two dogs running in water

Best Senior Dog Food | 6 Brands for Older Dogs (2018 Reviews)

Is your older dog ready for the switch to a senior dog food? As your dog transitions through different life stages, it’s important to revisit his or her diet.

Like humans, the metabolism, nutritional needs, and overall physiology of mature dogs change as they age. Food choices should reflect these changes if you want to help your canine maintain optimal health over the long-term.

Hopefully, this article will assist you in determining the best dog food for senior dogs.

Dog FoodOur RatingPrice
Blue Buffalo BLUE Life Protection For Large Breed Senior Dog FoodCheck Price
Canidae Life Stages Dry Dog FoodCheck Price
Wellness Complete Healthy Natural Dry Small Breed Dog FoodCheck Price
Nutro Ultra Wet Dog FoodCheck Price
Orijen Senior Dry Dog FoodCheck Price
BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe for Senior DogsCheck Price

 

When is a Dog Considered a Senior Dog?

Generally, once dogs hit somewhere between seven and twelve years old, they will begin experiencing both external and internal changes. Aging tends to occur more quickly in larger dogs while smaller dogs tend to age more slowly and live longer.

External changes are more obvious— a thinning coat, weight gain, etc. Internal changes, on the other hand, may not be as easy for owners to detect and diagnose. Usually, these changes will affect a dog’s metabolism and the strength of his or her immune system. For example, your dog may experience frequent intestinal issues or find it more difficult to fend off disease.

External Changes in Older Dogs:

  • Thinning Coat
  • Weight Gain
  • Loss of Muscle
  • Dental Issues

Internal Changes in Older Dogs:

  • Change in metabolism
  • Change in Immune System
  • Possible Intestinal Issues

 

You can save yourself and your dog a lot of stress by proactively combating these issues with a change in your dog’s diet.

Since the size of dogs often dictates their pace of aging, how do you determine when the proper time is to change your canine’s diet to senior dog food? Nutritional needs tend to change for smaller breeds around the age of seven years old. However, giant breeds are typically considered older at the age of five.

Besides simply observing visible changes to your dog’s appearance and bodily functions, you can also use the following guideline from the ASPCA as a gauge.

Key Nutrients in Older Dogs

Dogs require a balanced diet of six essential nutrients: water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. However, the optimal balance shifts as dog’s age. In addition, other nutritional factors must be reexamined too, such as calorie and fiber intake.

Let’s take a closer look at how health considerations change for older dogs in relation to these key nutrients:

Water

Older dogs often face a higher risk of dehydration due to higher rates of disease and diuretic medications that make them urinate more frequently. Always ensure that your dog has easy access to fresh water, especially as he or she heads into old age.

Proteins

Despite what you may have heard, senior dogs need an adequate level of protein in their diets. An old theory originating in the 1940s suggested that protein overworks the kidneys of aging dogs, but this claim has been disproven numerous times over the years.

Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass, energy, and a strong immune system—all of which tend to weaken as dogs get older.old malinos laying down

Experts suggest that 25% of a senior dog’s calorie intake comprise protein.

Calories/Fats

Fat is a powerful source of energy and it’s essential for helping dogs absorb certain vitamins. Optimal fat intake differs depending on your dog’s specific physiology though.

For some senior dogs, reducing fat intake is best since their metabolisms slow down and they burn fewer calories.

However, for other senior dogs, increasing fat and calorie intake may be best. These dogs actually lose too much weight from reduced appetite and decreased calorie intake, thus throwing off other key bodily functions like protein’s ability to strengthen the immune system.

You can try tricks for increasing your dog’s appetite such as adding chicken broth to dog food or buying flavor enhancers from the pet store.

Carbs/Fiber

Carbohydrates are important for energy and intestinal function, particularly fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that helps dogs digest nutrients and regulate glucose levels. It can also ease constipation, a problem commonly faced by senior dogs.

However, like fat, optimal fiber intake may differ depending on your dog.

Type of fiber is also an important consideration. Experts recently deemed moderately fermentable fiber blends like beet pulp to be superior for nutrient absorption and glucose regulation as compared to poorly fermentable cellulose-based fibers that traditionally are used in dog food.

Vitamins and Minerals

It’s best for dogs to obtain vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, and sodium from their food.

Some senior dog food brands also have added nutrients to help protect against aging, like vitamin E and beta-carotene.

With a balanced diet, vitamin and mineral supplements usually are not necessary and they can even be toxic.

