Choosing a dog food can be a painstaking process – so much so that some of us stick with buying the same pet food for our dog’s entire life. “The truth is,” says Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, “we now know our pet’s dietary needs can and do change over time due to factors like their life stage, their overall health, and their activity level.”
In addition to consulting with your veterinarian about nutrition as your dog undergoes changes in life stage and lifestyle, it’s vital to watch out for certain visible signs a change in diet is needed. Here are six common signs you’ll want to be wary of…
1. Dull, Flaky Coat
Diets rich in essential fatty acids are a key component in keeping a dog’s skin healthy, and therefore his or her coat, in tip-top shape. Many dog foods are designed with skin and coat improvement in mind. Look for a diet containing both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to make your dog’s coat shiny and bright in no time.
If your dog had recently undergone a stressful event, illness, or surgery, he may understandably be a little worn out. Diets with high levels of antioxidants can help boost the immune response to accelerate your dog’s recovery and get them back on their feet in no time. Remember: a dog who is suddenly acting lethargic and weak should be evaluated by a veterinarian before making dietary changes.
Depending on the size of the animal, pets are considered middle-aged to senior around 5-7 years. And as our dogs age, their nutrient requirements change too. Senior diets, for example, are generally lower in calories but higher in fiber, and often have supplements specific to this life stage such as joint support and antioxidants. Forgo “all life stage” pet food for senior pets, says Dr. Vogelsang. It is formulated with kittens and puppies in mind and will deliver excessive “fat and nutrients your senior pet does not require”.
4. Hefty Midsection
It doesn’t take much for a pet to wind up with some extra weight on their frame – and this is particularly noticeable with small dogs. “If your pet needs to lose a few inches,” says Dr. Vogelsang, “a diet specifically designated for weight loss will ensure that they still have the proper amount of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals while ingesting fewer calories.” These diets take advantage of the latest research in pet weight management to ensure your dog is on their way to a healthier weight in no time! If your dog is extremely overweight or obese, however, it’s best that you consult with your veterinarian for a therapeutic nutritional solution.
5. GI Disturbances
“Chronic flatulence, loose stool, or rumbly stomachs can be the result of food intolerance or the low quality of food that you’re feeding your pet,” says Dr. Vogelsang. GI upset is an inconvenience to owners as well as being uncomfortable for your pet. Consult with your veterinarian as the solution may be as easy as switching to premium dog food or a sensitive stomach diet that’s right for your pet.
6. Itchy Dog
Allergies are common in pets, and food is just one of several possible causes. Regardless of the cause, though, allergic pets may benefit from a low-allergen diet that reduces the amount of potential allergens they are exposed to. Your veterinarian can recommend either a prescription diet or an over the counter sensitive skin diet, depending on your pet’s particular needs.
Plan for Success
Choosing the proper diet is one of the most important ways to ensure your dog’s long-term health, but it’s no substitute for medical care. If you suspect your dog may benefit from a new diet, consult a veterinarian! Good food and good choices lead to a long, healthy, happy life.