Choosing the best diet for your pet can be confusing at the best of times, and as your dog ages, it can become even more difficult.
As an older dog will often have a very different set of nutritional needs to those of a younger beast, you may find the food they once thrived on no longer makes the grade.
To keep our pooches trim, fit and healthy as they enter their teens, we need to learn a little more about what makes the best dry and canned dog food for older and senior dogs.
In this article, we’re going to review the following best foods for older and senior dogs:
- Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Senior Dry Dog Food
- Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Wet Dog Food
- Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Natural Senior Wet Dog Food
- Solid Gold – Fit & Fabulous – Holistic Weight Control Canned Dog Food
- NUTRO Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Wet Dog Food
- Solid Gold – Holistique Blendz – Natural Senior Dog Food
- Wellness Simple Natural Wet Canned Limited Ingredient Dog Food
- Royal Canin Canine Health Nutrition Mature 8+ in Gel Wet Dog Food
- Diamond Naturals Real Meat Recipe Premium Senior Dry Dog Food
The Facts on the Nutritional Requirements of Senior Dogs
As dogs age, their nutritional needs may change accordingly. The diet that once kept them fit, healthy and full of life may now leave them overweight, bloated and uncomfortable.
While this doesn’t apply to all dogs, it’s important to understand how your pet’s nutritional needs may change as they go through life – after all, forewarned is forearmed!
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Adult vs Senior Dog Foods: What’s the Difference?
To accommodate the different nutritional needs of older dogs, senior foods will typically contain lower levels of fat and protein than formulas designed for younger dogs.
They may also contain additional supplements to support the specific requirements of seniors, such as Omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine, which may help with any age-related health problems that arise.
If your dog’s activity level changes as they get older, or if they develop any age-related medical conditions, you may need to make a few adjustments to their usual diet. Some of the most common adjustments include a change in protein levels, fat ratio, and calorie content.
Remember, however, that the adjustment required will depend on the unique needs of your individual pet: some dogs require more protein as they age, while other require less.
The same holds true of fat and calorie content. If you’re in any doubt as to what (if any) adjustments are needed, play it safe by consulting a vet.
As they age, dogs’ digestions can weaken, making them more vulnerable to digestive complaints like food allergies, IBD, and colitis.
If your dog is affected by one of these conditions, take heart… many pet food manufactures now tailor formulas to suit the specific digestive needs of older dogs, with recipes that include higher quantities of soluble fiber (required for good digestion), and gut healthy prebiotics and probiotics.
Related Reading: How Fiber In Dog Food Helps Your Dog To Digest?
Softer Texture and/or Designed to Protect Oral Health
Missing or decayed teeth can turn eating from a pleasure into a chore. If your senior is experiencing dental problems, you may find them turning their back on their once- beloved kibble.
The good news is there’s a simple remedy: switch to a softer food. As suggested by topdogtips.com, canned, raw or fresh food will have your pooch back to their gourmand selves in no time.
If you’re reluctant to give up the kibble, look for formulas that contain additives designed to tackle dental problems: sodium hexametaphosphate or citric acid both help break down tartar, while probiotics can do wonders for oral health.
Added Joint Supplements
Dogs are susceptible to developing painful joint conditions such as arthritis as they age, especially if they are overweight. Larger breeds are particularly prone to developing mobility problems in their later years.
As noted at nomnomnow.com, supplementation with nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA may help reduce inflammation and ease the symptoms of arthritis (such as soreness, and difficulty getting up).
Glucosamine and chondroitin may also prove beneficial at building cartilage and restoring mobility.
Added MCTs, Omega-3s, and Antioxidants
To prevent the cognitive decline that can sometimes accompany old age, look for formulas with supportive ingredients such as MCT’s and DHA’s, both of which have been shown to reduce memory loss and improve brain function.
DHA’s are found in abundance in oily fish and algae oil, while coconut oil is a great source of MCT’s.
Don’t overlook the importance of fruit and vegetables in your pet’s diet either; not only will their antioxidants support a healthy immune system and digestion, they’ll also do wonders for your pets’ cognitive function.
