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  • Nourishing Nosh: Discover best food for an old dog to keep them Happy and Healthy

    Written by: Steve Watts



    Time to read 11 min

    Beyond Kibble: A Guide to Finding the Perfect Nutritional Balance for Your Aging Pooch

    The best food for an old dog is usually determined by the individual assessment of your dog, such as their current health status, activity level, underlying health conditions, and dental condition, to mention a few. Dog food recipes for senior dogs are typically designed with your dog’s health, wellness, and longevity in mind.

    As dogs age, their nutritional needs evolve to meet the many challenges of age.

    Some common issues that plague aged dogs include obesity, arthritis, cognitive function, and loss of appetite.

    Caring for your dog will help your best friend age gracefully, and vital to good care is good nutrition.

    There are no standard recipes for senior dogs, regardless of size. This is mainly due to the individual nutritional requirements of each dog. 

    This may complicate selecting the right dog food for your aging dog, but there are basic guidelines that are common to all aging dogs that will help.

    Let’s get started.

    a man with his old dog

    A brief overview covering the best dog food for an old dog

    As stated, your dog’s diet will evolve as your dog ages. 

    With this comes a change in main ingredient percentages and the inclusion of other necessary vitamins, minerals, and supplements to meet the changing needs of your dog.

    Your dog’s sense of taste and smell will diminish with age, and providing nutritious, palatable food should be a prerequisite. It’s important to remember that aging organs process nutrients differently and may sometimes require extra support. 

    This might include switching to a higher-quality protein or providing extra nutritional support with supplements. Adding prebiotics and probiotics helps to support digestive and immune system health.

    an old dog with brown and white hairs

    Enhanced Protein for Senior Dogs: Ensuring Muscle Health and Vitality

    Protein is vital in senior dog food, as with younger dogs.

    Older dogs require about 50% more protein to maintain muscle mass than younger dogs. 

    Loss of muscle mass is one of the leading issues among older dogs; the added protein is essential to maintain good health and mobility. 

    When looking at kibble for older dogs, it’s essential to check the protein content, as not all diets for aged dogs contain enough protein to meet their needs. 

    Senior kibble should contain at least 28% to 32% protein on a dry-matter basis for good health. This is particularly important for older dogs where weight loss is needed.

    dog with flower headband

    Balancing Caloric Intake in Senior Dogs: Addressing Weight Challenges for Optimal Health

    Researchers have noted that younger seniors tend to be overweight, while more senior dogs tend to be underweight. 

    This is primarily caused by an excess of calories in their diet. A 2011 study pointed out that calories in senior dog foods varied widely, ranging from 246 to 408 calories per cup. This appears to be an excellent weight-loss choice, but not if your dog needs to gain weight. 

    “Two benchmark studies conducted by dog food companies Purina and Waltham both found that restricting calories throughout life improved longevity and reduced illnesses.”

    an old black dog sitting in the boat

    Navigating Nutritional Needs for Senior Dogs with Heart and Kidney Conditions

    Senior dog health issues such as heart and kidney disease should be considered.

     A low-sodium diet is recommended for both conditions. Yet, the same 2011 study found that sodium levels in senior foods were also wide-ranging. 

    Low phosphorous is required for kidney disease, and this is not mentioned on any labels. The 2011 study found phosphorous levels varied threefold in the senior foods they examined. On average, they were higher than their representative adult maintenance food.

    Prescription diets are available for heart, kidney, and other diseases that consider these nutritional needs. But here again, even those foods may have wide-ranging nutrient values. 

    nutrition food

    Supplementing Senior Dog Diets: From Joint Health to Cognitive Wellness

    Some senior foods include supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin to prevent osteoarthritis. 

    Sadly, there is limited evidence that these supplements work, but rest assured, they will not harm your dog.

    Omega-3 fatty acids play a pivotal role in senior diets as they help combat both osteoarthritis and cognitive loss.

    A range of antioxidants, B vitamins, and fish oil supplements benefit senior dogs. 

    A consultation with your local veterinarian will give you a good idea of what supplements should be included in your dog’s diet.  

    Addressing Dental Health in Senior Dogs: Strategies for Easier Eating and Comfort

    Senior dogs may develop dental issues that make chewing difficult or uncomfortable. 

    Dental issues should be treated as soon as possible to alleviate any pain and suffering. 

    If you notice any dental issues, consider wetting your dog’s kibble with water or gravy to make it softer and more accessible. 

    You can also feed them soft canned food; even a smaller kibble size may help.

    white dog with blue eyes

    Senior Dog Nutrition: Tailoring Diets to Enhance Golden Years

    Based on research on dog food for seniors, we can conclude that every effort has been made to accommodate all dogs. 