Additionally, reducing—although not eliminating—your senior dog’s sodium intake is advised since sodium can exacerbate certain diseases like kidney disease and hypertension that tend to afflict older dogs.

Ask your veterinarian to help you determine optimal vitamin and mineral intake levels for your canine.

 

Should I Switch to a Dog Food Brand Specifically for an Aging Dog?

It’s a bit complicated, but switching foods may benefit their health and longevity.

As previously explained, a dog’s nutritional needs are quite different at different life stages. For example, growing puppies require much higher protein levels and calorie intake than senior or even adult dogs.

So feeding your senior dog a brand of food that is meant for puppies will only contribute to your dog’s propensity for obesity. Also, older dogs generally require a higher level of fiber which may be lacking in food formulated for younger dogs.

Old Labrador retrieverHowever, if you have more than one dog and they’re in different life stages, buying different types of dog food and ensuring your dogs eat their assigned types can be burdensome.

In that case, “all life stage” or “multi-stage” dog food may be the next best thing. Just keep in mind that a generic, one-size-fits-all approach to dog food might work at one life stage, but there’s a good chance it will negatively impact your dog at another stage where he or she needs different levels of certain nutrients.

The trickiest part about senior dog food is that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the pet food regulator in the U.S., does not have a standard definition for senior life stage. That means you might not see labels clearly indicating when dog food is specially formulated for senior dogs.

You will have to look for “adult stage” dog food and then read the fine print to determine if it meets the specific nutritional needs of your dog. But it’s probably best for you to work with your veterinarian first to determine the unique needs of your senior dog.

 

A Few of Our Favorite Senior Dog Food Brands

Below are a few of our favorite senior dog food brands on the market, along with some of their key advantages:

Best Senior Dog Food for Large BreedBlue Buffalo Senior Large Breed Dog Food

Blue Buffalo BLUE Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe For Large Breed Senior Dogs

As one of the top manufacturers of natural dog food, Blue Buffalo’s line of senior dog food is a favorite among dog owners, as well as their dogs!

The company uses high-quality natural ingredients in each of its recipes.

We like this brand for large dogs because it contains the ingredients to support their overall health.  As dog’s age, so does their joints. Glucosamine and chondroitin which encourages healthy joints in large-breed dogs is an important ingredient for this age group.

Additionally, Blue Buffalo includes kibble or “Lifesource bits” in all their dry dog foods.  These bits contain a blend of vitamins and minerals designed specifically for older dogs.

Omega 3 & Omega 6 Fatty Acids are included for healthy skin and coat. Vitamin D is added for healthy bones and tissue,  and L-Carnitine for endurance and fat metabolism.

Key Features:

  • Contains natural ingredients
  • No by-products, fillers or artificial additives
  • The first ingredient is deboned chicken and NO chicken by-product meals
  • Contains whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • NO corn, wheat or soy
  • NO artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

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Best “All Life Stages” Formula

CANIDAE Life Stages Dry Dog Food for Puppies, Adults & Seniors

CANIDAE All Life Stages recipe is vet formulated for dogs of all ages.  If you have a senior dog in your house plus other pets, this food is a great option. This formula simply makes mealtimes for multiple dog households much simpler since you do not need to purchase specific types of foods for each dog.

Formulated with premium ingredients, Canidae’s dog foods are nutritionally dense. In addition, added are probiotics for healthy digestion, antioxidants for a healthy immune system, and Omega 6 & 3 fatty acids for beautiful skin and coat.

This company takes quality ingredients and makes quality pet foods. Canidae Life Stages is a solid choice for your aging dog or any other dog in your household.

Key Features:

  • Optimum protein from chicken, turkey, lamb & fish meals for a nutritionally dense formula
  • No added fillers, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
  • Vet formulated for all ages, breeds & sizes
  • Premium ingredients: no corn, wheat, or soy
  • Meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages, including the growth of large size dogs
  • First Three ingredients: Chicken meal, turkey meal, lamb meal
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Best Senior Dog Food for Small Breed

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Dog FoodWellness Complete Dog Food Small Breed

Your small pooch has a unique physical balance that creates special nutritional needs. Since your pup is smaller, the kibbles are smaller and easier for your dog to eat.

Wellness only uses high quality rich whole foods in their recipes to help your pet live a long, healthy life.Since older dogs aren’t as active, this food is formulated with specific calorie levels for optimal body weight.

In order to provide an excellent source of protein & fatty acids, Wellness incorporated de-boned turkey as the #1 ingredient.  Additionally, the whole foods such as carrots will provide a great source of beta-carotene to protect your older pet against cataracts & heart disease.