Key Considerations for Choosing the Best Food for Senior Dogs
Many senior dogs can happily carry on eating their normal, adult food all the way through life, without being any the worse for it. However, if your pooch is affected by any age-related health conditions, you may need to consider switching things up with a new formula.
When choosing the best food for their changing needs, there’s a couple of things (as we’ll find out below) to watch out for.
Like humans, dogs can have a hard time holding on to muscle mass as they age. To prevent muscle atrophy, Dr. Justin Shmalberg, a DVM and NomNomNow’s veterinary expert, recommends increasing dietary intake of protein to around 75 grams of protein per 1000 calories.
The extra amino acids this provides will help feed your pet’s muscles and keep them active and mobile for as long as possible.
However, if your pet has kidney problems, beware of increasing their protein consumption before speaking to your vet.
Added Glucosamine and Chondroitin
As they age, dogs can develop joint problems such as arthritis and hip dysplasia, resulting in reduced mobility and pain. To reduce their distress, make sure they maintain a healthy weight and keep to a proper exercise routine.
As petcarerx.com notes, supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin can also be enormously beneficial in lubricating joints and easing discomfort.
For more information on how to maintain your pet’s mobility, check out the useful tips in this helpful video:
Although salt is vital for bodily function, your vet may recommend a low sodium diet if your senior suffers from heart or kidney problems.
As lowsodiumdogfoods.com notes, a reduced sodium formula may also be required if your dog develops hypertension (high blood pressure).
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Calorie and Fat Controlled
If your dog is losing weight, speak to your vet about whether a dietary change will help. A formula with a higher protein content may be needed if your pet is losing muscle mass, while a higher fat content will be required if their weight loss is down to other factors.
While some dogs have trouble keeping weight on as they age, others have the opposite problem.
As pets.webmd.com advice, if your pet is packing on the pounds, you may need to consider switching to a formula with a lower fat and calorie content.
High in Fiber
If your senior struggles with constipation, a diet rich in fiber can help. Fiber can come in one of two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber helps break down food, while insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools. Psyllium is a particularly good fiber to watch out for, as it offers the benefit of both types.
Otherwise, make sure to keep up your pets’ intake of fruit and vegetables, which will not only support their gastrointestinal health, but their overall well-being.
Best Dog Foods for Senior Dogs: Dry & Canned
In recent years, Wellness has developed a reputation for its high-quality formulas and holistic approach to pet nutrition. Thanks to its grain- free recipes, Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Dog Food may make a great choice for senior dogs with poor digestion, while its availability in a weight-controlled version will help seniors who struggle with obesity.
As an added advantage, all Wellness formulas are free from corn, wheat, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors; great if your senior struggles with food allergens.
- A choice of recipes (including turkey liver and chicken liver, turkey, pork and duck) to tempt diminished appetites
- 100% grain free
- Live probiotics, prebiotics and fiber for gastrointestinal health
- Rich in antioxidants to support brain function and reduce memory loss
- Carefully controlled mineral levels to ensure optimal metabolic function
- Made with greens and botanicals to protect overall health
- Available in a weight management formula for overweight seniors
- Made in the USA and backed by The Wellness Guarantee
- Contains Omega-3 rich flaxseed to help maintain a healthy coat and skin, while boosting cognitive function
- Includes fibrous apples, sweet potatoes, carrots and spinach for seniors who struggle with constipation
- Poultry can present an allergen risk. If your senior has food sensitivities, avoid the line’s poultry heavy recipes and stick to the red meat or fish options instead.
As dogs age, they can become more sensitive to certain ingredients. Grains in particular are known to cause digestive upset and health complaints in susceptible pets.
If this describes your senior, you may want to try Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Senior Dry Dog Food, which offers an abundance of high-quality ingredients designed specifically with ageing, food- sensitive pets in mind.
