About 1,300 people -- 92 percent of them dog owners -- responded to Tufts University's web-based survey. Most respondents (84.5 percent) believed that senior dogs need to eat differently than younger dogs.
Although about 43 percent of Americans said they used a senior diet for their older pooches, only one-third had actually consulted their vet about it.
Respondents tended to assume that senior dog foods were lower in calories (in actuality, this varied from 246 to 408 calories a cup). And not all dogs gain weight as they age, Freeman said. Some lose and some stay the same, meaning calorie requirements may or may not change as dogs enter their golden years.
People also tended to assume that senior diets had less fat, protein and sodium but, again, this was not necessarily the case, with enormous variation among individual brands.
There is very little scientific evidence to suggest that dogs mimic humans as they age, though this is another widely held perception, the study authors stated.
"The study highlights the diversity among dogs and, consequently, dog food products. Each dog is unique and has distinct needs," said Kurt Gallagher, a spokesman for the Pet Food Institute, a trade group. "Attaining senior status depends on several factors, including the breed and weight of the dog. The differing nutritional needs of dogs are exemplified by the variance in the amount of protein senior dogs should consume."
"The study explains that some dogs require higher levels of protein from what they consumed earlier in life, while others actually need lower levels," Gallagher continued. "A variety of pet food products, including senior products, are available to pet owners so they may purchase a product that meets the specific needs of their pet. Dog owners may want to make a decision on whether to feed a senior diet, and which prod
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