By Jessica Remitz
As your dog becomes older, your objectives for feeding him may change. You’ll always want to maintain his health, but you’ll also need to consider how the dog food will aid in managing or preventing chronic disease while helping promote joint mobility. There are many brands of pet food designed to help older dogs stay energized and move around like their younger selves, but what ingredients should you look for and how do they help? Here are three ways pet food can promote mobility for dogs.
"One of the main concerns with older pets is osteoarthritis," said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and veterinary behaviorist, "so you’ll want to give them supplements or food to help with joint health and pain management." According to many experts omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) may help with both issues. In 2010 three studies published in two issues of JAVMA showed that osteoarthritic dogs that were fed foods containing high omega-3 fatty acid concentrations experienced less pain associated with the disease and greater mobility.
"If your dog appears to have some cognitive issues in addition to decreased movement, you’ll want to make sure they’re getting plenty of antioxidants, which can be found in a majority of quality [pet] foods," Dr. Beaver said. Antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene help eliminate free radicals that can damage your pet’s body tissues and cause signs of aging, according to the ASPCA. They can also help increase how effective their immune systems are, much like humans, and keep your pet feeling fit. Look for natural antioxidants like apples, tomatoes, and blueberries on your dog food label.
"Pets become overweight for a variety of reasons, including too much caloric intake, too little exercise, too frequent feedings, and consuming table scraps or foods made for people," said Katie Grzyb, a DVM at the Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group in Brooklyn, NY. Even worse, an overweight dog is more likely to have mobility issues. Start by choosing a food that best fits your dog's needs and monitor his daily caloric intake.
"While there are a number of specialized [pet] foods in the market to help geriatric animals," Dr. Beaver Said, "it's important to discuss your dog’s feeding and dietary needs with your veterinarian first." Depending on his health, you may need to increase or decrease how much you’re feeding him to improve mobility. Your vet will be able to help determine how much he’ll need to eat to improve or maintain their body condition and stay in the best shape possible. As you notice certain changes in your dog’s behavior or diet, don’t hesitate to call your vet or increase your number of visits per year to help maintain your pet’s health.