Senior Dog Food Guide

Diet plays a very important role in maintaining health, particularly for senior dogs. With age unfortunately comes a greater risk of health conditions, but senior dog food is specially formulated to combat age-related decline. In this blog, we’ll look at how senior dog food differs from other diets – in particular how nutrient levels vary – as well as when you should consider switching to senior dog food, and how it could benefit your pup.

What is Senior Dog Food?

As dogs enter the later stages of their life, their bodies slow down and change. This means that their nutritional needs are different. Senior dog food aims to provide the right levels of nutrients and energy for older dogs, to ensure optimal health. Many senior dog foods also provide support for specific age-related health concerns, such as joint health, kidney care and sensitive digestion.

Click on the images below for some examples of the senior dog food available:

What Age Should You Switch to Senior Dog Food?

It’s a good idea to review your dog’s diet at around the age of 7. Not all senior dogs have the same nutritional needs, and the size, breed and health of your dog should all be taken into consideration when determining the best diet for them. Large and giant breeds tend to start feeling the effects of ageing a bit earlier, around the age of 5 or 6, while small dogs can be considered senior a few years later, when they’re around 9.

Talk to your vet during a routine check-up to see if it’s the right time to move your pet onto senior dog food.

Whenever you make a change to your dog’s diet, it’s important to do so gradually. Abrupt changes to diet can cause digestive upset. Start by adding a little bit of the new food in with your dog’s current diet, and over a period of about a week, slowly increase the ratio of new to old food.

What is the Healthiest Dog Food for Senior Dogs?

There is a wide range of senior dog food varieties available, and none are exactly the same. In fact, they can vary a lot in terms of the nutrients they contain. No two dogs are exactly alike either, and what suits one animal may not be the best choice for another.

The ‘nutrient profile’ of a dog food refers to the unique combination of nutrients it contains. Different nutrient profiles will benefit different dogs. Just as the nutrient profile for puppy food will be very different from that of senior dog food, a nutrient profile formulated specifically for dogs with kidney disease will also be different to that of a healthy senior dog.

To find out which is the most appropriate food for your senior dog, speak to your vet for a physical and metabolic evaluation. They will then be able to recommend the best senior dog food for your pet that aligns with their individual nutritional needs.

In fact, many health concerns can be detected early on, so your vet may be able to recommend a diet that addresses any potential issues now, to reduce their impact later in life.

Explore the full range of senior dog food options available at Animed here.

What is the Difference Between Senior Dog Food and Regular?

As we’ve discussed, the nutrient profiles of different dog foods vary. The main ways that senior dog foods differ from adult and puppy diets include having a reduced number of calories, and avoiding nutrient excesses. We’ll explore these differences below.

Calorie Intake

With a slower metabolism and lower daily energy requirements, senior dogs are at greater risk of becoming overweight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of diseases like cancer, kidney disease, arthritis, and immune-mediated disease. Therefore, senior dogs generally need a lower-calorie diet.

Make sure you monitor your dog’s weight regularly to ensure that they are getting the right amount of food. Follow the portions recommended on your senior dog food packaging as a starting point, but be aware that you may need to adjust this. Speak to your vet about your senior dog’s ideal weight and portion sizes, and for advice on monitoring their body condition, check out our blog ‘Is My Cat or Dog Overweight?’

It’s also worth noting that when dogs become very old, they often struggle to keep weight on. In their latest stage of life, some dogs may need more calories in the form of easily digestible protein to help them maintain a healthy body condition.

Fibre

Fibre can also assist with maintaining a healthy body weight for senior dogs. It has a low digestibility, and when combined with plenty of protein, it can contribute to satiety so that a dog feels full for longer.

Some senior dogs have trouble with constipation. A high fibre diet can also help support their gastrointestinal health in this respect.

Protein

Dogs of all ages require plenty of protein to stay healthy. Protein helps dogs to maintain body weight and muscle strength.

The exact amount of protein that should be fed to senior dogs is debated, though it’s generally agreed that the level of protein should be just as much, if not more, than younger dogs. It’s also clear that high-quality protein sources are particularly important for senior dogs. Their ability to digest and absorb protein declines with age, so having plenty of high-quality protein in the diet is important to make sure they get the benefits of it.

Note that for dogs with kidney problems however, a protein-restricted diet is required.

Other Nutrients

As well as high-quality protein, senior dogs can benefit from optimal levels of vitamins, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and glucosamine in their diet.

Combined with plenty of mental stimulation, antioxidants can improve memory and cognitive function in senior dogs. Meanwhile, vitamin E is often added to senior dog food to boost the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids, often derived from fish oil or shellfish, can help to maintain joint health, which many senior dogs struggle with. Glucosamine can also help with joint health and mobility, and is often added into senior dog food too.

However, it’s also important that senior dogs don’t have too much of certain nutrients, as their bodies are less efficient at processing excess nutrients as waste. The levels of nutrients like phosphorus and sodium for example should be controlled, as too much can build up in the bloodstream and contribute to kidney disease.

Veterinary and Prescription Diets for Senior Dogs

Senior dogs are more likely to develop health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease and heart disease. If your dog is diagnosed with a health problem, your vet might recommend a specialist diet for extra support. There are veterinary and prescription diets available to support a range of bodily functions and conditions, including:

Only give your dog a specialist diet upon recommendation from a vet. Feeding one of these diets without the go-ahead from a vet could lead to nutritional imbalances and potentially harm your dog.

As well as special diets, supplements for senior dogs can also help with certain conditions. For example, joint pain and arthritis are common among older dogs, and can be supported through supplements like YuMOVE. These tasty tablets are specifically formulated for senior dogs and are packed with glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids to maintain healthy cartilage and joints.

Tips for Feeding Senior Dogs

The way you feed your senior dog may need to change from how you fed them when they were younger. Here are some top tips to ensure your senior dog continues to enjoy their food.

1.Lots of dogs tend to follow a routine of eating twice a day at set meal times. Senior dogs will still benefit from a set routine around food, but they may prefer to have smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.

2. Dogs tend to lose their sense of smell and taste as they get older, which can affect their enjoyment of their food. Serving your senior dog’s food at room temperature will make it taste and smell better – if you use the microwave to do this, make sure it’s never hot as this could burn them. If you feed dry food, make sure it’s kept airtight to seal in the freshness and aroma, and check out our blog on ‘How to Make Dry Food More Appealing’ for more tasty ideas.

3. Make sure your senior dog has somewhere quiet and calm to eat their meals where they won’t be interrupted. In multi-dog households, you could try feeding them separately.

4. If your dog struggles with their mobility, placing their food on a slightly raised platform can sometimes make it easier for senior dogs to eat.

5. Make sure your dog always has access to clean, fresh water. Staying hydrated is incredibly important and senior dogs are more prone to dehydration so encourage them to drink. You could also consider wet food as a way to increase their water intake.

Wrapping Up

Getting the right nutrition is very important at every stage of life, especially as your dog enters their senior years. Whether your dog is currently healthy, has sensitivities, or suffers from medical conditions, there are plenty of senior diets to suit every need. Speak to your vet for a recommendation on which senior dog food will most benefit your dog, and click here for more information on caring for your senior pet.

Sign up for Animed emails