8 Of The Best Senior Dog Foods (Brands, Reviews & Buyer’s Guide)

Would you be surprised to know that your dog is classed as a senior when they reach half of their life expectancy? For large breeds this is 6 years old and for smaller breeds around age 9.

One of the most important things for your senior dog is ensuring you are getting the best senior dog food to help keep them active, fit and healthy.

As they say, you are what you eat, and this is also true for our canine companions. Just like puppies have different nutritional needs to adult dogs – the aging dog does too.

So, what food should you be feeding to your senior dog?

We have put together a complete guide on feeding senior dogs covering:

Best Senior Dog Food Feature

The Best Senior Dog Food

Summary Table – Top Three Dog Foods for Senior Dogs

Orijen Dry Dog Food Merrick Grain Free Senior Wellness Natural Health
Orijen Dry Dog Food Merrick Grain Free Senior Wellness Natural Health
Size 25lb 12lb 30lb
Flavor Chicken & Turkey Chicken & Sweet Potato Chicken & Barley
Type Dry Dry Dry
Price See on Amazon See on Amazon See on Amazon

Our Choice For the Older Dog

Based on our reviews, we would choose Orijen Dry as the best dog food for senior dogs.

This food has the highest protein content, which is crucial in our aging pets.

It also has low-glycemic carbohydrates which cause lower and slower rises in blood sugar – important for any pets with diabetes.

The nutrient profile also helps to keep weight down which is crucial for the aging bones and joints of our pets.

Orijen Senior Dry Dog Food
Orijen Senior Dry Dog Food

Our #1 choice for senior dog food rich in protein.

  • Protein: 38%
  • Meat: 85%
  • Fruit and Vegetables: 15%
  • Carbohydrate (low-glycemic): 19%

Buy on Amazon

Runner’s Up: 5 Of The Best Senior Dog Foods (Dry and Wet)

Blue Buffalo Life Protection
Blue Buffalo Life Protection

Our choice for senior dogs with joint problems.

  • Protein: 26%
  • Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids
  • Chondroitin for joint support

Buy on Amazon

Holistic Select - Natural & Grain Free
Holistic Select – Natural & Grain Free

Our choice for senior dogs with sensitive stomachs.

  • Protein: 28%
  • Unique recipe to support digestive health
  • Added chondroitin and glucosamine for joint health

Buy on Amazon

Eukanuba Senior Dry Dog Food
Eukanuba Senior Dry Dog Food

Our choice for toy and small dog breeds.

  • Protein: 29%
  • For mature dogs age 7+
  • Added supplements for joint health

Buy on Amazon

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe
Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe

Our favorite wet dog food for senior dogs.

  • Protein: 7.5%
  • High in moisture: 78%
  • Added Glucosamine and Chondroitin for joint health

Buy on Amazon

Wellness Complete Health Wet
Wellness Complete Health Wet

One of the best wet dog foods with a balanced nutritional profile.

  • Protein: 8%
  • High in moisture: 78%
  • Protein rich and high in moisture

Buy on Amazon

Choosing The Best Food For Your Senior Dog

Choosing The Best Food For Your Dog
Aging takes its toll on our faithful friend’s body

Each dog is different, which means their nutritional requirements are totally unique to them.

However, we do know that as dogs age, in general, their energy requirements reduce, they tend to gain fat and lose muscle mass. For this reason, most senior dog food has a reduced calorie content with a higher protein content.

Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Muscle growth and repair relies on protein, as do the cells of the immune system:

  • Reduced protein contributes to muscle loss meaning your senior dog will get weaker and they may be reluctant to jump or climb.
  • Low levels of protein can reduce the speed and effectiveness of the immune system
  • Low protein diets have also been linked to age-related osteoporosis (i.e. Joint Pain)

It’s a no brainer really, the best dog food for senior dogs must contain a good % of protein from a good source.

The protein requirements for an adult dog are 2.62g per kg of body weight. Senior foods will likely have a much higher protein content.

Reading the Label on Dog Food

To understand if the dog food contains what you want it to, read the label.

Look at the ingredients list first and then the analysis section. The ingredients should be listed in descending order by predominance of weight. Ideally, the first ingredient should be a quality protein source – an animal meat.

Check the nutritional adequacy statement, it will tell you what pet the food is for, for what life stage and how much to feed.

Dog Food Label
When reading the label on senior dog food, make sure to pay close attention to the Ingredients, Guaranteed Analysis, and Nutritional Adequacy Statement

Any dog food which doesn’t have a nutritional adequacy statement and nutrient guaranteed analysis should be avoided.