- Maintains lean muscle mass and prevents atrophy with its high protein content
- Supports the digestion with fibrous fruits and vegetables
- 100% grain free nutrition
- Guaranteed levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to support a strong immune system, optimal oxidative balance and a healthy heart
- Free common allergens
- Formulated with naturally sourced glucosamine to help support joint health and mobility
- Added L-Carnitine to help maintain healthy muscles
- Perfectly balanced Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids for a healthy skin and coat, improved heart health and an excellent memory
- Formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles
- Contain chicken (an occasional allergen); as dogs can develop food sensitivities as they age, monitor them closely in case of any unpleasant reaction
Premium pet food manufacturer, Natural Balance, is renowned for its extensive range of expertly crafted formulas. Its recipes are designed to suit the nutritional requirements of dogs of any age, size or condition
As dogs can become more susceptible to food sensitivities as they age, they may benefit from a formula that reduces their exposure to known allergens.
As Natural Balance’s Limited Ingredient line keeps ingredients to a bare minimum, it may make the ideal choice for your aging pooch.
- Reduces allergen exposure by limiting ingredients to the key essentials
- Zero unnecessary fillers and additives
- !00% grain free nutrition
- Packed with easily digestible, single source protein to prevent muscle wastage
- Rich in potatoes, a highly digestible, fibrous carbohydrate
- Provides complete, balanced nutrition for all life stages, including seniors
- Fortified with niacin, vitamin A, beta-carotene, and biotin to maintain optimal health and cognitive function
- Free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
- Rich in naturally sourced Omega-3’sto support a healthy coat and skin, while also acting against memory loss
- Quality controlled: Natural Balance products are thoroughly tested for contaminants through the company’s Buy With Confidence programs
- Contains Canola Oil: vegetable oils have been linked to inflammation and are an inferior source of fat compared to those of animal origin
- Although rare, some dogs can experience an allergic reaction to potatoes (the third highest ingredient on the recipe list)
Blue Buffalo has a deserved reputation for creating formulas made with only the highest- quality, most wholesome ingredients available. Its Homestyle Recipe Natural Senior Wet Dog Food is a wet dog food enhanced with vitamins and minerals.
Tailored specifically for aging dogs, this nutritious, protein- packed option may be just the ticket for maintaining your pooch’s health as they enter their teens.
- High in easily digestible protein to maintain lean body mass and guard against muscle wastage
- Rich in gelatin rich chicken broth, an easily digestible protein packed with collagen to support ageing joints
- High in heart- healthy, fibrous vegetable such as carrots, sweet potatoes and blueberries – excellent for seniors who struggle with digestive complaints or constipation
- Nutritionally complete: all Blue Buffalo products are formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance.
- It does contain brown rice and barley. While these are two of the most easily digestible grains, it may still be too much for particularly sensitive seniors to handle.
Solid Gold are a premium, reputable brand specializing in holistic canine nutrition. The brand won the Whole Foods Magazine Natural Choice Award for dog food in 2014, and is renowned for its high quality, natural ingredients.
If your senior struggles to digest grains, and has started to gain weight as they age, a grain- free, calorie-controlled option such as Solid Gold’s Fit & Fabulous line may make the ideal choice.
- Carefully controlled calorie and fat content to maintain optimal weight
- Rich in fibrous sweet potatoes to keep your pet feeling full for longer on lower calories
- Includes a carefully balanced combination of 20 holistic superfoods like pumpkin, lentils, sesame oil and broccoli to support optimal health
- Packed with protein rich chicken to maintain lean body mass and guard against muscle wastage
- Patented probiotics to support oral, digestive and gut health
- Grain free nutrition
- Made from only whole, complete foods: no added meat by-products, corn, wheat, soy, sugar, artificial preservatives or flavors
- Contains chicken liver, one of the most nutrient dense protein sources available
- Balanced Omega -3’s and -6’s to support optimal cognitive function and a healthy skin and coat
- While rare, some dogs can experience an allergic reaction to chicken
Made with only the highest quality ingredients, Nutro’s formulas are an excellent choice for maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. If your senior struggles with food allergies (a common complaint amongst older dogs), they may benefit from a switch to NUTRO Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Wet Dog Food.
