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What is Nutritional Deficiencies (Senior)?

Dogs need specific diets throughout their life stages.  Many owners believe feeding their older dog a “senior” diet is the best thing for them; this is not always the case.  If your senior dog is perfectly healthy, he does not need any type of diet restrictions.  If you feed your senior dog a restricted diet, it can actually cause more health issues than help.  However, if your dog does have a health condition and you are not feeding him in a manner that will help his condition, he will only worsen.  

Feeding your dog the nutrients he needs is imperative to his health. In order to determine what your dog needs and if he is missing anything, you will need to take him to his veterinarian for laboratory diagnostics and a health check.  The results will indicate if your dog is missing anything in his diet.  As a result, your veterinarian will be able to guide you in the right direction of what to feed your dog to offer him the best diet possible for his specific needs.

If your dog does not receive a proper diet that meets his nutritional requirements, he can suffer long term health issues that may develop into a serious condition.  If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms listed below or has developed a change in personality, take him to his veterinarian for an evaluation.

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Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies (Senior) in Dogs

Symptoms of nutrient deficiencies can vary from case to case but may include:

  • Underweight
  • Overweight
  • Poor muscle condition
  • Dental disease
  • Poor skin condition
  • Poor coat condition
  • Ongoing medical issues
  • Development of new medical issues 
  • Disorientation/confusion 
  • Change in activity
  • Change in sleep

Types

Types of nutrient deficiencies can lead to abnormal body condition, decreased muscle mass, limited mobility, decreased exercise capabilities, cognitive dysfunction, and other internal health issues.  Some of the health issues may be linked to age specifically but in other cases, the issue can be corrected once your dog is fed a proper balanced diet for his needs.

Causes of Nutritional Deficiencies (Senior) in Dogs

There is no official nutrient profile for a senior dog; each dog has their own set of nutritional needs.  However, many dog food companies promote a “senior” diet which may or may not have what your dog needs.  It can lead to your dog receiving the incorrect food and therefore miss out on nutrients he does need.  Or in other cases, your dog is already missing out on nutrients and you are not feeding the correct food with the needed ingredients.  It is also common for older dogs to have medical issues that need specific diets to help with their medical condition.

Diagnosis of Nutritional Deficiencies (Senior) in Dogs

It is recommended you take your dog to his veterinarian as soon as possible.  When you arrive, she will collect a verbal history from you of when your dog’s symptoms started, if and how they have been progressing, if you have noticed any changes in his behavior, and any other detail in regards to his health.  She will continue by performing a full physical exam on your dog.  While you may have brought him in for one specific complaint, she will want to check him over entirely for other symptoms of illness or indications of poor nutrition.  

She will evaluate him visually for an overall assessment.  She will evaluate his body condition as well as his muscle condition.  She will rate his joint function for his age and if it is something that can be addressed with nutritional supplementation.  She will also want to see how he walks and acts; be sure to mention if you have noticed changes in his temperament at home. 

She will proceed with diagnostic lab work to assist in her diagnosis.  She will begin with a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry profile. This will give basic information on how your dog’s internal organs are functioning and the overall bodily function as a whole.  This can indicate if any of your dog’s internal organs are functioning, his glucose level, cholesterol, and more information regarding his blood levels.  A urinalysis will also be performed to further evaluate bladder and kidney function.  If there are any abnormal levels, your veterinarian may recommend further diagnostic lab work that is more specific to the suspected ailment.

Treatment of Nutritional Deficiencies (Senior) in Dogs

Your dog’s symptoms and lab work results will determine his treatment plan.  The blood work and urinalysis results will indicate if he is missing any specific nutrients in his diet.  If he is experiencing specific symptoms related to his health, your veterinarian will determine if it is due to a nutrient deficiency or not.  If not, she will treat the issue symptomatically; if it is due to lack of something in his diet, she will simply add it in. 

Your dog’s calorie intake will be reviewed and monitored to fit his lifestyle.  You do not want your dog to be too thin or overweight as that can lead to additional health issues.  If your dog is experiencing renal insufficiency, your veterinarian may suggest a specific renal diet to support renal health or she may simply advise you to add water to your dog’s food to increase his water intake.  

Your veterinarian will ensure your dog is getting the proper amount of protein he needs for a healthy lifestyle.  Healthy senior dogs do not need their protein restricted in any way; this can actually lead to more health issues.  A typical senior diet includes lower calorie content with a higher protein source.   

Supplements can be added to your dog’s main diet to incorporate important nutrients to his meals.  In some cases, an enriched diet is better than supplements as it is more balanced and therefore your dog will be more likely to get the nutrients he needs.  For weight and muscle management, you want a diet that meets your dog’s basic nutrient needs.  For cognitive and behavioral health, your veterinarian may recommend antioxidants and/or medium chain triglycerides, both will support and improve cognitive function. 

Additional nutritional needs your dog has will be address by your veterinarian.  Your senior dog’s diet will be unique to him as his needs will be his very own.

Recovery of Nutritional Deficiencies (Senior) in Dogs

If you allow your veterinarian to diagnose what nutrient deficiencies your dog has, she will be able to correct it properly.  Once determined, a proper diet can be fed and therefore begin to provide his body with the nutrients he is lacking.  By being fed a proper diet, he should begin to recover from his symptoms of poor nutrition.  Continuing to monitor is nutritional needs throughout his lifetime and adjusting them as needed will offer him the best dietary support he needs for a healthy life.