Are you wondering what the best senior dog food is for your aging canine?
As dogs get older their dietary needs change. In fact, our pets go through an aging process that’s similar to that of people .
As they age, they need fewer calories over all, but more protein to maintain muscle mass.
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Choosing Senior Dog Food
In this article we’ll look at the unique dietary requirements of senior dogs.
We’ll recommend food brands for large and small breeds, as well as those for dogs that are overweight and underweight.
If your pet has special health considerations, such as arthritis or a sensitive stomach, we’ll look at some of the best senior dog food options for your pet’s individual needs.
The Best Senior Dog Food
A balanced diet is critical for your dog’s overall health and well-being.
The six essential nutrients involved in the basic functioning of a dog’s body include:
- proteins and amino acids
- fats and fatty acids
Just like puppies, a senior dog’s nutritional requirements are different than adult dogs. Large breeds typically have a shorter lifespan than small dog breeds .
They show signs of aging, such as loss of muscle mass, skin and coat deterioration, and arthritis at a younger age.
This means that size determines when it’s time to start feeding your dog a senior diet.
Giant breeds can start to show signs of aging at 5 years of age, while small breeds typically won’t until they’re at least 7 years old.
But before you change your dog’s diet, it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian.
Best Senior Dog Food Brands
A healthy dog should be able to get all of the nutrients they require from age-specific, high-quality commercial pet foods.
Regardless of your dog’s breed, size, or stage of life, they should get the highest quality food you can afford.
Different brands may contain the same amount of protein, but may be very different in terms of digestibility. Older dogs need a food that accommodates their slower metabolism and decreased activity levels.
Senior dog foods generally have fewer calories, higher amounts of protein, and lower carbohydrate levels.
Best Senior Dog Food Small Breeds
Small breed dogs are those that weigh under 20 pounds. Mitral valve disease is the most common heart disease of dogs.
Although small dogs are most at risk, this disease affects approximately one third of all dogs over the age of 10 years and it’s the most common cause of heart failure.
Early detection is crucial, as it can often be effectively managed with diet and exercise restrictions. Since small dogs have small mouths, they’re also subject to problems with their teeth, gums, and jaws.
Merrick Lil’ Plates Small Breed Grain Free Real Chicken + Sweet Potato Small Breed Senior Dry Dog Food* is specially formulated for small breeds and features fewer calories and less fat to help older dogs manage their weight. Real deboned chicken is the first ingredient.
This brand has probiotics and prebiotic fiber and is grain and gluten-free for optimal digestion. Small, crunchy kibble bites help keep the teeth of little dogs clean, as their small mouths are prone to plaque and tartar buildup and gum recession, which can result in the loss of teeth.
IAMS Proactive Health Mature Adult Small and Toy Breed Dry Dog Food* is made with high quality animal proteins for muscle maintenance. Beta-carotene and vitamin E help boost an older dog’s immune system and glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate support healthy joints and mobility.
This recipe also helps clean the dog’s teeth to reduce tartar buildup.
Best Senior Dog Food Large Breeds
Large breeds are at a higher risk than small breeds for developing arthritis and joint problems like hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis. They’re also more prone to a number of heart diseases, obesity, and bloat.
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, Natural Senior Dry Dog Food, Turkey & Potato* contains pumpkin and other easily digestible carbohydrates.
It also has the amino acid taurine to support heart health and DHA for brain and eye health.
Best Senior Dog Food for Weight Loss
Even more than exercise, the amount and type of food your dog eats is key when it comes to losing unwanted pounds.
Obesity is a huge problem for domestic pets and ensuring your dog is a proper weight is one of the best ways to ensure they have a long, healthy life.
Fromm Gold Nutritionals Senior Dry Dog Food* is specifically formulated with reduced calories for less active, older dogs. It offers a holistic approach to complete and balanced nutrition with select proteins like duck, eggs, and lamb.
Probiotics aid in digestion and salmon oil helps maintain a healthy coat.
Orijen Senior Dry Dog Food* promotes lean muscle mass with 85% premium animal ingredients and 15% veggies, fresh fruits, and botanicals. Fresh and raw animal ingredients from 6 different sources include: free-run chicken and turkey, wild flounder, cage-free eggs, Atlantic mackerel, and Atlantic herring.
This brand was formulated in consideration of the low metabolism of food by older dogs. It’s low in calories to ensure aging dogs maintain a healthy weight.
Best Senior Dog Food for Weight Gain
Not all dogs gain weight as they age, some will maintain their weight, while others experience weight loss. If your senior dog has a lack of energy or has lost interest in food, there could be an underlying medical cause and it’s best to seek veterinary advice.
Signs that your dog could use extra calories are being able to see their ribs, spine and pelvic bone and a dull looking coat.
If you’ve been feeding your dog kibble, you may want to switch to a wet food. They typically have a higher calorie content and are more palatable. You may not want to feed them a dog food for seniors, as these formulations typically have less calories.
BLUE Homestyle Recipe Natural Senior Wet Dog Food* is protein rich to provide amino acids. It’s made without wheat or by-product meals.
