Fighting pet ageing with food: from tailored nutrition to early prevention

Pet parents want their dogs and cats to live a happy, healthy life, even as they enter old age. Early preventive nutrition using protective ingredients is an effective strategy to ensure healthy ageing of pets.

Senior pets, a growing market 

As with humans, life expectancy of pets has been continuously increasing over the past years, to reach an average of 11 years for dogs and 12 years for cats. The growing population of old pets represents huge potential. Pet parents want their animals to remain healthy as they age. Pet food and pet care players can seize the opportunity to offer products and services covering the evolving needs of ageing animals, thus ensuring pet owner loyalty to brands ‘from kennel to grave’.* 

Ageing and consequences 

Seven years is often considered the average starting age of the geriatric years for cats and dogs. The ageing process induces numerous metabolic and physiological changes. It is accompanied by various problems such as joint health issues, obesity, immune system deterioration, cognitive decline and diabetes. For pet parents, it is hard to see their furry friend in pain. They are actively looking for solutions that will allow pets to stay healthy while growing old so they can share more time together.

Fighting ageing: better safe than sorry

The first strategy to deal with senior pet health issues includes the use of drugs or surgery. This curative approach is generally the last option once disease is established.

The second strategy consists of taking various preventive actions to avoid or delay age-related troubles. Amongst them, food appears to be an ideal proactive way to ensure pets healthy ageing. Indeed, the belief that healthy eating habits can positively impact lifespan, acknowledged in human medicine, is transferring to the pet care field and fuelling the development of senior products.

From tailored nutrition to protective ingredients

Life-stage based pet food is increasingly demanded by consumers. In the US, one pet owner out of seven is looking for senior formulation.** Current diets for senior cats and dogs are designed to respond to specific nutritional requirements of aged pets. Protein level, calories, vitamins and mineral content are carefully controlled to help avoid obesity, support the immune system and limit pain in ageing joints. Most senior formulas are enriched with essential nutrients such as omega-3.

Today, however, owners of old pets, increasingly informed about the benefits of prevention, expect life-stage products not only to be adapted to seniors, but also to limit the development of age-related disorders. Pet parents who trust the power of nature are particularly seeking natural ingredients or superfoods that already have proven preventive benefits in human health.

Natural protective molecules from plants

Many nutrients found in fruits or vegetables have properties that tackle the effects of ageing. Amongst the promising protective plant-based ingredients, those containing polyphenols are particularly interesting because they help to prevent cell oxidation and inflammation caused by ageing. At Vivae for instance, the latest anti-ageing solution for pets includes Curcuma which has remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some berries also contain other polyphenols which, in addition to antioxidant properties, can have beneficial effects on cognition and memory. 

The earlier the better

Dietary prevention of ageing should start from birth. For maximum efficiency, the best approach is to introduce these protective ingredients as early as possible in a pet’s life. Ideally, they are added to foods or via treats and supplements at the early stages of life, including junior and adult. These strategies can help lead to improvements in health, keeping pets young at heart for a longer time and bringing happiness to their human parents. 

Author

Hervé Irdel

VIVAE Director
How millennials and pets in cities change the pet industry landscape. Alternative protein development.