If you’re a dog owner, you know that the older your dog gets, the more you have to adapt their care to their changing health. As dogs get older, they experience changes in many bodily systems, and their nutritional needs change as well. This is especially true if your senior is dealing with stomach or skin sensitivities. If you think your dog might have issues in these areas, consider adjusting their diet to help them feel better. Here are some tips on how to tackle skin and stomach sensitivities in senior dogs.
Signs of Food Sensitivities
If you notice any of the following changes in your senior dog, it could be a sign of food sensitivities:
- Skin conditions – The skin is the largest organ in the body and can be affected by many things, including food sensitivities. Some common symptoms to watch for include itching, scratching, hot spots (sores on the skin), skin infections (pyoderma), hair loss, or dandruff-like flakes.
- Digestive problems – Diarrhea or vomiting can also indicate a food sensitivity issue. These symptoms are often associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This condition causes abdominal pain and cramping that may last for hours at a time or repeat frequently over several days. If your older dog has been experiencing this type of activity while eating his regular diet but stops when switching to a new one, it could be indicative of intolerance rather than an allergy since allergies tend not to resolve so easily once established.
Eliminate Food Triggers
Start by eliminating one food at a time, and work your way up from the most common triggers to the more obscure ones. In most cases, this will be grains (barley, wheat), dairy products (milk), and/or beef. One strategy that many dog owners have found helpful is to feed their senior dogs a diet of rice and boiled chicken until they’re better, then reintroduce other potential allergens one at a time.
If your dog improves on this diet —and it’s important to remember that some dogs will not improve as a result of eliminating certain foods— you can add back whatever ingredient you took out in question and see how he does. If he worsens again after being fed the item in question for an extended period, you should stop feeding it altogether.
Choose the Right Food
Dogs with food sensitivities need to eat a diet that’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates. When you’re choosing a food for your dog, look for one that has at least 35 percent of its calories from protein. That way, the food will be easier for your dog to digest and won’t upset his delicate tummy. One such good food is Purina Pro Plan’s specialized formula for sensitive skin and stomach.
Don’t feed your senior pet foods with ingredients that are known to cause allergies or gas, such as soybeans and corn. Also, avoid wheat (this is one reason why most senior foods are grain-free), as it can make skin issues worse as well.
Also, keep an eye out for anything potentially harmful like artificial coloring agents or preservatives and if there are too many ingredients listed on the label, consider finding another product instead.
Keep Your Dog Active
A dog with skin sensitivities can benefit from exercise, just like any other dog. Exercise is good for your dog’s health, and it will help keep their joints limber and muscles strong. But there are also specific ways in which exercise can be beneficial to dogs with skin or stomach sensitivities.
There are two main ways that exercise can reduce the symptoms of allergies, by increasing circulation throughout your pet’s body and by improving their overall fitness level. Circulation refers to the way blood flows through an animal’s body, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells throughout its organs.
The second way that exercise helps dogs suffering from allergies is through increased fitness levels. It results in better immune system function overall because all systems work together. And when one improves (such as a stronger respiratory system due to more efficient breathing), it reduces susceptibility risk factors such as exposure time required before onset symptoms become noticeable.
Talk to Your Veterinarian to Determine a Course of Action
If you suspect your dog is experiencing food sensitivities, talk to your veterinarian. Your vet may suggest a food trial in which a patient eats only one brand of food for three to six weeks. The goal is to identify the culprit responsible for adverse reactions. If the dog’s symptoms improve during this period, he or she is likely sensitive to ingredients in other foods.
If you don’t want to switch foods and simply want relief from skin flare-ups and stomach issues, then consider switching out filler ingredients like corn and wheat with healthier alternatives like sweet potatoes or brown rice (which contain fiber).
Knowing how to navigate the signs and symptoms of food sensitivities can help you keep your senior dog in optimal health, even as they get older. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to tell if your pup is suffering from age-related aches and pains or something more sinister. If you think your older dog is feeling discomfort but don’t know exactly why, talk with your vet about creating a healthy diet plan for them so that you can avoid any unnecessary stress on their aging body.