the best senior dog food

What Is The Best Senior Dog Food For Older Dogs?

You’ve probably watched your furry friend grow from a bouncy pup to a mature and somewhat (or really) slower pooch. And chances are she’s now showing signs of requiring more than basic dog food to keep her going.

Obviously, the next thing you will want to know is, what is the best senior dog food for my older canine friend?

Well, that’s what we are about to find out.

How Do I tell That My Dog is Senior?

According to PetMD, this depends on the breed, body weight, and size. Also, dogs that are overweight tend to age faster than those that are lean.

Usually, once a dog’s age is half or larger than half of their life expectancy, she’s considered a senior dog. Large breed dogs have a life expectancy of 12-15 years while the smaller breeds can live to roughly 15-20 years.

For example, Great Danes, a large German breed dog, are considered senior once they reach 5-6 years old. Smaller dog breeds, like Chihuahua, reach the senior stage when they are aged between 10-11 years.

Also, there are several signs which you should watch out for that indicate your dog is getting older. They include:

  • Vision loss or other eye problems
  • Gaining/losing weight
  • Wounds that refuse to heal
  • Persistent Vomiting/Diarrhea
  • Difficulty getting around or playing
  • Increased/strained urination
  • Memory problems
  • Bumps, lumps & other related skin conditions
  • Bloody gums, bad breath & other oral problems

Do Senior/Older Dogs Have Unique Nutritional Needs?

Just like elderly humans, dogs that have seen better days experience a sluggish metabolic rate. This makes them more prone to becoming overweight or obese. It, therefore, makes sense that they are fed diets that are low in calories (to prevent obesity) and high in fiber so as to promote their gastrointestinal health.

Another reason to feed your senior dog low-calorie foods is because they naturally have low energy requirements. As dogs grow old, the organs responsible for mobility become weak mostly due to joint issues or conditions like arthritis.

Thus, they spent much of their time being inactive or just lying down, which then reduces their need for too much energy. Therefore, you don’t have to feed them diets with too many carbs and fats (both are primary sources of energy)

Other recommended foods to feed your senior dog include:

  • Low-sodium-and-fats diets to minimize the risks of metabolic problems.
  • Food with high-quality proteins. Note that such proteins help a dog to maintain proper body weight while keeping their muscle mass. They also help to prevent kidney-related complications.  
  • Supplements (preferably veterinary formulations) composed of chondroitin and glucosamine to relieve the arthritis symptoms.

Dog foods that are labeled ‘all life stages’ are also acceptable for seniors as they are made for all the different life stages a dog goes through. I particularly find such a diet pretty convenient for pet parents with several dogs as it saves one the need to buy different foods for each of their pets.

Senior dogs also require more water because their body’s capacity to maintain proper water balance decreases as they age. In the event she refuses to drink, then you have to give her more moisture-rich dog foods.

What If My Dog Has Health Problems? Will That Determine What They Eat?

Absolutely yes. Apart from arthritis, there are several health problems dogs more often face as they grow old. The most common ones include:

  • Blindness
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Heart disease

In order to treat each of these conditions properly, your dog may have to be fed a special diet recommended by a vet or a vet nutritionist

Remember, the diets we mentioned earlier are for senior dogs that are normal and healthy. If your older dog suffers any of the conditions we’ve listed or any other serious health problem, always seek help from a vet in deciding what special diet to feed her.

As to how much you should feed your senior dog, check out this extensive guide by the American Kennel Club.

Summary

Everything we’ve talked about so far should be considered in deciding what food is right for your senior dog. Put simply:

  • Determine if your dog has reached the senior stage
  • For normal healthy senior dogs, it’s best if the diets you choose are low in calorie, high in fiber, and comprise of high-quality protein sources, among other ingredients and nutrients we mentioned earlier.
  • If your dog displays symptoms of underlying health problems, let your vet asses her and recommend proper diets to feed her based on her health profile.
  • Avoid foods that contain artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

In the event your older dog refuses to eat, then you’ll have to check with a vet. Alternatively, you can try homemade meals or foods with enhanced flavors.

Next, let’s now take a look at five of the best senior dog food.

What Is The Best Dog Food For Senior Dogs?

By considering the aforementioned factors and speaking to fellow doggy parents, I was able to gather the top five best food for older dogs. Check them out:

1. Hill's Science Diet Small & Toy Breed Dry Dog Food (Adult 11+)

One thing that draws me to Hill’s Science’s dog foods is their reputation for making quality formulations. A good example is this age-defying diet.

Made with a smaller kibble, Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food comes ready for your senior dog’s smaller mouth.

I once found this useful back when my aged terrier had trouble chewing dry foods.