Feeds which list ingredients should list an animal meat first with a guaranteed analysis of protein with over 20%.

Best Things To Feed A Senior Dog

The accepted foods by the Association of American Feed Control Officials include:

  • Meat (and its byproducts)
  • Poultry (and its byproducts)
  • Meat and poultry meal
  • Barley
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Typical vitamins and minerals

The ingredients found in dog food should provide protein, fat and carbohydrate sources. If the ingredients listed on the label don’t reflect those suggested above, you should avoid the food.

Worst Things To Feed a Dog

Worst Things To Feed a Dog
Dog food should not contain: food dyes, sorbitol, xylitol or corn syrup

Whilst you would think every dog food available for purchase is safe, there are ingredients that are known to cause a range of health issues, these include:

  • Food dyes
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol (also found in human peanut butter and chewing gum)
  • Corn syrup
  • Butylated hydroxytoluene
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole
  • Propylene glycol
  • Ethoxyquin
  • Carrageenan (Carrageenan is a preservative used to thicken and emulsify foods and has been linked to inflammation)

It’s best to avoid any dog food with any of these ingredients listed.

Things To Watch Out For

For senior dogs with kidney disease, or dog breeds which are likely to develop the condition, low phosphorus content has been known to be beneficial. Dogs suffering with heart disease or high blood pressure can benefit from a low sodium food.

If your pooch suffers with intestinal issues, a high fiber food may suit them best.

For dogs with arthritis or joint issues you may explore foods which contain glucosamine and/or chondroitin.

The calorie content in senior food will often be lower than a typical adult food, this is because older pets often slow down.

Feeding a Senior Dog

Feeding a Senior Dog

When You Should Switch To Senior Dog Food

Your dog will be a senior roughly when they’ve reached half of their life span. You can use the table below as a guide:

Purdue University – Dog Aging Table
Weight (lb) Age
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10+
0-20 Junior Senior
21-50 Junior Senior
51-90 Junior Senior Geriatric
Above 90 Junior Senior Geriatric

For smaller dogs this will be later in the life, for large breeds, it will come around pretty soon:

  • Your Chihuahua will be a senior around the 8 or 9-year mark
  • Your Great Dane will be a senior around 5 or 6 years old

Switching Your Dog To Senior Dog Food

Once you’ve chosen the best senior dog food for your dog, introduce the 75-25 rule (mix 75% of the old food with 25% of the new food). Slowly reduce the amount of the old food whilst increasing the amount of the new food until they are 100% eating the new food:

Day
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
New Food 25% 50% 75% 100%
Old Food 75% 50% 25% 0%

Make sure you maintain the same feeding schedule when introducing a new food.

Watch for any digestive discomfort like loose stools or vomiting. You may have introduced the dog food too quickly.

If the discomfort persists, the food simply may not suit your dog. Get back to the drawing board and source a new dog food.

Choose an appropriate bowl for your older pooch, grippy bottomed bowls are a great addition – it stops them having to chase their bowl around the room. For large breeds you may also consider a raised bowl. It can just make it a little more comfortable for them.

Top-Tip

If you do select a dog food for senior dogs, but, you have other dogs on puppy food, they can get into each other’s foods. It can be best to feed dogs separately, you can keep tabs on who is eating what and how much they are eating.

What Is The Best Senior Dog Food? (Raw, Wet or Dry)

You will have a huge choice of dog foods across the three types:

  1. Wet
  2. Dry
  3. Raw

Wet can be more appetizing for fussy eaters, but, you do have storage issues if your dog doesn’t use a whole can in one sitting – wet dog food spoils quite quickly.

Dry has a good shelf life and is easier to store. However, kibble can be more difficult for older pets to eat, especially if they are having more and more dental work. Dry is generally more cost effective, however.

Raw is the most controversial. Ready-prepared raw meals give you the best opportunity of meeting the needs of your older pooch. It requires a little more organization and discipline to remember to take it out of the freezer.

How Often Should You Feed A Dog?

Stick to at least two feeds per day.

You may choose to feed breakfast or lunch and then an evening meal:

  • 7am (breakfast) OR 12pm (lunch)
  • 5-6pm (evening meal)

Feeding the evening meal relatively early gives plenty of time before bedtime incase your pooch needs to go potty. It is thought that it takes around 6-8 hours for food to transport around a dog’s digestive system.

Excess protein is simply excreted from the body, so if you are feeding a high protein food you may notice changes in their bowel movements. This isn’t usually anything to worry about but speak with your veterinarian if you become concerned.

