By Dana King As your dog ages, their metabolism changes. This means that your dog will need a different type of dog food a senior-specific dog food if they’re going to age gracefully. But which is the best senior dog food?
And is there a specific type of all-natural senior dog food which will cater to your dog’s tastes? In this article, we’ll go over the things to look for in senior dog food and show you which senior dog foods are the best for your canine companion.
Compare Best Senior Dog Food
1. Diamond Naturals Real Meat Recipe Premium Specialty Senior Dry Dog Food
The Diamond Naturals Real Meat Recipe Premium Specialty Senior Dry Dog Food has the added fiber and rich flavors that your senior dog will love to chow down on.
Diamond Naturals’ senior dog food is great because it contains all the savory flavors and delicious scents which an older dog will crave. At the same time, it won’t get your older dog fat, nor will it give them constipation.
Because of the oatmeal contained in this dog food, there’s a great ratio of soluble fiber to insoluble fiber. Likewise, a good mix of proteins and fats keeps your old dog happy and healthy.
The only downside with this dog food isn’t related to its senior-dog friendly features. There aren’t very many fatty acids included in the dog food, which means that it may not be the best for coat support. But, coat support isn’t something that many older dogs struggle with.
1. Diamond Naturals Pros & Cons
- Filling but not too nutrient dense
- Contains probiotics to help with digestion
- Contains nutrients which older dogs don’t need as much as younger dogs
2. Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food
The Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food combines an excellent nutrient balance and energy density with tasty flavors from all-natural sources.
Unlike several other dog foods intended for senior dogs, the Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food is sourced from a plethora of animals including chicken, lamb, and salmon.
The only major meats missing are pork, which isn’t desirable for dogs anyway, and beef, which is too energy-dense for old dogs. This means that the Nutro senior dog food has a very good chance of being palatable for your older dog.
Because the dog food is intended for senior dogs from smaller breeds, however, you may find that your older dog of a larger breed needs a little bit more fiber support for their digestive system.
On the other hand, larger senior dogs which don’t normally have digestive issues will probably be served by the Nutro senior dog food very effectively.
2. Nutro Ultra Senior Pros & Cons
- Combines a mixture of flavors to entice older dogs
- Contains no reprocessed byproducts
- May not contain enough fiber support for larger breeds of older dogs
3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Senior Dry Dog Food
The Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Senior Dry Dog Food is great dog food for senior dogs who have a craving for chicken flavors.
Aside from this dog food’s pungent chicken scent and presumably knockout chicken flavor, it’s also great for older dogs because of its minimal level of sodium and a great mix of nutrients which aging dogs need more of, like taurine.
You won’t need to worry that this food contains any excess nutrients or overly dense calories, either. The nutrients in the food are the best part of Blue Buffalo Wilderness’ senior dog food offering.
The nutrients in the kibble mix are contained in pellets which are sprinkled among the normal kibble bits in the food. Your older dog will love to slurp them up, but they may sometimes fall to the bottom of the bag, so be sure to mix it before serving it.
3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Pros & Cons
- Great for chicken lovers who may be falling out of love with other chicken-based foods
- Low sodium levels for sensitive dogs
- Nutrient pellets may not be evenly distributed in the bag
4. Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog Food Small Breed Senior Turkey & Peas
The Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog Food Small Breed Senior Turkey & Peas has a flavorful mixture of vegetable products and turkey meat which your aging dog will find helps with digestive issues like constipation.
This dog food is excellent for senior dogs who tend to have issues with constipation or diarrhea. You may even find that this dog food helps to reduce the excessive flatulence of your older dog.
The reason that the Wellness Complete dog food is great for senior dogs is that it is made primarily with turkey and vegetables. The vegetables provide a great mix of fiber while also helping to control gas production in your dog’s gut.
The main drawback of this food is that its scent may not be pungent enough to attract an older dog with weak vision. Likewise, dogs that enjoy a mix of different meaty flavors may find that turkey doesn’t get them salivating, but most older dogs will be fine.