This well-balanced and easy-to-digest diet is specially formulated for senior small and toy breed dogs aged eleven years and above and weighing less than twenty-five pounds.

It’s composed of high-quality proteins like chicken meal, natural ingredients, amino acids, vitamins, and mineral that support among other things, the dog’s physiological processes

Pros

  • No artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or chicken by-product meal.
  • Comprises amino acids that ensure aging organs continue to function optimally.
  • Contains clinically proven antioxidants such as vitamin C & E, and ascorbic acid, both of which minimize old-age related effects on the pet’s systems and body, in addition to maintaining their immune system’s health.
  • The top ingredients i.e. chicken meal, pork meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, whole grain heat, and corn are all great sources of quality proteins and fiber.
  • The high-quality, natural, easy-to-digest ingredients help to improve the dog’s digestibility.
  • The diet contains calcium, which, together with the high-quality proteins, help the bone and muscle to stay strong and healthy.
  • Comprises an exclusive blend of vitamin E, Omega-6 fatty acids, and other nutrients that help the dog’s skin to stay nourished and their coat to look shiny.
  • It’s affordable.

Cons

  • Presence of corn, wheat, and chicken makes the food unsuitable for senior dogs with food allergies.
  • Contains controversial ingredients like flaxseed and soybean oil, which could expose the dog to hormonal problems and allergies.

Blue Buffalo Basics L.I.D. diet for senior dogs is formulated with fine ingredients and nutrients that support the well-being and overall health of senior dogs with food sensitivities.

Despite having relatively few high-quality ingredients, the formula is rich in nutritional content, making it an excellent choice for senior dogs with that require a complete and balanced nutrition to function optimally.

Pros

  • No corn, soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, or poultry by-products.
  • The high-quality protein provided by deboned turkey and turkey meal both help the dog to maintain strong muscles.
  • Contains a blend of calcium as well as vitamin A to assist the bones to stay strong .
  • Both the pea and pumpkin present in the diet help to improve the digestion process.
  • Comprises both Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which help to maintain a healthy immune system and to promote a healthier skin and shiny coat.
  • Since most senior dogs tend to be inactive, the essential proteins and carbs in this diet will assist them to meet the energy requirements for an active and healthy lifestyle.
  • Because of the limited ingredients, this diet is a suitable choice for senior dogs with food sensitivities. Limited ingredient diets have actually been helpful whenever my pooch suffers from food intolerance or allergies.
  • Contains easily-digestible carbs like potatoes and peas.
  • The diet is composed of chelated minerals, essential vitamins, and antioxidants, all of which support and maintain a healthy immune system.
  • Taurine, an important amino acid present in the diet, helps the dog to have a healthy heart.
  • DHA, an essential fatty acid contained in the diet, assists in maintaining healthy retinal and cognitive function.
  • The supplements included in the diet contain both glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support and better mobility.

Cons

  • Some senior dogs detest the LifeSource bits the meal is made with. 
  • Presence of brown rice and oatmeal make the meal unsuitable for senior dogs with gluten sensitivities.

Nutro’s Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food comes packed with 12 superfoods, high-quality proteins, and a bunch of other carefully selected ingredients and nutrients an older dog needs to in order to stay healthy and active as they age.  

Having witnessed firsthand what less-balanced diets can do to a pooch, I appreciate the fact that the high-quality proteins in this diet are sourced from a mix of salmon, chicken, and lamp and then blended with world’s super foods like sunflower oil, coconut, egg, tomatoes, apples, spinach, and chia seeds to make it rich in minerals, vitamins, and nutrients.

Pros

  • No artificial ingredients, colors, flavors, preservatives, or chicken by-product meal.
  • No wheat gluten, corn or soy, which makes it safer for senior dogs with gluten sensitivities.
  • The ingredient list includes chicken meal, a source of glucosamine and chondroitin. Both compounds, as we saw earlier, help in relieving arthritis symptoms and other joint disorders senior dogs are prone to.
  • Vitamin-rich superfoods like spinach and carrots enable the dog to have healthier eyes and a sharp vision.
  • Antioxidants from blueberries (sun-ripened), pomegranate, cranberries, and tomatoes (vine-ripened) work cohesively in ensuring the dog has a healthy immune system.
  • The fish content in the diet is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which play a significant role in reducing inflammatory processes while strengthening the dog’s immune system.
  • The amino acids from chicken, lamb, and  salmon help the dog to have strong and lean muscles
  • The high-quality proteins, superfoods, and whole grains add a rich flavor to the diet making it tasty for dogs.

