As companion animals, especially dogs and cats, get older, their care requirements change. Their dietary needs may change, which results in different foods or supplements, and they might even require special assistive devices.
The number of companion cats over the age of 10 has increased by 15 percent over the past decade, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. In addition, ScienceDaily reports that 20 percent of cats in the United States are age 11 or older, which is considered the threshold that many feline health experts consider geriatric.
Cats experience significant changes to their bodies around the age of 11, increasing their vulnerability to certain medical conditions and diseases. Feline health experts note that many elderly cats suffer impaired ability to digest protein and fats, causing them to lose weight and muscle mass. In addition, their immune systems become weaker as they age, plus their joints begin to deteriorate, which results in reduced mobility. Finally, kidney disease and urinary tract problems are more likely to occur at this time.
According to Tiki Cat, a proper diet can reverse or mitigate several of these geriatric health issues. To address the special needs of elderly felines, the brand has launched a range of wet food diets that offer customized nutrition for cats 11 years of age and older. The brand’s Tiki Cat Silver line comes in three varieties, with each offering increased amounts of high-quality, easily digestible protein and fat to help maintain weight and muscle mass. Pumpkin has been added to provide gentle fiber that aids digestion, helping cats process the food more efficiently.
As a cat ages, its immune system declines and, here too, diet can play a role in slowing the process. Omega fatty acids as well as antioxidant vitamins A and E have been added to Tiki Cat Silver to support strong immune systems. Omega fatty acids, coconut and tuna oil also promote joint health for better mobility.
Tiki Cat refers to Feline Nutrition Foundation, which reports that restricting the phosphate content of the diet can help protect the kidneys from further damage in cats with chronic renal failure. With that in mind, Tiki Cat Silver was formulated to be very low in phosphorous, a mineral that tends to build up in the blood of cats suffering from kidney disease.
Known for creating limited-ingredient dog and cat treats and food, PureBites has just launched PureBites+ Squeezables, which the brand describes as a healthy and functional treat, mixer or topper that’s available for both dogs and cats. Both lines contain three varieties, Gut & Digestion, Heart & Eyes and Skin & Coat. Each formula is made with only five human-grade ingredients while containing no artificial colors, fillers, sweeteners or glycerin.
While not designed specifically for senior dogs or cats, the products creamy texture and ingredients make them appropriate for elderly canines and felines. For example, PureBites+ Gut & Digestion formula has pumpkin and inulin to support daily digestive health.
As dogs age, they lose their collagen levels, which often can result in stiff, inflamed and painful joints. Because dogs have a tendency to ignore discomfort, it becomes difficult to notice the warning signs. As with cats, a proper diet, along with low-impact exercise, can help to alleviate pain and keep an older dog moving comfortably.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are the two most commonly used nutraceuticals (food that provides health benefits) to alleviate pain associated with arthritis. These nutrients are abundant in New Zealand Green Mussels (a key ingredient in all ZIWI wet and dry food) and have natural anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 fatty acids (particularly EPA and DHA) are also found in these mussels and are widely recognized to provide beneﬁts against an array of canine conditions and disorders.
Champion Petfoods has developed a line of food formulated for aging dogs in ORIJEN Senior, which is biologically appropriate, high in animal-derived protein and features nutritious, WholePrey ingredients like organs and bones. It features 85 percent premium animal ingredients like free-run poultry and fish, while also having a lower fat content compared to most other ORIJEN recipes, which respects the specific dietary requirements some older dogs require.
A team of 400 scientists led to the introduction of Purina PetCare’s Bright Mind Adult and Bright Mind 7+ food to support brain health in dogs. There are three Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND 7+ formulas: a standard chicken and rice formula, a large breed formula for dogs over 50 pounds and a small breed formula for dogs under 20 pounds. The formulas feature a proprietary blend of brain-supporting fatty acids derived from botanical oils called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that have shown to promote alertness and mental sharpness in dogs 7 years of age and older. Purina confirmed its studies show there is an improved alertness in dogs in 30 days when fed this diet exclusively.
In addition to a senior-oriented diet, supplements are another way for pet parents to supply their senior dogs with these nutrients. Dog Almighty Elixirs from Guardian Pet Foods is the company’s first offering in the pet supplement space. Available in two formulas, Mobility and Calm, the liquid supplements are hassle-free, drinkable and highly palatable. Both liquid supplements come in a Tetra Pak carton, a shelf-stable package that does not need to be refrigerated until it’s opened, and the carton is also 100 percent recyclable.
