Senior dogs have special nutritional needs. As dogs age, their energy levels decrease, and they become more susceptible to conditions of the heart, joints and stomach. The best senior dog foods keep dogs healthy as they age by providing a high-protein, high-fiber, low-fat and low-sodium diets. The right food can help prevent obesity, which can cause health issues like diabetes, arthritis and heart disease.
Formula: Select Grain Free Chicken with Potato and Spinach
Price: $15.99/5lb roll
Feature: Easy to eat for dogs with dental issues
Best for dry food diets Canidae
Canidae’s senior recipe is low in fat and high in fiber, which can help aid digestion in senior dogs. The special recipe is also grain-free and includes omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids which help with liver and immune function, among other benefits.
Freshpet recommends their Select Grain-Free chicken with potato and spinach recipe for senior dogs. This is a wet formula, which may be easier for your senior dog to eat, especially if they suffer from dental issues or gum disease. The recipe is based around 100% nature farm-raised chicken and contains no preservatives, no meat meals and no by-product meals.
Note: Because wet food contains higher moisture levels than dry food, protein and fat ratios will not be comparable.
Best for cognitive health Purina
Purina’s Bright Mind line is formulated for adult dogs 7 and older. The diet includes enhanced botanical oils, nutrients for cognitive health, pre-biotic fiber, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Pedigree’s active senior diet is rich in omegas and fish oil, which will help seniors with their liver, immune system, coat and skin health. The recipe is also rich in antioxidants (vitamin E) and is one of the more budget-friendly foods on our list. Especially for seniors, the recipe includes glucosamine and chondroitin for improved mobility and overall joint health.
Nutro’s Wholesome Essential line includes a grain-free formula, small breed formula, large breed formula and a general senior formula. The recipes are formulated to support joint health and cognitive health in seniors and include non-GMO ingredients, glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 and omega-6. There are no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives in the food.
To choose the best senior dog food for your four-legged friend, you’ll need to understand the special needs of your dog. The best way to do this is to consult with your veterinarian.
Veterinarian recommended dog food
If your dog has serious health concerns, you will need the help of your veterinarian to plan a proper diet. For example, a good diabetic diet can delay the absorption of food and control raising blood pressure caused by diabetes. Your vet might recommend putting your diabetic dog on a low-fat and high-fiber diet.
Senior dogs with heart disease need low-calorie and low-sodium formulations to keep their weight down. While they still need protein, the protein ingredients should come from low-fat sources, such as chicken, turkey and fish.
Senior dog food vs. regular dog food
Senior dogs require fewer calories than their younger, more active counterparts. If your older dog is relatively healthy, you may be able to get away with keeping them on the same formula and adjusting the serving size to accommodate their level of activity.
Some senior dogs will benefit from special formulas designed to help strengthen their bodies and fight against these common ailments that come with age:
Constipation: Some senior dogs have problems with constipation for which they will need high-fiber diets.
Joint pain: Joint pain caused by arthritis is an age-related issue for many senior dogs. A dog with joint problems or inflammation may benefit from glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, available in some special veterinary diets.
Dental problems: Soft or wet diets are recommended for senior dogs with dental problems.
When should you switch to senior dog food?
The size and breed of your dog determine what age is considered “senior.” In general, larger dogs tend to have shorter lifespans than smaller dogs. Dogs are considered senior during the last 25 percent of their lives. Below are the average ages when dogs are considered senior based on size and weight.
What is considered a senior dog?
Small dogs weighing under 25 lbs are considered senior at age 8
Medium dogs weighing 25-60 lbs are considered senior at age 7
Large dogs weighing 60-90 lbs and up are considered senior at age 6
When should you put your dog on senior food?
The right time for putting your dog on senior food depends on their size, breed and age. If your pet has some health issues, such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, dental problems or cancer, it may be time to shift to senior food with ingredients that address these specific issues.
As a member of the ConsumerAffairs research team, Jessica Render is dedicated to providing well-researched, valuable content designed to help consumers make informed purchase decisions they can feel confident making. She holds a degree in journalism from Oral Roberts University.