The formula has been specifically formulated with sensitive dogs in mind: with its 100% additive- free recipe, this may be a great option for pet owners hoping to minimize their pooch’s allergen risk.
- Specially designed for dogs with food sensitivities
- Reduces exposure to allergens by keeping ingredients to the key essentials
- Packed with easily digestible, high protein lamb to prevent muscle loss
- 100% grain free
- Contains no known allergens- no chicken, no dairy, no beef, no corn, no wheat, no soy and no artificial ingredients whatsoever
- Formulated with an expert blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals for improved immunity, a strong heart and enhanced cognitive function
- Rich in sweet potatoes, an excellent source of easily digestible fiber for seniors with bowel complaints
- Contains Vitamin E, which can reduce inflammation and maintain a healthy coat and skin
- Made with Non- GMO ingredients
- Perfectly balanced proteins, fats, carbs and vitamins and minerals
- Includes prebiotic fiber from beet pulp for enhanced digestive health, regular bowel movements and improved oral health
- The recipe is high in potatoes, an occasional allergen. Despite the risk being small, seniors are more susceptible to allergens than younger dogs, so monitor yours carefully for any signs of digestive upset
Thanks to its high- quality, impeccably sourced ingredients, Solid Gold is fast becoming one of the world most popular brands.
If your senior is starting to feel the effects of age on their digestive system, this specially formulated senior recipe may be just what they need to keep their gut ticking over.
- Made with the specific health needs of senior dogs in mind
- Rich in easily digestible, single source protein for troublesome digestions
- Crafted with a carefully balanced combination of 20 holistic superfoods like pumpkin, cranberries, blueberries and broccoli to support excellent immunity and overall wellbeing
- Contains taurine to support cardiovascular health
- Supplementary L-carnitine to help convert fat and protein into energy
- Free from potatoes (a potential allergen to some dogs)
- Comes with a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
- Patented probiotics to support a healthy digestion and gut, as well as improve oral health
- Made only from whole, complete foods: no added meat by-products, corn, wheat, soy, sugar, artificial preservatives or flavors
- Perfectly balanced omega -3 and -6 fatty acids to promote immune system function
- Protein is secondary to carbohydrate content. Although some senior dogs require less protein than younger dogs, muscle wastage can occur if protein falls below desirable levels
As they age, dogs can experience dental problems such as missing or infected teeth. When kibble becomes too hard for them to handle, a soft, wet food such as Wellness Simple Natural Wet Canned Limited Ingredient Dog Food may present an excellent alternative.
Even if your dog still has a healthy set of nashers, the formula’s low -allergen, grain free recipe may still make it worth a 2nd glance.
- Made exclusively from wholesome, natural ingredients
- Available in a choice of options, including lamb and oatmeal, whitefish and potato, turkey and potato, and duck and oatmeal, to tempt even the pickiest eater
- Zero wheat, corn, soy or meat by-products
- Made with limited ingredients to reduce the risk of food sensitivities, allergens and digestive upset
- Made with single source protein for easy digestion
- Made in the USA and backed by The Wellness Guarantee
- Contains flaxseed to help nourish a healthy skin and coat
- Includes fibrous apples, sweet potatoes, carrots and spinach to support healthy bowel function
- Contains supplementary Glucosamine and Chondroitin for healthy hips and joints
- Perfectly balanced protein, fat and carbohydrates for optimal nutrition
- Omega-3’s to support cognitive function
- The formula contains potatoes; a potential allergen risk to some pets
Royal Canin is renowned across the globe for both its high-quality ingredients and its breed specific formulas. Royal Canin Canine Health Nutrition Mature 8+ in Gel Wet Dog Food has been carefully formulated to offer precise nutrition for senior dogs aged 8 years plus.
If you want to take the guesswork out of catering to the specific needs of an ageing pet, this carefully balanced recipe may be just the ticket.
