimes all that’s missing for an older dog is the thrill of their food. Where they used to practically knock you down just to get a bowl of food, they’re now tired and don’t have the energy to get excited.
This is where a dog toy comes in handy, and there are some great ones out there for elderly pooches:
A twist toy is great for older dogs as it can be adjusted to an easy level that makes it simple for anyone to use.
As a senior dog won’t have the strength or tenacity they used to, this still allows them to get in on the fun without damaging their teeth or working too hard.
A snuffle mat requires minimal effort and no biting for them to find their treats but lets them use their instincts to do the work.
The food is hidden between layers of fabric strips and your dog sniffs to hunt for them, making mealtime fun once again and providing them with much needed mental stimulation.
This toy dispenses treats whenever the ball is knocked around and it can give them hours of enjoyment while also keeping them active. For senior dogs, this means they don’t have to use their teeth to get anything out, which can be sensitive and prone to cracking in their older age.
The Best Food for Senior Dogs
As your dog gets older and less active, their nutritional needs will change as well. As they’re burning less energy through the day you won’t have to feed them as much as you used to, so if you don’t change their diet, they can quickly become overweight.
The best approach is to choose a new senior dog food that’s specially formulated for canines in this age group. They have all of the ingredients to help with the new health issues they face during these years, but can also give you a guideline on how much they need to eat each day depending on their weight and age.
The snacks you feed your senior dog will also be different, as the higher sodium treats and those rich in fat are no longer acceptable. Opt for things that are healthier like carrots and apple slices, which most dogs surprisingly love, and keep the bones and milk biscuits as a treat they can only have now and then.
Their water intake needs will also change, and if they’re finding it uncomfortable to drink from their bowl, you might want to switch to a water dispenser made for dogs with mobility issues. Your dog will also require a higher volume of water each day as they’re unable to balance water as well when they age, so always have access to lots of fresh supplies for them.
Looking after a senior dog requires some changes in their diet, lifestyle, and general care, but it doesn’t have to mean a total life overhaul.
If you have an older dog and want to know more about their care, check out our answers to these commonly asked questions on how to get it right.
How Old is A Senior Dog?
The age in which a dog becomes a senior depends on the breed of dog and its size, as well as other health conditions that can impact their lifespan.
Larger dog breeds age faster and may be classed as a senior as young as five years old. A smaller breed of dog lives longer and they will become a senior around 10 years of age, with some exceptions.
Do Dogs Sleep More When They’re Old?
As your dog ages, you’ll find they probably want to spend longer periods in the day sleeping, just as a human does. They might also have less energy overall for playing and not want to do as much as before.
For a senior dog, it’s best to leave them uninterrupted while they sleep as they likely need the extra rest, so try not to disturb them.
Should Senior Dogs Take Supplements?
Only a vet will be able to determine if your dog must take supplements and they can suggest which ones are needed.
Older dogs sometimes need things like added glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to help their joints, with many senior dog food brands adding this to their products.