Duck Dog Tip of the Week: Nutrition for Older Retrievers

“Too often dog owners focus on their dog’s age, rather than its health and fitness, as a determining factor for continued field work. There is no reason that a well-cared-for hunting dog can’t continue to hunt well into its double digits. In fact, this past season, one of my top performers turned 13 years old. One of the most important aspects of keeping dogs healthy is how you feed them over the course of their lives. Just as the period of puppyhood is vitally important for building hunting partners, so is your feeding plan over the latter part of their lives. Many years ago, prior to the research being performed, it was thought that older dogs needed restricted protein, and many senior formulas did just that. However, once researchers looked at the needs of geriatric dogs, it was determined that a healthy, older dog actually requires adequate amounts of high-quality protein to help repair the normal damage that occurs with the aging process, as well as to maintain muscle mass and function. For this reason, many aging hunting dogs can stay on the same formula they have used their entire lives in order to help maintain their athletic bodies. One exception to this is a dog that struggles with weight as it gets older —  it will benefit from a formula lower in fat, but still containing quality protein. Another is a dog with a medical issue, which may require a prescription diet. Just because the calendar says your dog is getting older doesn’t mean that it should spend less time with you in the field. Keep your dog in good body condition, and healthy throughout its life, and you will be rewarded with many bonus seasons with your hunting buddy.” — Dr. Joe Spoo