There are almost as many specialized diet dog food products on the market as there are typical dog food diets. Usually these specialized diets are only found in the dry kibble and canned foods, however there may be some found as frozen products as well as in the semi-moist formulations. These specialized foods are usually for dogs at different ages and stages of growth as well as for dogs with dietary restrictions or requirements due to health or allergic problems that the dog is experiencing.
The specialized diets, like human diets, will work well with some dogs and not as well with others. Often a bit of shopping around and a lot of research is required to ensure that you find the right diet to match the issue you are wishing to address with your dog. Carefully read the label including the ingredients and guaranteed analysis to verify what the label is indicating is actually what is contained within the feed it the correct ratio for your pet. A vet or animal nutritionalists can often recommend a few different brands that may work for your dog, plus they can also advise on types or ingredients to avoid in specialized diets.
Foods For Senior Dogs
Senior dogs of most breeds are typically less active, have more troubles with digestion and may have increased tooth loss or dental problems that can make chewing hard, dry kibble a problem. The age for various dog breeds will vary when they are considered to be senior in category, but for most breeds it is the last third to quarter of their normal life expectancy. Since most of the smaller breeds live to be about 15 years of age or more, senior would be considered between the ages of 10-12 years. For larger and giant breeds that have a shorter life expectancy, senior years may start when the dog turns six or seven years of age.
Senior foods tend to be lower in the energy producing aspects of the food including protein, carbohydrates and fats and higher in basic fiber. In most cases the protein content of senior foods should drop from 21% to about 18% and in dogs with kidney problems such as incontinence the protein should be reduced to 14%. Fat content is also decreased to prevent excess weight gain for less active senior dogs. In addition wheat germ can be used to add good, high quality fiber to help keep the digestive system functioning properly.
Since dental issues such as tooth loss and breakage can be a problem, try to keep the senior dog on dry kibble as long as possible to naturally remove build-up from the teeth and keep the gums strong. It may be possible to slightly moisten and soften dry kibble with a small amount of low sodium beef or chicken stock that is added to the food a few minutes before feeding. Avoid allowing the kibble to become mush, just give it a minute to soften slightly.
Senior dog foods can also have additional vitamins and minerals needed for older dogs. Some formulas also add chondroitin and glucosamine to help with joint movement and prevent stiffness. This is effective in varying degrees with individual dogs.
There are specialized dry kibble and even canned food diets on the markets for obese dogs, although unless the dog has diabetes or another health related issue that is leading to the obesity often just decreasing the amount of food by 1/4, increasing exercise significantly and cutting out all treats and snacks can work to slowly reduce the weight of the dog.
In some cases the specialized "doggy diet" products can also be effective, however, just like with humans, increased exercise and careful monitoring of food intake is still critical for success. Dog foods that are considered to be diet will have lower protein, fat and carbohydrate (caloric) values as well as have an increase in grains to allow the dogs to feel full after they have finished eating. Additional vitamins and minerals will also be added to address any nutritional imbalances that may be leading to the weight gain.
Typically the biggest cause of obesity in dogs is being fed table scraps and non-dog type treats or snacks. Keep in mind that good quality dog treats should only account for a maximum of 5% of the total daily food intake for any dog, and much less for obese dogs. Feed treats that are small in size and only very infrequently. Consider making a game of fetch or a walk a reward rather than a food item. Never feed table scraps to an obese dog as they contain high amounts of sodium, carbohydrates and sugars that can lead to obesity even in small amounts.
Dogs with diabetes, just like people with some types of diabetes, can use food to control their blood sugars. Typically dog foods with a high level of soluble fiber will be the best option for diabetic dogs. This slows down the release of blood sugars and prevents the blood sugar highs from resulting after a meal. Several manufacturers offer prescription diet formulas that are typically in kibble form. It is recommended by vets to avoid any canned, semi-moist or table scrap foods for dogs with diabetes as these are the highest in sugars causing the most extreme glucose release after eating.
In addition there is ongoing research about the effectiveness of feeding higher protein levels to diabetic dogs. Of course this can be very problematic if the dog has any type of kidney condition that can frequently occur with diabetes, so care must be taken and kidney functioning fully assessed before using these high protein diets. Your vet can check kidney functioning using simple tests of urine and blood.
In addition there are also special formulas for puppies and pregnant and lactating females. These foods tend to be high in protein and fat as well as high in fiber. There are also particular growth foods for giant and large breed dogs that are recommended to allow a normal growth rate rather than the extreme growth spurts often seen in these breeds when feeding traditional puppy foods. This growth spurts due to high protein foods can lead to bone, joint and muscle development problems and should be avoided whenever possible by feeding the correct formulation. A breeder or vet can provide recommendations for different foods for large and giant breeds throughout their life.