Key Features:

  • High-quality protein with real turkey as the #1 ingredient
  • No Fillers
  • Omega-6 and Omega-3  helps restore your dog’s coat and skin
  • Developed for weight maintenance
  • Formulated with Glucosamine & Chondroitin to help preserve hip and joint well-being
  • Controlled sodium levels to support heart health
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Best  Senior Wet Dog Food

NUTRO ULTRA Wet Dog FoodNutro Senior Wet Dog Food

Nutro Ultra provides a great option for those seeking a senior canned dog food.  Wet dog food benefits older dogs that have difficulty chewing. According to PetMd, soft dog food is a good choice for dogs with missing teeth and poorly aligned jaws.

As dog’s age, they tend to lose their sense of smell. With its rich scent, Nutro features a perfect combination of three lean proteins from chicken, lamb, and salmon to ensure optimal amino acid levels which your pup will love.

Nutro produces foods with natural ingredients carefully sourced from a trusted network of farmers and suppliers. Nutro does not incorporate corn, soy, artificial flavors, and artificial preservatives.

Tip: Since wet foods tend to be more expensive, many owners also mix it with dry dog food to save money.

Key Features:

  • Wet dog food is easier to eat for older dogs with dental issues or no teeth
  • Natural ingredients carefully sourced from familiar farmers and suppliers
  • To ensure quality, products are produced in the manufacturer’s own facilities
  • No artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Contains real beef and vegetables, no chicken by-product meal, no corn or soy
  • Formulated with naturally sourced glucosamine and chondroitin, the nutritional building blocks of healthy cartilage, to help support joint health
  • Contains farm-raised chicken, pasture-fed lamb, and salmon which provide Amino Acids to promote strong, lean muscles.

 

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Best Senior Dog Food-Grain Free

Orijen Senior Dry Dog FoodOrijen Senior Dog Food

The golden years begin with Orijen Senior dog food which provides premium dog recipes formulated to follow a “biologically appropriate” approach to pet nutrition. This company produces entrees designed to reflect the natural diet your dog should follow based on its canine descendants.

Older dogs still need a diet rich in quality protein to promote lean muscle mass. Two-thirds of meats in Orijen dog foods are fresh or raw (flash-frozen, without preservatives) which provides this needed protein.

Many experts in nutrition will insist that the best way to get your nutrients is through real food. Well, this particular brand includes dense ratios of fresh meats, organs, cartilage, whole fish and fresh whole eggs as a  natural source for your dog needs.

Besides chicken and turkey, Orijen Senior includes two types of fish in the first five ingredients:  yellowtail flounder and whole Atlantic mackerel. For a dog that loves fish, they will certainly love this senior dog fare!

Key Features:

  • Infusions of gently freeze-dried liver enhance the flavor
  • All grain-free recipes
  • Formulated to mimic the natural biological diet of your canine
  • Carbohydrates are limited to 20% from low-glycemic carbohydrates
  • Foods are produced from fresh, regional ingredients
  • No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
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Best OVERALL Dog Food for Seniors Dogs

BLUE Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe for Senior DogsBlue Buffalo Wild Rocky Mountain Senior Dog Food

Dogs love the taste of BLUE Wilderness’s line of senior dog food, especially dogs that don’t like chicken. Instead of chicken, this brand is made from deboned beef, lamb, and venison.

It’s made of high-quality protein and carbohydrates to support healthy muscle maintenance and maintain energy. This recipe also contains bits with a precise blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants formulated by vets and animal nutritionists to support the immune system.

Probably one of the biggest differences with senior foods is the addition of glucosamine to help support joint and hip function.

Key Features:

  • Contains natural ingredients including antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Contains flaxseeds to promote a healthy coat
  • No chicken (or poultry) by-product meal
  • No corn, wheat or soy
  • Available as wet food
  • Tasty, protein-rich, Deboned Beef, Lamb, and Venison
  • None of the grains that contain gluten
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Final Thoughts

Our list of favorite senior dog food brands is certainly not exhaustive, and other products on the market may better match the particular health needs of your dog.

No matter what brand you choose though, consult with your veterinarian to make sure your aging pup gets the right mix of nutrients.

All dogs deserve to experience a high quality of life long into their golden years!


Sources:

Image Two dogs running: Photo by Matt Jones on Unsplash

Images of dogs: Deposit Photos

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-nutrition-tips

https://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_dg_6-signs-its-time-to-change-your-dogs-food

http://www.akc.org/content/health/articles/how-to-feed-the-senior-dog/