- Perfectly balanced EPA And DHA Fatty Acids to maintain a healthy heart and support cognitive function
- Highly palatable for older dogs with a diminished sense of smell
- Reduced phosphorous levels to help support kidney health
- Supports healthy aging with an exclusive blend of immune supporting, heart protecting antioxidants
- Provides a specialized blend of minerals and vitamins to support bone and joint health
- Highly digestible blend of fiber to improve digestion and gut health
- Contains the optimal amount of protein to maintain lean muscle mass while preventing weight gain
- Calcium chelators to reduce tartar formation
- Prebiotics to promote optimal gut health and stool quality
- Comes with Royal Canin’s 100% satisfaction guarantee
- High in potential allergens such as wheat
- Royal Canin is relatively expensive compared to other leading brands
If you’re looking for an ethically sourced, high- quality solution to your senior’s dietary requirements, you may do well to consider Diamond Naturals Real Meat Recipe Premium Specialty Senior Dry Dog Food.
Designed specifically with ageing pets in mind, this high protein formula aims to provides complete, holistic nutrition with every bowlful.
- Rich in cage-free chicken protein to maintain lean muscle mass
- Supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin to support ageing joints
- Made in the US to strict quality control guidelines
- Contains dried beet pulp to support colonic health
- Highly digestible thanks to the addition of pumpkin, cranberries, quinoa and blueberries
- No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
- Contains proprietary probiotics to maintain a healthy gut, digestion and oral health
- Rich in superfoods to provide optimal levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber
- Contains supplementary L-Carnitine to help convert protein and fat into energy
- Omega-6 and -3 Fatty acids for a shiny coat, healthy skin, and enhanced cognitive function
- Meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages.
- Chicken is 2nd to rice on the ingredients list, making this a lower protein option than other brands. Reduced protein may benefit dogs with kidney problems, but most seniors benefit from a higher intake.
Senior Dogs Nutrition: FAQs
# When Should I Start Giving My Dog Senior Food, and is It Even Necessary?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear-cut response to this question.
The age your dog is considered “senior” (and that a corresponding switch in formula will be required) is breed- dependent: smaller breeds are usually considered senior at 10- 12 years old, while larger breeds are considered senior at around 5-6 years old.
Whether or not you need to switch them to a senior food at all is, again, dog-specific. If your dog has any age-related health conditions, they may benefit from the support of a specialized senior formula.
Otherwise, you may find they do just as well on a normal adult food.
# What’s the Ideal Diet for a Senior Dog?
Like the previous question, this depends on the unique needs of your individual pooch. For seniors who struggle with obesity, a good senior diet will be one that’s low in fat and calories. For seniors who struggle to keep weight on, on the other hand, a high- calorie, high- fat diet will be favorable.
Similarly, a high protein diet is beneficial for dogs with muscle wastage but will be catastrophic to those with kidney problems.
The ideal diet for a senior dog isn’t necessarily a formula labeled “for seniors”, it’s one that caters to what your individual dog actually needs.
# Can I Still Feed My Senior Dog with Adult Food?
If your dog is still in good health, is neither under nor overweight, and can still run around with the best of them, you should have no concerns about keeping them on their usual adult food.
# Should I Give My Senior dog Supplements?
If you’re feeding your pet a complete, balanced diet, they shouldn’t normally need a vitamin or mineral supplement.
However, as they age, they may benefit from certain key nutrients, such as MSM, chondroitin and glucosamine, in larger quantities than their usual formula provides.
To play it safe, speak to your vet before embarking on any supplementation program, as excess or imbalanced nutrients can have serious health consequences.
The Best Dog Food For Seniors …
As we’ve seen, adapting to the changing nutritional needs of your aging pet can be a tricky business. However, with a little know, you’ll be sure to make the right choice.
For my money, Wellness Simple Natural Wet Canned Limited Ingredient Dog Food is the number one choice: perfectly crafted with just the right balance of protein to support lean muscle mass, a soft texture for easy chewing, no unsavory fillers, and the optimal amount of antioxidants and supplements to support cognitive and joint health.
All in all, a superior choice… why don’t you see if your pet agrees?
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