Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy

Dogs are considered senior at half of their life expectancy.  For some, this can come around a little earlier than expected.  Are there changes we need to make as our dog ages? Well, there are always things we can do to support their health of our companion.

Let’s take a look

Aging is defined as the process of becoming older and whilst we still haven’t got to grips with the biological process in its entirety, there are some things we do know.

Cells are thought to have a finite number of times they can replicate and divide.  It is known as the Hayflick Limit.  When a cell has reached that limit, it cannot divide anymore and will break down by programmed cell death.  It is this limited capability that we see as aging.

This programmed cell death usually occurs when telomeres (protective structures found at both ends of chromosomes) reach a critical length.  It is therefore considered that telomere length serves as a biological clock.  Telomere shortening occurs at every DNA replication – so if there is an increased need for cell replication, they will become shorter.  This is why we are particularly interested here at My Pet Nutritionist, because there is such a high turnover of cells in the liver, gastrointestinal tract and skin (all parts of the body that we see many issues with).

Shorter telomeres can also induce genomic instability and this sadly, is one of the leading factors in cancer.  Cells have planned programmes to divide, replicate and ultimately die (apoptosis) – they get these messages from genes.  When genes are unstable, their messages get a little like Chinese whispers and so the cells go rogue – dividing and replicating, but not dying.  This aberrant growth is implicated in cancer.

Diet can also affect telomeres.

  • A diet contain omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a reduced rate of telomere shortening,
  • Telomere length is positively associated with the consumption of nuts and fruits,
  • Consumption of a diet including Vitamin E, Vitamin C and beta-carotene is also associated with longer telomeres – the inclusion of antioxidant compounds protects against oxidative damage.
  • Dietary restriction also reduces oxidative burden, reducing damage to DNA – for this reason it is regularly associated with improved lifespans.  In a study in Labrador retrievers, results indicated that 25 % restriction in food intake increased median life span and delayed the onset of signs of chronic disease.

Findings Here

The bottom line?

The consumption of a whole-food, nutrient dense diet with the inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial for the aging pet.
Caloric restriction is also a consideration to make.

On the other side of the scale, are there things that can negatively affect telomere length?

Processed meats, high consumption of sugar over time and high intake of refined grains is negatively associated with telomere length.  In short, the consumption of these foods is associated with shorter telomeres.  If telomeres are shorter, the cell hits its limit sooner and carries out its programmed death sooner.

Findings Here

Cognitive Canine Dysfunction

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder of senior dogs.  It’s generally considered the dog version of Alzheimer Disease.

It is thought that one third of senior dogs will show signs of confusion, restlessness, and less enjoyment of life.  It is a result of a decline in higher brain functions, through degeneration.

A variety of studies in the veterinary field have supported the proposal of nutritional manipulation, particularly with antioxidants as part of the treatment regime in cases of CDS and reported significant effects of modified diets.

Evidence has demonstrated a place for the following nutrients:

  • Antioxidants
  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • L-Carnitine
  • Co-enzyme Q10
  • EPA and DHA
  • Phosphatidylserine

It is considered that nutritional adjustment provided brain strengthening components, signalling enhancers, metabolic support, and antioxidants.

Findings Here

What was particularly interesting from the above study is that time spent active increased alongside the nutritional adjustment.  Being sedentary is a shortcut to poor immune function largely due to lymph function.

The Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and nodes that spans the entire body.  It is critical for health and for the immune system to function properly.

Your Pet’s Immune System

Both blood and lymphatic systems share many functional, structural, and anatomical similarities, but lymphatics are unique. Unlike the blood system, which is a closed loop with the heart actively pumping blood to oxygenate our tissues, lymphatics are open-ended. Movement of lymph is governed by rhythmic daily muscle movements propelling the fluid along network. The lymph fluid, called chyle, which contains immune cells, permeates every nook of the body.  Movement of lymph fluid through the lymphatic vessels transports immune cells around the body, where they patrol all the remote corners of the body, keeping a lookout for anything untoward. The lymphatics also bring immune cells together in hubs of immune activity called lymph nodes.  If the flow of lymph stops or becomes impaired, this vital immune surveillance and defence function can become compromised.
And being sedentary sadly results in compromised lymph function.

Therefore, movement for the aging dog is still important to support vital immune function.  Within reason.  We can’t hide from the fact that degenerative musculoskeletal issues are common in the aging dog, so care must be taken.

Can Nutrition Support Joint Health

What Is Pain and How to Look For It

Obesity and Musculoskeletal Health in Dogs

Natural Arthritis Guide and Herbs to Help Dogs

You’ll be forgiven for thinking that lifestage nutrition is a bit of gimmick, but there’s no denying that the demands placed upon the body and brain are different across different life stages.  For that reason, nutritional adjustment may be appropriate, depending on individual circumstances, lifestyle and health needs.

If you would like further support for your aging or senior pet, then please check out our services to see if we may be able to help.

Thanks for reading,

Team MPN x

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