    Remember, many dogs do not need to switch to senior food and still live well into their prime.

    Points to keep in mind when considering a recipe for your older dog are:

    • Increase protein levels
    • Decrease calories
    • Select a low-sodium diet
    • Include necessary supplements
    • Monitor your dog’s weight and have periodic veterinarian check-ups

    Listed below are some of the top recommended senior dog foods. 

    black pug breed is having nutrition rich food

    Nom Nom Beef Mash Fresh Dog Food

    Beef Mash is one of four fresh wet recipes ideal for a scientifically balanced diet that resembles homemade cooking.

    First five ingredients: Ground beef, russet potatoes, eggs, carrots, peas

    Type: Grain-free

    Calories: 1239 kcal per kg

    Most of the animal protein is derived from fresh ground beef. The recipe contains 35% protein, 17% fat, 40% estimated carbohydrates and a fat-to-protein ratio of about 50%.

    This enticing recipe has been designed for dogs in all life stages, including seniors. The Beef Mash and Turkey Fare formulas’ lower fat-to-protein ratio makes them a good choice for older dogs.

    The Farmer’s Dog

    Their Turkey Recipe is one of four fresh formulas; here, too, it’s as close to home-cooked as possible.

    First five ingredients: Turkey, chickpeas, carrots, broccoli, spinach

    Type: Grain-free

    Calories: Custom per order

    This Farmer’s Dog formula is human-grade and derives most of its meat protein from fresh turkey. 

    The recipe contains 33% protein, 19% fat, and 40% estimated carbohydrates, with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 56%.

    The Farmer’s Dog conducted live feeding trials on real dogs of multiple breed sizes and ages over six years to create these optimum recipes. This recipe is highly recommended for seniors of all breeds.

    Dog eating best food

    Orijen Senior Dog Food

    Orijen Senior is one of nine dry recipes dominated by animal protein.

    First five ingredients: Chicken, turkey, flounder, whole mackerel, turkey giblets (liver, heart, gizzard)

    Type: Grain-free

    Calories: 417 kcal per cup

    Orijen Senior derives most of its meat protein from fresh chicken, turkey, and fish. The recipe contains 43% protein, 17% fat, and 32% estimated carbohydrates, with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 39%.

    The focus on meat is music to canine ears. Orijen Senior recipes are an excellent choice for senior dogs.

    Canidae Grain-Free Pure Senior Formula

    Canidae Grain-Free Pure is one of ten dry recipes and is a limited-ingredient diet best suited to senior dogs with a sensitive stomach.

    First five ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans

    Type: Grain-free

    Calories: 409 kcal per cup

    Canidae Pure Senior derives most animal protein from fresh chicken and poultry meals. The recipe contains 31% protein, 11% fat, and 50% estimated carbohydrates, with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 36%.

    Canidae Grain-Free Pure was specially formulated for dogs with food sensitivities but can be fed to all senior dogs. This limited-ingredient diet excludes many common canine allergens such as corn, wheat, soy, or grains. 

    The recipe contains high protein, low fat, omega 3/6, chondroitin, glucosamine, calcium, and other vitamins. It’s an easy pick for your aging dog.

    Blue Buffalo Homestyle Senior Wet Recipe

    This Blue Buffalo Senior Chicken Dinner is one of twelve wet recipes recommended for aging dogs.

    First five ingredients: Chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, carrots, peas

    Type: With grain that includes brown rice, barley, and oatmeal

    Calories: 396 kcal per cup

    This Blue Buffalo Homestyle wet diet derives most of its animal protein from fresh chicken. The recipe contains 34% protein, 20% fat, and 37% estimated carbohydrates, with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 60%.

    The recipe includes both glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health and mobility. The recipe is 100% free of corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, and preservatives—an excellent choice for senior dogs with dental problems or chewing issues. 

    In closing

    Dogs are hardy animals, and each dog is as unique as its personality. 

    Like human, aging dogs may require an adjustment to their diet. Obesity is a leading problem among older dogs.

    Knowing what we feed our dogs from the beginning can help us maintain their health and wellness into their prime.

    The research into diets for aging dogs is comprehensive and is ongoing. 

    Periodic check-up visits at a veterinarian will enable you to act early on any potential issues your dog may develop. Your efforts will be rewarded with a healthy, happy dog.


    American Kennel Club: Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs

    DogFoodAdvisor: The Best Senior Dog Food for 2024

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the most important nutritional needs for senior dogs?

    What are the most important nutritional needs for senior dogs?

    Senior dogs often require a diet that's lower in calories but rich in high-quality protein to maintain muscle mass. 

    Their diet should include a balanced amount of essential fatty acids, fiber, and digestible carbohydrates.

