A dog is considered elderly, or senior, when she has reached the last third of her life expectancy; this varies from breed to breed. Not all dogs are considered elderly, however, based on health, energy level and general well-being. Homemade diets are an easy way to give your dog the nutrition she needs as she gets older. Consult with a veterinarian to design a diet specific to the dog's nutritional and health needs.
It is a popular misconception that diet needs are vastly different for the older dog; it depends on the dog's needs. Elderly dogs still require high quality protein, according to the Doctors Foster and Smith website. Depending on Rover's energy level and health, protein should consist of 20 percent to 35 percent of his daily diet. Some veterinarians advocate for raw meat versus cooked, but there is no scientific evidence to prove one method is better than the other. Choose the method that is easiest, but not all meat is to be fed raw. Good protein sources include chicken, turkey, ground hamburger, turkey and chicken, lamb, salmon, tuna fish, venison, duck, rabbit, beef, liver, tripe, halibut, eggs, yogurt and cottage cheese.
The risk of too much fat in a dog's diet lies mainly with her weight. Dogs do not succumb to heart disease due to high fat diets, but too much fat sometimes leads to pancreatitis, according to Dr. Ron Hines of All Creature Care. If an older dog is less active, do not add fat to her homemade diet. Feeding natural meats give the dog an adequate amount of fat, about 10 percent to 15 percent of the dog's daily needs. If lean meats are used, add 1 tbsp. of olive oil per 30 lbs. of the dog's weight. This healthy fat is good for her coat and skin.
Unfortunately most commercial dog foods have high levels of carbohydrates, which convert to fat in a dog. Carbohydrates are frequently found in dog foods to increase satiety, but high protein diets accomplish the same thing and are more nutritious, according to the Dog Aware website. An older dog does not require more or fewer carbohydrates than he did when he was younger. If he is less active, he requires fewer calories, not necessarily fewer carbohydrates, fat or protein. Good sources of carbohydrates, which ideally contribute about 25 percent to the dog's daily needs, include brown rice, whole wheat pasta or bread, and cooked potatoes.
Vitamins and Minerals
An older dog also benefits from vegetables and fruit. Protein and carbohydrate sources provide vitamins and minerals, but adding fruits such as apples, bananas and pears -- and vegetables such as spinach, green beans, alfalfa sprouts and broccoli -- lend more nutrition to the elderly dog's diet. So long as her diet contains meat, vegetables, fruit, fat and carbohydrates, supplemental vitamins do not need to be added. Calcium does need to be added to her diet. It is found in adequate amounts in egg shells and powdered bone meal.
The amount of fiber a dog needs is not known. A good gauge of fiber intake is the quality of his stool. If he suffers from either constipation or diarrhea, adjust his fiber intake accordingly. Older dogs tend toward constipation, but many natural foods contain high levels of fiber. Good sources of fiber include pure pumpkin, oatmeal, carrots, wheat bran and beets.
Never feed a dog grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions, large amounts of garlic or salt, no matter what the dog's age. Also avoid alcohol, coffee, moldy or spoiled foods, avocado, yeast dough and macadamia nuts. The seeds and pits of fruits such as apples and peaches are toxic and deadly to dogs.