Your dog's diet plays a vital role in whether he or she will have a healthy life. After all, food provides the energy and chemical building blocks that support life. As your dog enters the "golden years", it becomes more important than ever for you to better understand how to make the right choices for his or her health. If you have a senior dog, read on to learn about the unique characteristics and nutritional demands of your dog's digestive system.
PROPER NUTRITION FOR OLDER DOGS
The value of food depends on two factors: first, its nutritional composition and, second, a dog’s ability to access essential nutrients from the food. Consider this – even if a dog is given the best quality food, it will be of no benefit if he or she cannot effectively process the food through its digestive system, absorb the nutrients into its circulatory system and effectively transport the building blocks to its metabolic target sites.
Setting disease and environmental toxicity aside, a young dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) system is generally efficient because its:
- Glands readily produce enzymes and gastric juices for chemical digestion,
- Teeth and muscles are stronger for mechanical churning,
- Diverse gut flora (i.e. probiotics) better facilitates nutrient absorption.
In contrast, senior dogs have health problems because they have less efficient GI systems because of progressive “wear and tear” and often times, complications from age-related diseases.Therefore, to best help a senior dog, a guardian should provide not only quality nutrition, but also reinforce the dog’s natural digestive processes and transport mechanisms so it can obtain maximum benefits from its diet.
To optimize a senior dog’s GI system, certain conditions (such as pH, temperature and oxidative power) must be maintained within a physiologically favorable range – which is known as homeostasis. All dogs synthesize highly specialized molecules (mostly proteins) that help regulate the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis. These molecules are not nutrients; they are multi-functional bio-replenishments produced inside the body from building blocks obtained from foods. With ageing, sedentary lifestyle and nutritional deficiencies, a dog’s ability to synthesize these bio-replenishments declines. As a consequence, the GI system in senior dogs may not work as efficiently as it does in younger dogs. When conditions in the GI system are not in homeostasis, it can lead to dysfunction and/or death.
A common problem that can develop in senior dogs from GI system imbalance is bone and joint dysfunction. This is because essential bone nutrients, such as calcium, are not properly absorbed, transported or assimilated into the canine skeletal system. To cope with this issue, guardians often modify their dogs’ diet to richer quality and/or senior-specific dog foods. Nonetheless, to obtain the most value from any diet, a guardian needs to ensure that their dog has:
- Balanced GI conditions for optimal digestion, transformation and absorption of nutrients into the circulatory system,
- Delivery mechanisms to transport nutrients to the target site, and
- The ability to utilize these nutrients for bodily functions, for example, to maintain strong bones and flexible joints.
Dietary supplementation through bio-replenishments is one approach to meet such nutritional demands. What are bio-replenishments? Dog (and all mammals, including humans, for that matter) are equipped with the ability to produce specific biological molecules to aid processing of the nutrients that are consumed. These innate molecules aid absorption of digested nutrients in the intestinal tract; they also help to transport and efficiently deliver these nutrients to the required target sites. These vital molecules include nucleic acids (eg. DNA, RNA), regulators (eg. hormones), co-factors (eg. ubiquinones); modulators (eg. growth factors) and transporters (eg. lactoferrin). During a dog's lifespan, these molecules are expended through ongoing metabolic processes, and any depleted quantities are subsequently filled-in through regular biosynthesis. However, with age and lifestyle, the innate ability of the body to produce and replenish these vital biochemicals may gradually decline and, thus, affect overall metabolism. Any such deficiency, imbalance or dysfunction can negatively affect overall health. Such innate bio-active molecules are collectively known as the ‘BIO-REPLENISHMENTS.