David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.

Aging is not a disease. No dog dies of "old age." They always have underlying conditions such as heart disease, liver disease, or kidney disease to name a few. Thus, the changes that take place during aging will vary a great deal from dog to dog. There is no specific time in your dog's life that they become a "senior." What happens is that specific changes occur in organ function that we need to address on a dog by dog basis.

In contrast to what pet food manufacturers would have one think, there is no specific age at which your dog suddenly requires a "senior" diet. Senior diets are often promoted because they cost less to make, thus the manufacturer has a greater profit margin. Senior diets actually decrease the available nutrients, which is just the opposite of what is needed.

As the body begins to age, nutritional needs actually become greater, not lesser. Why? Because as the body ages, our cells weaken at a more rapid rate and must be regenerated with new, healthy cells. At the same time, the organs that provide the nutritional building blocks for this process are not as strong. So, they function a bit less efficiently. The more nutrition we can provide, the less the body has to try to produce itself.

What we should be feeding our older companions is a diet higher in proteins - especially the high quality proteins found in meats. It should be higher in the essential fats, complex carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals that are all so essential for health. This is just the opposite of what the senior diets provide. Senior diets lower the quality of nutrition. They don't provide the body with the building blocks needed to optimize health.

This leads to several beliefs we at have:

  1. As the aging process progresses, there is a need for higher quality nutrients, including proteins, vitamins, minerals, and complex phytonutrients
    1. Since the diet may not provide the needed nutrients, this is an important time to add supplements
    2. Senior diets are rarely called for and are usually detrimental to your dog's health
      1. They can accelerate aging and degeneration
      2. They lower the quantity and quality of proteins in the diet when, for most dogs, aging requires higher quality proteins and at least the same protein levels as needed at earlier life stages
  2. Although aging is a normal event, each animal has its own unique problems that require different nutritional needs
  3. To determine the unique problems your dog might have, blood tests, physical examinations, and radiographs are needed
  4. Therapies will vary by the unique pattern of disease your dog has
  5. Likewise, there is no universal nutritional or herbal product that treats all situations, even though there are many such claims made by various manufacturers

Thus, the products we suggest for aging can only be considered general guidelines.

We prefer to be more specific about what each animal needs. For information focused on what your dog needs, contact us for a phone consult.

As your dog ages, we recommend:

  1. Routine diagnostic blood tests be run
  2. Routine health exams be performed
  3. The condition of the teeth be closely monitored, dentistries are often needed more frequently
  4. Holistic care becomes crucial at this time
    1. Holistic medicine emphasizes bringing the entire body to health
    2. Complementary therapies, including herbal and nutraceutical medicine, can be used to strengthen organs and tissues, allowing for a more graceful aging process

Aging and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine has recognized for thousands of years that the key to aging is to nurture Yin and not Yang. Yin is the calming, moistening, relaxing and reflective side to ourselves. This important concept in aging says that we should slowly age, age gracefully, and nurture the aging process, not speed it up. This approach provides the highest quality of health that your dog's body can achieve.

Western society tends to look for ways to boost energy and make one feel better rapidly. Our society uses products like caffeine, sugar (soda pop drinks and candy), and herbal stimulants such as ephedra-containing products. This short-term boost in energy is bound to come at a cost. It robs us of our vital strength, and is addictive in that we must always use more and more of these stimulants to feel good.

Many western drugs share a common failing: they give a short term "boost" at the long term expense to your companion's health and quality of life. Unfortunately, there are many "natural remedies" on the market that do the same thing. does not recommend them and they are not found in our product catalog.

Unfortunately, many of the products marketed as "cure all" remedies or "energy boosters" for older animals do just the opposite: they drain the body of its vital forces. You can recognize these products by their claims that they "boost your pet's energy" or "will make her feel younger". recommends a variety of different products, depending on your dog's concerns. Besides reading through the information we provide, a phone consult with Dr. McCluggage or our staff will assist you in deciding which products to use for your dog.

The following list of products may be of benefit for your companion animal:

  1. Rx Vitamins for Pets Rx Essentials for Dogs
    1. This is a complete multivitamin with ingredients to help address problems commonly seen during aging
  2. Thorne's Small Animal Antioxidants®
    1. As aging progresses, the need for tissue repair accelerates; antioxidants are important in this tissue repair
  3. EPA/DHA Metagenics®™
    1. Pure Omega 3 fish oils have been shown to improve many aspects of illness that are seen during aging
  4. Phosphatidylserine, Thorne™ Improves cellular metabolism

And finally, to reiterate, we do NOT routinely recommend "Senior" diets for your companion animal (see our article on feeding your dog).