The Best Dog Foods To Feed Your Senior Pup

Keep him healthy and happy with these senior dog foods 💪

royal canin and hills senior dog food
Chewy

As your dog gets older, you might think it’s OK to feed him the same adult dog food that you’ve always fed him.

But when your pup reaches a certain age, you should actually feed him senior dog food since it’s better suited for an older dog’s nutritional requirements.

The Dodo spoke to some veterinarians to find out how senior and adult dog foods are different and when to switch your pup to senior food.

Why do senior dogs need different food?

Dogs need different amounts of nutrients at different life stages. So when your dog’s a puppy, he’ll need puppy food to help him grow, and when he starts getting older, he’ll need senior dog food.

“Senior dogs have a different nutritional requirement than younger dogs,” Dr. Rebeca Oliveira, a veterinarian at NHV Natural Pet, told The Dodo. “With senior dogs, their energy levels are lower, and more often than not, health issues start to appear. So it is only fair that we adjust their food to meet their nutritional requirements.”

What makes senior dog food different?

Senior dog food has a bunch of differences from adult dog food.

“In general, senior dog foods have less protein to facilitate the kidneys, less fat and less calories because their metabolism is slower,” Dr. Oliveira said.

Diets that are too high in protein can damage the kidneys because they have to work extra hard to remove the excess protein from the blood.

The amount of protein that your senior dog food should contain depends on your individual dog, though. Some senior dog foods contain more protein than adult dog foods instead of less because older dogs can experience muscle loss as they age. If you’re not sure how much protein is appropriate for your pup, ask your vet what the right amount is.

As dogs get older, their metabolism slows down, which can lead to obesity. Senior dogs are also usually less active because of other health problems, such as arthritis, and they can easily gain weight if their diets aren’t adjusted to include less calories.

“Senior dogs tend to not be as active and therefore require less calories which could cause unwanted weight gain [and] can put stress on their joints,” Dr. Alex Crow, a veterinarian with Happiest Dog, told The Dodo.

When to switch your dog to senior dog food

The age at which you should switch your pup to senior dog food will depend on a few factors, including his size, health and how active he is.

Some older dogs won’t actually need to eat senior dog food if they’re still active and don’t have any health problems.

“This is only recommended when you start to see a decline in your dog’s activity and if they have other conditions that require specialized food,” Dr. Crow said.

Size is also a factor that affects the age at which your pup’s considered a senior since small dogs tend to age more slowly than big dogs.

“Usually for smaller dogs, the veterinarian would suggest switching the food [at] around 8 to 9 years old, whereas for larger dogs, [you should switch at] around 7 years old,” Dr. Oliveira said.

When you should switch your dog to senior food also depends on his overall health. Overweight dogs might need to be transitioned to a senior diet earlier than dogs who are in shape.

“If they are considered a senior and overweight, you should also change over to senior dog food, as this can put pressure on their joints and make any underlying conditions worse,” Dr. Crow said.

If your dog has other underlying conditions, such as kidney disease, joint problems or heart disease, you’ll need to switch him to senior dog food (and likely to a special diet), too, Dr. Oliveira said.

If you’re not sure if your dog’s ready for a senior diet yet, talk to your vet to get their advice.

What to look for in senior dog food

One thing to look out for in senior dog food (and food for other life stages, like puppy food) is that the nutritional requirements meet the standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for adult dogs (aka adult maintenance).

“You must ensure that the dog food is AAFCO-approved,” Dr. Keston Smith, a medical director at Bond Vet, told The Dodo. “You can look at the nutritional adequacy statement on the label of any dog food you are purchasing, and if the phrase ‘complete and balanced’ appears, then the food has met the AAFCO's nutritional profile regulations.”

Make sure the food is made with real whole-food ingredients, such as lamb, beef and corn. The first ingredient in the food should ideally be a natural ingredient, like chicken.

Dr. Smith also recommends choosing food that’s not grain-free. “Grain-free diets that are not prescription may be associated with heart disease if given over long periods of time,” Dr. Smith said.

According to Dr. Crow, another good ingredient for a senior dog food to have is omega-3 fatty acids. “This is really helpful for dogs’ joints as they age, especially if they have arthritis,” Dr. Crow said.

Best senior dog foods

Here are some vet-recommended senior dog foods that meet the AAFCO nutrition recommendations for adult dogs.

Senior dog food for arthritis: Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets JM Joint Mobility Dry Dog Food

The omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, antioxidants and vitamin E in this food help support your dog’s joints. It also contains a high protein-to-calorie ratio to promote lean muscle mass as your pup ages. 

 

  • Recommended for dogs of any age with joint problems
  • Food type: Veterinarian prescription required
  • First three ingredients: Brewers rice, trout, salmon meal
  • Add-ons we love: Glucosamine to support cartilage 
Senior dog food for medium breeds: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Mature Consult Medium Breed Dry Senior Dog Food

This prescription senior dog food is made for dogs who are between 23 and 55 pounds. It contains amino acids to support your dog’s muscles and nutrients for healthy skin and coat.

 

  • Recommended for dogs 7 years or older
  • Food type: Veterinarian prescription required
  • First four ingredients: Corn, corn gluten meal, wheat, chicken by-product meal
  • Add-ons we love: Antioxidant complex, including lycopene and beta-carotene
Senior dog food for large breeds: Purina Pro Plan Senior 7+ Brain Support

Your large senior dog will love this food that’s made with real chicken and rice. It includes EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid, and glucosamine to support your dog’s joints and live probiotics for  healthy immune and digestive systems. Plus, it contains enhanced botanical oils to promote brain function as he ages. 

 

  • Recommended for dogs 7 years or older
  • Food type: Over-the-counter dry food
  • First three ingredients: Chicken, rice, poultry by-product meal (source of glucosamine)
  • Add-ons we love: Enhanced botanical oils for a sharp mind
Senior dog food for small breeds: Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Small Paws Chicken Meal, Barley & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food

This dog food is formulated for dogs aged 7 and up and who weigh up to 25 pounds. The antioxidants and vitamins C and E support your dog’s immune system, and omega-6 fatty acids promote skin and coat health. It’s made from natural, high-quality ingredients that your small senior pup will love.

 

  • Recommended for dogs 7 years or older
  • Food type: Over-the-counter dry food
  • First three ingredients: Chicken meal, cracked pearled barley, brown rice
  • Add-ons we love: Antioxidants and vitamins C and E for a healthy immune system
Senior dog food for sensitive stomachs: Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach for Adults 7+

This senior dog food is made with salmon and rice and includes probiotics and prebiotics to support your dog’s digestive and immune systems. Plus, omega-6 fatty acids will keep your pup’s coat and skin healthy. It also includes glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids for joint health. 

 

  • Recommended for dogs 7 years or older
  • Food type: Over-the-counter dry food
  • First three ingredients: Salmon, rice, barley
  • Add-ons we love: Sunflower oil for healthy skin and coat
Wet senior dog food: Purina Pro Plan Senior Beef & Rice Entree Canned Dog Food

This senior wet dog food is made for adult dogs aged 7 and older. It contains real beef and tons of protein to keep your pup’s muscles strong, and it has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

 

  • Recommended for dogs 7 years or older
  • Food type: Over-the-counter wet food
  • First three ingredients: Water, beef, poultry
  • Add-ons we love: 23 essential vitamins and minerals

Finding a good senior dog food for your pup will ensure he stays just as healthy and active in his senior years. If you have any questions about the best food to feed your pup, talk to your veterinarian.

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