May issue

May issue
May issue

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Health kick

Will my elderly dog be more healthy and less susceptible to illness if I feed him a grain free food?

My cocker spaniel is 12 years old now and I want to keep him active and mobile. He is less energetic than he used to be and I’m scared of him developing health problems. I know there are lots of supplements on the market, but I don’t know where to begin in choosing one. I don’t know which ingredients I should be looking for or if this will even make a difference to his health.

Any advice you can give would be really helpful.

Karen, by email 

1 comment:

  1. A grain-free diet wouldn't be first on the list for me personally - grain free diets are more for animals that have a dietary intolerance to grain. Unless he is showing signs such as diarrhoea or skin problems like scratching or dandruff, I wouldn't expect him to have problems with grain in his diet, so wouldn't expect it to make a huge difference.

    However, there are a lot of things you can look at. Changing his diet to a 'Senior' food with supplements would be a good idea. Most Senior diets will contain some Glucosamine and Chondroitin, the main supplements associated with helping dogs with their joints and mobility. It is expensive, but there is a Hills veterinary prescription diet called 'jd' which has evidence showing it can help with aching joints. If that's out of your budget, however, any reputable Senior diet will be supplemented - Arden Grange Senior or Wainwright's Mature Joint Care have both been popular with my dogs.

    You can purchase individual supplements, but as you say there are a lot on the market and different dogs seem to respond differently to different supplements - some owners report huge improvements, others don't. If you are going to chose one, it's easiest to do it based on what you will find easiest to give - some come as powders which can be easily mixed in with tinned food but are harder to give if your dog only has dry food, whereas some come as tablets and you may find giving your dog a tablet easy or not. The main thing you are looking for in a supplement is Glucosamine, Chondroitin and, in some, Green-Lipped Mussel. L-Carnitine is also beneficial.

    As your dog gets older, it's important to consider how you exercise him as well - with one of mine, I found changing his walks from 2 longer walks to 3 slightly shorter walks a day made a huge difference. I also started him at Hydrotherapy, and that was really helpful and kept his muscles strong for a lot longer than would otherwise have been the case. Acupuncture is another possibility some owners swear by. There is even canine massage - you can look up a canine physiotherapist or Bowen therapist who can come to your house and give your dog massages, or you can buy a book online and try it (carefully) yourself. Your vet will need to refer you if you do want to try hydrotherapy, acupuncture or canine massage.

    If you are very worried about him developing health problems, I would definitely recommend 6-monthly checks at the vets and 6- or 12-monthly blood tests to monitor his organ function. As dogs get older, they can develop kidney or liver problems, but catching them early on a blood test, before they show clinical signs, makes a big difference in how they respond to treatment. Your vet can also advise you on other things you need to be looking out for as your dog gets older - the amount he drinks, his appetite, the condition of his coat and even his breath are all things that might change if he does develop an age-related condition, so are important things to keep an eye on.