    Additionally, considering their age, the food should be easy to chew and digest. 

    Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health and omega-3 fatty acids for cognitive function and skin health can also be crucial.

    How much protein should be included in a senior dog's diet?

    Senior dogs generally need about 50% more protein than younger dogs to help maintain muscle mass and overall health. 

    The recommended protein content in their diet should be around 28% to 32% on a dry-matter basis. 

    High-quality protein sources such as lean meats, eggs, and fish are ideal.

    Are there specific ingredients to avoid in senior dog food?

    It's advisable to avoid foods with high levels of fillers (like corn and soy), artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, as these can be hard on a senior dog's digestive system and overall health. 

    Also, for dogs with specific health issues like heart disease or kidney problems, diets high in sodium or phosphorous should be avoided.

    How can I tell if my senior dog is getting the right balance of nutrients?

    A well-balanced diet for a senior dog will typically result in a healthy coat, normal stool consistency, maintained weight, and good energy levels. 

    If your dog is lethargic, losing or gaining weight unexpectedly, or has digestive issues, it may be a sign that their diet needs adjustment. 

    Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for monitoring their health and nutritional status.

    What are the signs that my senior dog may need a diet change?

    Indicators for a diet change include changes in body weight (either gain or loss), a decline in appetite or difficulty eating, gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea or constipation, or changes in coat quality and skin health. 

    Behavioral changes such as decreased energy levels or increased lethargy can also signal the need for dietary adjustments.

    How do dietary requirements differ for senior dogs with health issues like arthritis or kidney disease?

    For dogs with arthritis, diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids and supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help reduce inflammation and improve joint health. 

    Dogs with kidney disease may benefit from a diet lower in phosphorus and protein to reduce the workload on the kidneys. 

    Consultation with a veterinarian is crucial for creating a diet plan tailored to these specific health issues.

    Is it better to feed senior dogs dry kibble or wet food?

    The choice between dry kibble and wet food for a senior dog depends on various factors, including dental health, preference, and specific dietary needs. 

    Wet food can be easier to eat for dogs with dental issues and can help with hydration, while dry food can be beneficial for maintaining dental health. 

    Some dogs may benefit from a combination of both.

    How often should a senior dog be fed?

    Most senior dogs do well with two meals per day, but this can vary based on individual needs, health status, and veterinarian recommendations. 

    Smaller, more frequent meals can sometimes help with digestion and energy levels.

    Are there any specific vitamins or supplements that are beneficial for older dogs?

    Apart from glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, other beneficial supplements include omega-3 fatty acids for cognitive function, skin, and coat health, antioxidants for immune support, and probiotics for digestive health. 

    Vitamins like B, A, and E can also be important. 

    However, it's essential to consult with a vet before adding any supplements to your dog’s diet.

    Can senior dogs have treats, and what kinds are recommended?

    Yes, senior dogs can have treats, but they should be chosen carefully. 

    Opt for low-calorie, nutritious treats and avoid those high in fat and sugar. 

    Treats formulated for dental health or joint support can be particularly beneficial. 

    Treats should not make up more than 10% of a senior dog's daily calorie intake.

    How do I adjust my senior dog's diet if they are overweight or underweight?

    For overweight dogs, reducing calorie intake and providing low-fat, high-fiber foods can help, along with regular exercise. 

    For underweight dogs, increasing calorie intake with nutrient-dense foods like high-quality proteins and healthy fats is key. 

    It’s important to make any dietary changes gradually and under the guidance of a veterinarian.

    What should I do if my senior dog has a loss of appetite?

    First, rule out any underlying health issues with a vet check-up. 

    To encourage eating, you can try warming the food, adding flavors like low-sodium chicken broth, or switching to more palatable foods like wet food. 

    Offering smaller, more frequent meals can also help.

    How can I ensure my senior dog stays hydrated?

    Access to clean, fresh water at all times is essential. 

    You can encourage drinking by placing multiple water bowls around the house. 

    Adding wet food to the diet or flavoring the water with a small amount of low-sodium broth can also encourage hydration. 

    Monitor your dog's hydration status and consult a vet if you notice signs of dehydration.

    What changes in behavior or health should prompt a vet visit?

    Any sudden changes in weight, appetite, energy levels, bathroom habits, behavior, or overall demeanor should be a reason for a veterinary visit. 

    Persistent vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, or difficulty breathing are also concerning signs that require immediate attention.

    How often should senior dogs visit the vet for nutritional advice?

    Senior dogs should have a wellness checkup at least once a year, but those with health issues or dietary concerns may need more frequent visits. 

    Regular veterinary consultations are vital for monitoring their health and ensuring their nutritional needs are being met as they age.