4. Wellness Complete HealthPros & Cons
- Great fiber and protein contents
- Good for dogs sensitive to food texture
- Not very nutrient dense
5. Nulo Senior Grain-Free Dog Food With Glucosamine And Chondroitin, Trout And Sweet Potato Recipe
Nulo Senior Grain Free Dog Food With Glucosamine And Chondroitin, Trout And Sweet Potato Recipe is excellent dog food for senior dogs who need some coat support or who like fishy flavors.
The Nulo Senior dog food is excellent on account of its high proportion of fatty acids which help to support your aging dog’s coat. Likewise, it has a bunch of minerals and vitamins which provide some support to your dog’s joints, so it may be good for dogs who struggle with arthritis.
The strong fishy flavor of the Nulo Senior food can’t go without mention, either. Because the food is based on trout, it has a distinct fishiness that is very pungent.
Many dogs will take to the flavor and strong scent immediately, but dogs who weren’t crazy about fish in their youth may be positively revolted.
5. Nulo Senior Grain-Free Pros & Cons
- Good for coat and joint support
- Great for dogs with sensitive teeth
- Great for fish lovers
- Light on energy density
- Flavor may turn off dogs who dislike fish
When Is A Dog Considered Senior?
Whether a dog is young, mature, or senior depends entirely on its breed and weight. Larger breeds age faster than smaller ones. Also, overweight dogs tend to age faster.
For easier calculations, a dog is considered senior when it is midway through its life expectancy.
Smaller dogs have a life expectancy of 15-20 years, whereas larger dogs are expected to live for 12-15 years. So, when a small dog is 8-9 years of age, it is considered senior. Similarly, a large dog is considered senior when it is over 6 years of age.
How should I choose a dog food that’s right for senior dogs?
The dog food that caters to the needs of senior dogs has a handful of features which you’ll need to look for. Notably, all the features that you’d want in a normal dog food apply.
Senior dog foods should be produced naturally, contain minimal grains, and conform to high-quality standards. But, a handful of the things you’d look for in a normal dog food like high energy density and high concentrations of certain nutrients aren’t desirable for senior dogs.
Optimum Energy Density
When dogs grow older, their metabolism starts to slow down, much like the metabolism of humans. Older dogs are less physically active, which tends to exacerbate the slowing of their metabolism. Creaky joints and weakening eyesight lead to a lot more sedentary behavior.
The combination of these factors means that if your dog continues to eat the high energy food that is appropriate for a growing dog or an active adult dog, they’ll start to pack on the paunch.
In practical terms, this means that your senior dog needs less of the energy-dense fats and carbs that would be in food intended for a younger dog. Dog foods intended for senior dogs have less energy dense protein and a bit more material intended for bulking, like lean carbs.
Addressing Muscle Loss And Body Weight
As dogs age, they slowly start losing muscle mass. To address this issue, your senior dog’s food should be packed with more protein and less fat and carbohydrates. However, subpar and even standard protein sources can put more pressure on the dog’s kidneys. You should opt for superior-quality protein sources to maintain the ideal muscle mass and body weight of your senior dog.
Senior-Friendly Vitamins, Minerals, And Nutrients
Healthy adult dogs can chow down on salty snacks without too much regard for their health. But, for senior dogs, eating too much salt is a ticket to the vet. Lower metabolism can lead to dangerous accumulations of sodium in older dogs, so it’s best to pick a low-sodium dog food.
Likewise, many older dogs have specific health needs that may be partially addressed by changing their distribution of nutrients. These might include nutrients meant to stave off macular degeneration or to help manage doggie diabetes.
At the same time, many of the nutrients which are included in food intended for younger dogs may not be necessary for an older dog. Dog foods packed with B vitamins may be appropriate for a highly active adult dog, but they may lead to renal issues in older dogs.
You should also be careful about dog foods which contain an abundance of calcium or magnesium. Calcium and magnesium are helpful to the growing bones of a younger dog, but for older dogs, they may experience constipation or diarrhea from consuming too much.
Finally, some added nutrients may not be appropriate for older dogs. Specifically, commonly added nutrients like chlorophyll or carotene are tolerated by adult dogs, but senior dogs may find them to be detrimental for their skin or bowel movements.