Dog Almighty Mobility is a blend of collagen peptides, turmeric, L-carnitine, vitamins and minerals that can help maintain and enhance bone and joint function. Serving the elixir to the dog is as simple as pouring the instructed amount into a dog’s dish before its water daily.
The self-described “original elk velvet antler company,” Wapiti Labs makes a Senior Mobility supplement that is its best-selling product. Available as a powder or tablet, Senior Mobility products help support and maintain long-term health, body functions and quality of life while also improving joint mobility, kidneys, immune system and healthy blood cells. It also helps to support eye functions and includes elk velvet antler, which is believed to promote health digestion.
Wapiti Labs elk velvet antler is harvested from elks that roam free and graze on the company’s 320-acre farm. The velvet is harvested in a humane and stress-free manner, and the extraction process preserves the beneficial ingredients in elk velvet antler, such as amino acids, collagen, glucosamine, hyaluronic acid and trace elements like calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron copper and zinc.
In 2014, Ark Naturals launched its Gray Muzzle line of products that are made specifically for senior dogs. According to Ark Naturals CEO Michael Stoeckle, the Gray Muzzle soft chews gets more consumer engagement than any other segment in the company’s portfolio.
The best seller in the lineup is the Brushless Toothpaste, which features a light, crispy texture for older dogs that are missing teeth or have gums that are more delicate. These chews include an active ingredient toothpaste that clean teeth as effectively as the original formula found in the Ark Naturals product.
For mental awareness, Ark Naturals offers Brain’s Best Friend, designed to support cognition, recognition, memory and learned skills with the help of all-natural vitamins and antioxidants, including Omega-3 fish oil, acetyl-L-carnite, L-theanine, resveratrol and ginkgo biloba.
In 2019, after more than three years of research and development in collaboration with scientist-professor Dr. A.S. Narain Naidu, Vetericyn launched its ALL-IN tablets, which come in three formulations, including one for dogs ages 7 years and older to restore mobility and rejuvenate the body during aging.
According to Vetericyn, ALL-IN is the only supplement for dogs on the market that combines age-specific, patented complexes with a delivery system known as endocytosis that transports vital ingredients and unlocks a dog’s cells so they get used by the body in the proper amounts. It even helps optimize the absorption of other kinds of foods in a dog’s diet. The product technology and ingredients are backed by eight unique patents that have never been seen in the animal health space.
“With the development of ALL-IN, Vetericyn has set a new bar for dog supplements and overall nutritional wellness for all life stages of dogs,” said Scott Van Winkle, vice president at Vetericyn. “Unlocking the dogs’ ability to absorb nutrients in a supplement is ground breaking and can have long-term impact to their quality of life.”
Another result of aging is that, as dogs and cats grow older, they can become more sensitive to cold temperatures. With a heated bed, sweater or extra blankets, they can remain comfortable.
Aging brings many changes to a dog or cat’s body, resulting in it needing special care. These beloved companion animals will tire more easily, have trouble getting out of bed and/or struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position. Owners of aging companion animals often face major grapple with their pets’ degenerative issues, like dementia and incontinence, which ultimately necessitate lifestyle changes.
Wiki Wags is one of the few brands to tackle the issue of incontinence in senior male dogs. The brand makes male dog wraps that are made to be worn around the waist, where it efficiently wicks the urine away from the body of the dog. Acting like a dog diaper, the wraps are made for extra absorbency with its advanced “Lock-In” technology that keeps the dog’s body dry and comfortable. This feature also enables the dog’s hair to remain dry and odor free.
Walkin’ Pets is another brand that has its own line of pet diapers, called Peepers, which are disposable diapers and male wraps for dogs. Driven by its mission that elderly, disabled and handicapped pets deserve a happy and healthy life, Walkin’ Pets also specializes in pet mobility by making products that include wheelchairs, harnesses and slings. The company’s wheelchairs enable pets who can’t walk due to old age, injury or illness to continue to run, play, explore and get their much-needed exercise.
Manufacturers, veterinarians and retailers play an important role in the healthy aging of senior pets. Thanks to advances in nutrition, supplements and medical care, dogs and cats are able to feel their best into their golden years. While aging may bring many changes to a dog or cat’s body and needs, today’s elderly companion animals can live active, fulfilling lives as they continue to enjoy the same activities they did as younger pets.