Cons

  • The food is relatively expensive
  • Contains controversial ingredients like flaxseed and tomato pomace. Even though flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids while tomato pomace is high in fiber, the former has been linked to hormonal problems while the latter is considered an inexpensive pet filler.

Fromm Gold Holistic Senior Dry Dog Food is formulated to offer your senior and less active adult dog with a complete and balanced nutrition.

It’s made with high-quality proteins like lamb and chicken and blended with fresh produce such as whole eggs and potatoes and contains no unnecessary fillers.

Fromm Gold Holistic Senior Dry Dog Food is formulated to offer your senior and less active adult dog with a complete and balanced nutrition. It’s made with high-quality proteins like lamb and chicken and blended with fresh produce such as whole eggs and potatoes and contains no unnecessary fillers.

Pros

  • Contains chicken cartilage which eases inflammation and protects overworked joints.
  • Carbs like pearled barley are high in fiber (for weight management) and contain vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and iron that help the dog’s body to function normally.
  • The diet contains no wheat, making it suitable for senior dogs with a wheat allergy.
  • Given that it’s a low-calorie diet, this reduces the chances of your senior dog becoming overweight.
  • Besides being low in calories, the diet is formulated with ingredients such as duck, eggs, chicken, lamp and real Wisconsin cheese, which besides being sources of nutrients, make the food tastier.
  • Enhanced with prebiotics to  improve the dog’s digestion.
  • Ingredients like lettuce, celery, carrots and alfalfa meal contain antioxidants that help the dog to maintain a healthy immune system. 
  • Presence of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids together with Salmon oil help the dog to have a healthier coat and skin.
  • The diet is composed of high fiber levels (3.5%) which makes it an excellent choice for digestive support and weight management.

Cons

  • Oatmeal and brown rice make it less suitable for senior dogs with gluten sensitivities.
  • Contains controversial ingredients like tomato pomace, brewers dried yeast, and flaxseed

Holistic Select senior formula (chicken meal & lentils recipe) is a meal designed to meet the special nutritional needs of an elderly dog.

It comes packed with a proportionate amount of proteins, fiber, and fat plus additional nutrional additives that make the metabolism process better in senior dogs. It’s a feature I came to appreciate a lot back when my pooch’s metabolism dropped and she become overweight.

Holistic Select senior formula (chicken meal & lentils recipe) is a meal designed to meet the special nutritional needs of an elderly dog.

It comes packed with a proportionate amount of proteins, fiber, and fat plus additional nutrional additives that make the metabolism process better in senior dogs. It’s a feature I came to appreciate a lot back when my pooch’s metabolism dropped and she become overweight.

Other components it’s composed of like prebiotics, natural fiber and digestive enzymes enhance digestion and overall wellbeing of the dog.

Pros

  • The diet is formulated with high-quality proteins like chicken meal and chickpeas, and moderate fat to enable it to support the slowing metabolism of a senior dog and aid in muscle maintenance.
  • The prebiotics and prebiotics contained in the diet aid in better absorption of essential nutrients for optimum nutrition plus better immune function.
  • Contains natural fiber which aids in the movement of food via the digestive tract thereby maintaining healthy output.
  • The live yogurt cultures help to enhance digestion
  • It contains glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints and hips
  • The nutritious veggies and fruits provide the essential minerals and vitamins required to maintain a healthy immune system
  • The superfoods contained in the ingredients are rich in natural antioxidants that promote cellular health

Cons

  • The formula relies a lot on potatoes and pluses (peas & lentils), both of which can be problematic for many senior dogs. Some pet owners claim that the potatoes often irritate their pooch’s digestive tract.  Also, some dogs experience difficulties digesting the fiber contained in pulses.
  • Contains controversial ingredients like flaxseed and dried brewers yeast

Conclusion

Clearly, there’s no one-size-fits-all kind of diet for senior dogs. Each has their own dietary requirements that will dictate what meal is best for them. So, aim to pick a diet that packs the proper ingredients and nutritional content for your canine friend

However, of the five best dog food for older dogs we’ve explored, Blue Buffalo Basics Limited-Ingredient Formula Senior Dry Dog Food (Turkey & Potato Recipe) comes very close to meeting the dietary requirements of most senior dogs.

It’s composed of high-quality proteins, minimum fat content (10%), and a comparatively huge variety of nutritional content that helps to keep senior dogs active and healthy. This includes glucosamine, chondroitin, and calcium, all of which help the boxer to have healthy joints and bones.

Being a limited ingredient diet also makes it more suitable for senior dogs with food sensitivities. This is a property the rest of the meals lack. Not forgetting to mention that the meal is reasonably priced, making it quite affordable to many doggy parents.