Older dogs need more fiber in their diets to maintain normal bowel movements than growing dogs or adult dogs. Dog foods for senior dogs thus often have additional fiber to ease the process along.
But, it’s important to remember that the type of fiber matters to your senior dog too. Your aging dog needs food which has the correct ratio of soluble fiber to insoluble fiber to stay healthy.
Too much insoluble fiber may lead to constipation, whereas the opposite may occur with soluble fiber. Overall, the best sources of these fibers are from vegetables like carrots, so finding a senior dog food which incorporates them may be a good step.
Flavor, Smell, And Appearance
Much like in humans, when dogs age their taste buds change. This means that older dogs sometimes have different flavor preferences than when they were younger. Even dogs who had a mighty appetite in their youth tend to taper in intensity as they age.
Thankfully, most appetite issues can be solved by trying a different kind of food. In general, the stronger the flavor, the better the chances are that it will be liked by older dogs. Older dogs are less willing to wolf down whatever is in front of them, and they may be positively picky at times.
The appearance of food may also be a contributing factor to older dogs losing their appetite. Especially for dogs with eye problems, food may not appear as appetizing as it was before, or they may not recognize that the objects in front of them are food.
The fix to this issue is to find a senior dog food that has a strong scent. Your dog’s sense of smell is still very strong when they’re older, so they can use it to compensate for weakening vision when it comes to making decisions about whether to eat what is in front of them.
How A Health Problem Can Affect A Senior Dog’s Diet
Your dog may face several medical problems in his senior years, and you may need to visit a veterinarian regarding modifications in his diet. Older dogs with kidney failure, diabetes, or liver disease may need a custom diet, which will complement their treatment and recovery.
A dog with heart disease needs to control its sodium and calorie intake. A low sodium formulation may prove beneficial indeed, but you will also need to keep its weight in check. Note that obese pets are always at a greater risk of health complications.
Senior dogs are also prone to diabetes, and a diabetic diet promises to slow down the absorption of food into the dog’s body. This is because slow absorption of food is linked to a decreased rate of increasing blood sugar levels. Your dog also needs a low-fat, high-fiber diet to keep his blood sugar in check. A high fiber diet will also benefit dogs with constipation – a very common problem among senior dogs.
Do Senior Dogs Need Supplements?
Many senior dogs suffer from arthritis and joint pain. Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have been proven to be beneficial for this. If you want to give these supplements to your dog, always choose veterinary formulations as opposed to human ones. However, senior dog foods that contain these supplements should be preferred over separate formulations.
Moreover, weight management can also have a substantial positive effect on your dog’s joint pain problems. They’ll benefit greatly from slimming down.
What To Do When Your Dog Just Won’t Eat
Reduced appetite among older dogs is pretty common. Its reasons vary, starting from simple loss of interest to gastrointestinal disorders and even severe diseases.
Go to your veterinarian first, and if your vet rules out any serious illness, try to make the food more exciting for your dog. Dogs sometimes feel reluctant to eat dry food. Adding warm water, chicken broth, or wet canned food helps in making the food more appetizing.
You can also top the food with raw or cooked meat and scrambled or boiled eggs. However, the topper should not be more than 15-20% of the meal. For a change, home-cooked meals can also get your dog to eat properly.
That concludes our round-up. In our view, the Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog Food With Turkey & Peas is the best all-around senior dog food on account of its low-sodium content, great fiber content, and decent flavor profile.
For older dogs who need a strongly scented and highly nutritious food to be satisfied, however, they’ll probably enjoy our pick for runner-up, which is the Nulo Senior Grain Free Dog Food. The strong scent of the trout is a big attraction, as is its joint-supporting nutrients and reasonable fiber content.
But, these top two dog foods for seniors may not be what your dog craves. If your dog enjoys multi-meat foods, check out the Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food, which has enough variety in its flavors to ensure that your dog will be appetized.
It’s important to note that your dog will love you no matter which dog food you pick for it to consume in its old age. So, try to find one from the above list which your dog enjoys and is willing to eat.
Your dog deserves to eat what they prefer, even if it means eating food which is technically sub-optimal for their specific senior dog needs.