If your older dog isn’t keen on chicken, Hill’s entrees for dogs over 7 years old* come in a range of tantalizing flavors, and get rave reviews.
Best Senior Dog Food for Arthritis
Many dog breeds suffer from arthritis, especially as they get older. This progressive and debilitating disease is an inflammation of the joints that occurs when cartilage erodes and bones rub against each other.
Arthritis causes pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility. It can impact the dog’s behavior, ability to function, and overall quality of life.
DOGSWELL Hip and Joint Chicken Soft Strips Dog Grain Free Treats* are soft and easy for older dogs to chew.
This all-natural treat features hormone-free chicken to maintain muscle mass and glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health.
Best Senior Dog Food with Glucosamine and Chondroitin
The best senior dog food for joints contains glucosamine and chondroitin. These are natural substances found in your dog’s body that help form and repair body tissues, particularly in the cartilage. However, their ability to produce them slows as they age.
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements have been found to have a positive effect in dogs with osteoarthritis and other bone and joint problems such as, spinal disc injury, canine hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and patellar dislocation.
If your dog suffers from arthritis or other joint conditions, here are some recommended dog foods that contain glucosamine and chondroitin.
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Healthy Mobility™ Dry Dog Food* for joint health contains fish oil and natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin and claims to improve mobility in 30 days.
It’s formulated with an antioxidant blend that contains vitamins C and E to help support a healthy immune system.
Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Large Aging Dry Dog Food* is specifically made for large dogs 8 years and older weighing 56 to 100 pounds to help support bones and joint health.
Easy-to-digest proteins, a balanced supply of fiber, and large-sized rehydratable kibble is easier for senior dogs to chew.
Best Senior Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
Stomach sensitivity is not uncommon in dogs.
Anything from stress to eating too much people food could be the cause.
Signs of tummy upset include:
- loss of appetite
- nausea or vomiting
- excessive gas
- soft stool
If you see any of these signs, speak to your veterinarian about changing your senior dog’s diet.
The Honest Kitchen Zeal: Grain Free White Fish Dog Food* features 100% human grade ingredients like haddock, Pollock, sweet potatoes, eggs, organic coconut, apples, and pumpkin.
Its high protein, low calorie, low-fat recipe offers nutrients to help promote muscle health and organ function.
Best Senior Dog Food for Allergies
Signs that your dog as allergies include:
- intense scratching
- redness, inflammation, or infection of the ears
- hair loss.
Chicken is among the most common allergies for dogs. Unfortunately, it’s a popular ingredient in many dog foods.
Here are some of the best senior dog foods without chicken.
Orijen Regional Red* is a completely natural formula with unmatched inclusions of Black Angus beef, wild boar, Alberta lamb, heritage pork, and bison.
This award-winning low-glycemic recipe also reduces carbohydrates.
Zignature Dry Dog Food – Trout and Salmon Meal Formula* has limited ingredients and is specifically crafted to eliminate allergenic ingredients, such as chicken, corn, wheat gluten, soy, and potatoes, making it an excellent choice for dogs with allergies.
Best Senior Dog Food Grain Free
Dog foods that don’t contain grains typically have more animal protein and fats. Fewer carbohydrates make it more digestible for dogs. Grain-free foods can help dogs feel full longer and may also reduce food allergies.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Dry Dog Food Salmon* is a protein-rich food made with high quality natural ingredients like salmon.
Sweet potatoes, peas, and potatoes provide healthy complex carbohydrates. Blueberries, cranberries, and carrots support antioxidant-enrichment.
Best Senior Dog Food
Aging dogs need a diet that’s formulated especially for their unique needs. Some dogs will put on weight as they become less active. Others may lose their appetite and become too thin.
Depending on the breed, they can be prone to certain diseases and health conditions as they grow older.
If you notice any changes in your dog’s appearance, eating habits, or behavior, schedule a visit to the vet.
As your dog reaches his twilight years, it’s important to be proactive to ensure they’re comfortable throughout their life.
Do you have a senior dog? Tell us about them in the comments.
Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.
References and Resources
- “Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs,” National Research Council of the National Academies, 2006
- DAY, MJ, “Ageing, Immunosenescence and Inflammageing in the Dog and Cat,” Journal of Comparative Pathology, 2010
- Kraus, C., et al., “The Size–Life Span Trade-Off Decomposed: Why Large Dogs Die Young,” The American Naturalist, 2013
- Dust, JM, et al., “Chemical composition, protein quality, palatability, and digestibility of alternative protein sources for dogs,” Journal of Animal Science, 2005
- Roush, JK, et al., “Multicenter veterinary practice assessment of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoarthritis in dogs,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2010
- Patra, AK, “Responses of feeding prebiotics on nutrient digestibility, faecal microbiota composition and short-chain fatty acid concentrations in dogs: a meta-analysis” Animal, 2011
- Oyama, MA, et al., “Insights into Serotonin Signaling Mechanisms Associated with Canine Degenerative Mitral Valve Disease,” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 2010
- McCarthy, G., et al., “Randomised double-blind, positive-controlled trial to assess the efficacy of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis,” The Veterinary Journal, 2007
- Mueller, RS, et al., “Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats,” BMC Veterinary Research, 2016