How Much Should You Feed A Dog?

Dog Food Feeding Guidelines
The label on your dog’s food will normally have feeding guidelines based on weight.

Any senior dog food that you select should include feeding directions on the label. In the absence of this, it is possible to work out how many calories your dog needs:

  1. Dog’s Weight in Kilos – Convert your dog’s weight from pounds into kilos by dividing his weight by 2.2
  2. Resting Energy Required – Calculate your dog’s resting energy required by calculating 70 times the body weight (in kilos) to the power 0.75
  3. Calories Required – Multiply your dog’s resting energy required by 1.6 (if your dog is neutered) and 1.8 (if your dog is intact)

Worked Example

For a neutered Labrador weighing 65 pounds.

  1. Dog’s Weight in Kilos – 65lb ÷ by 2.2 = 11.36kg
  2. Resting Energy Required – 70 × 300.75 = 897 (dog’s resting calories)
  3. Calories Required – 897 × 1.6 = 1,450 calories per day

But as we’ve mentioned, older dogs are prone to weight gain due to their reduced activity. Monitor his weight, and if you need to reduce his calories, do so.

Our Recommendations

Best Senior Dog Food

Orijen Senior Dry Dog Food
Orijen Senior Dry Dog Food

Our #1 choice for senior dog food rich in protein.

  • Protein: 38%
  • Meat: 85%
  • Fruit and Vegetables: 15%
  • Carbohydrate (low-glycemic): 19%

Buy on Amazon

Senior Dog Food for Small Breeds

Merrick Lil
Merrick Lil’ Plates – Small Breed

A great choice of senior dog food for small breeds.

  • Protein rich because of real deboned chicken
  • Smaller kibble for small mouths
  • Gluten and grain free

Buy on Amazon

Senior Dog Food for Large Breeds

Hill
Hill’s Science Healthy Mobility

A great choice for larger senior dogs over 55lb in weight.

  • Reduced calorie formula to prevent weight gain
  • Added glucosamine and chondroitin for complete nutritation
  • Protein rich and added fatty acids

Buy on Amazon

Best Senior Dog Food For Sensitive Stomach Dogs

Hill
Hill’s Science Sensitive Stomach Dry

A great choice for senior dogs with sensitive stomachs.

  • Protein Levels: 26%
  • Ingredients include Omega-6 for healthy coats
  • Good for older dogs with food or skin sensitivities

Buy on Amazon

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Senior Dog Food?
Senior dog food is specifically created to meet the nutritional needs of older dogs; a higher protein requirement and lower calorie need. It often has additional supplements like chondroitin and glucosamine to support aging bones and joints.

When Should You Feed a Dog Senior Food?
Your dog becomes a senior at around half of their life expectancy. This can range from 6-9 years old depending on breed size. Senior dog food provides for the different nutritional requirements as your pet ages.

Will Senior Dog Food Hurt A Young Dog?
Whilst this food is unlikely to hurt a younger dog, senior dog food won’t necessarily meet their nutritional requirements.

Also, high protein levels can cause rapid growth in young large breeds, which can be detrimental to their skeletal development.

Puppies need puppy food, adults need adult food and seniors should be eating senior food.

Best Senior Dog Food For Weight Gain?
Providing you rule out any health issue, loss of muscle mass is normal in an aging pet. A protein rich diet is essential in building muscle again. Our reccomended food is Wellness Core Senior Dog Food boasting a 32% protein content – this will support muscle growth, repair and function.

What Is The Best Thing To Feed An Old Dog?
A high-quality food with appropriate protein, fat and carbohydrate levels.

Senior dog foods are specifically formulated to meet increased protein needs whilst accommodating for their lower caloric need. It will also often contain a range of supplements to support the health of the aging dog.

Summary

When your dog reaches his senior years will vary based on his breed and size – his genetics, environment and previous nutrition will all have an impact on his fitness and wellbeing.

For smaller dog breeds you will start to feed senior dog food from around age 9 or 10 and for a large breed this can be as early as 6 or 7.

A higher protein dog food will keep his muscles, bones and joints and immune system fighting fit. A lower caloric content will help him stave off those unwanted pounds when he’s less mobile.

If he has any existing health conditions, speak with your veterinarian to see if any supplements or vitamins and minerals can have an impact – either positive or negative.

We hope our complete guide has given you a good place to start, let us know your thoughts below.

John Woods Autho Bio Picture
John Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in Animal Behavior & Welfare and recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.

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