Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Confused About Senior Dog Nutrition and Food?

You are not alone! The International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine recently published a Survey of Opinions about Nutritional Requirements of Senior Dogs and Analysis of Nutrient Profiles of Commercially Available Diets for Senior Dogs. The authors from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine questioned 1309 adults regarding opinions on how to feed senior dogs.

Not surprisingly, researchers found confusion regarding the nutritional requirements of senior pets. The authors also compared 37 commercial senior diets and found a wide variation in the nutrient profiles of the foods.¹ However, there is hope. The research paper does bring up some very good points that will help pet guardians navigate the confusing array of senior pet foods on the market.

Industry Requirements

The authors correctly pointed out that neither the National Research Council nor AAFCO have set nutritional requirements for senior dogs. In its Nutrient Profiles,
AAFCO establishes minimum and maximum nutrient levels for dog and cat foods, in just two categories: 1) Growth and reproduction (gestation/lactation) and 2) Maintenance. The two categories have different minimum and maximum nutrient requirements. Variations in dog foods marketed for different life stages all meet the minimum requirements for one of just these two AAFCO categories.

For example, the minimum protein requirements for dogs and cats, per the AAFCO Nutrient Profiles*, are as follows:

In the Discussion section of the paper, authors noted that, “most recent research suggests that senior dog protein requirements are either similar or higher than younger adult dogs.” This makes sense. Dogs and cats are naturally carnivores and thrive on high protein throughout their lives. Why wouldn’t all pet foods be high in protein to better meet the nutritional needs of our pets? Because AAFCO doesn’t require it. It’s cheaper and more profitable to make formulas that meet only the minimum nutrient levels for a specific category.

Impact of Pet Food Marketing

The authors found pet food marketing impacted the findings. The survey showed that pet guardians had very different opinions about when a dog becomes a “senior.” Researchers attributed this result to the marketing practices of many pet food companies. These companies classify dogs as seniors as early as age 5 and as late as age 8, having more to do with their marketing goals than the actual needs of dogs.

Similarly, the different formulas for different life stages in dogs, including senior formulas, are created for business reasons. Cost is one reason. AAFCO only requires higher levels of protein in formulas for puppies or pregnant/lactating mothers. Manufacturers can save money by putting the higher nutrient levels only in formulas for those life stages, branding the lower nutrient levels as “Adult Maintenance” and sometimes “Senior.” It is just a marketer’s spin on the fact that the nutrient levels in the food may be much lower.

The same companies like to make multiple formulas for another reason: Shelf space. The more space a pet food manufacturer can take up on a retailer’s shelf, the more likely they will get the attention of shoppers and draw them to look at their brand. They use this strategy not because pets need all those different formulas, but because having so many increases their presence in the stores. This often leads to increased sales to consumers who are not savvy about the differences.

Nutrient Rich Foods for All Life Stages

High-quality pet food companies take a different approach, focusing more on providing the best possible nutrition for your pets, no matter what their age. This is the philosophy of Nature’s Logic®. The company has formulated truly natural pet foods, substantiated as “complete and balanced for all the life stages.” The whole foods ingredients we use provide pets with an abundance of naturally occurring nutrients: Proteins (30-36%), vitamins, minerals, fiber, probiotics, enzymes, antioxidants, co-factors, phytonutrients, and more. The natural synergies and increased bioavailability of these extra nutrients ensure the best possible nutrition for your pet, no matter what age.

Further, Nature’s Logic designs its foods, treats, and supplements from 100% natural ingredients. The company has the world’s only full-line of commercial dry, canned and raw food without potentially toxic added synthetic vitamins or minerals. All 42 required nutrients in the AAFCO Nutrient Profiles for dogs and cats are naturally present from the whole food ingredients used to make all Nature’s Logic products. No, it’s not how to make a highly-profitable pet food, but it is how to make the best one. For more information on Nature’s Logic pet foods, visit http://www.natureslogic.com/.

1. http://www.jarvm.com/articles/Vol9Iss1/Vol9%20Iss1Freeman.pdf

How do you decide what to feed your senior dog?

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