If your dog has a health condition that affects their immune system (regardless of age), please review the article ‘Immunocompromised Dogs and Raw’.
There is a plethora of diets tailored towards seniors available on the market, however, there are no set guidelines as to what a senior diet is to include. All dogs are different, and nutritional requirements should be based on the individual dog, rather than a set standard based upon age. Some older dogs are still extremely active, whereas others may be more a fan of the couch then going for a W.A.L.K.
Consider your senior dog, are they still active? How much exercise do they get? Have you noticed any changes in weight or mobility? Are they able to use their teeth, mouth and neck muscles to rip and tear through meat and bone? These are the factors that should influence how much and what you feed your older dog.
Observing and trialling things will help determine how well your older dog is managing aspects of a raw diet. Some toothless dogs can still gum their way through chicken bones, whereas others are better with a ground diet. Due to the onset of many joint issues later in life it is extremely important to maintain your dog at an ideal weight. Excess weight makes it harder for the dog to get around and places unnecessary stress on their body.
If you are transitioning an older dog that has consumed a lifetime diet of dry food onto a raw diet it can be more challenging. The same process as transitioning any otherwise healthy dog onto raw should be followed, however dogs that are ‘addicted’ to dry food can take a longer time to transition. Slowly introduce raw food items. For the short term, mixing the new food items with the existing dry food may help your dog make the transition.
If the dog has been fed a lifetime diet of cheap, generic dry food they may need to transition to a well prepared, good quality dry food or cooked home meals prior to attempting to move to a raw diet. This is due to the animal’s digestive system being completely devoid of the required enzymes and the strong gastric acidity required to safely and properly digest raw meat and bones. Kidney and liver function are compromised by a lifetime diet of poor quality, rendered proteins.
Older dogs may benefit from the addition of supplements for joint support such as glucosamine, essential fatty acids and antioxidants. Consult your holistic veterinarian or animal nutritionist for recommendations specific to your pet.