JoAnna Lou
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Commercial Diets for Senior Dogs Vary Widely
Tufts study finds difference in perception and reality

I’m a big believer in "you are what you eat," so you can understand why my dogs’ diet is really important to me. I definitely worry more about what I’m feeding my pups than about what I feed myself!

There’s so much in the canine nutrition world to navigate—raw food, home-cooked meals, kibble, just to name a few. And if you feed a commercial diet, do you choose a specialty formula geared towards puppies, seniors or large-breed dogs?

It seems that I’m not the only one with a certain amount of confusion on this topic. A study published this month by veterinary nutritionists at Tufts University found that the nutritional content of senior pet foods varies as widely as consumers’ perceptions about them.

Most respondents believed that senior dog foods contained less calories, fat, protein and sodium, but senior diets on the market vary widely in these areas. Additionally, about 43 percent of respondents fed their dogs a senior diet, but only one-third of those people did so on the advice of a veterinarian.

This disconnect could be potentially harmful, for instance, if a senior diet was chosen for a dog with heart disease based on the assumption that it had less sodium.

Currently, there are no AAFCO guidelines specifically for senior formulas. Given that there is such variation, it’s even more important to consult a veterinarian and to read labels closely to make sure you’re using the right diet for your dog.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by AlishaV/flickr.

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