The 5 Best Healthy Senior Dog Foods
As your dog gets older, it’ll start to slow down, and it might put on a little weight. When this happens, you may start thinking about making a change to its diet.
While your senior dog’s basic nutritional needs won’t change, it may not need as many calories and certain nutrients will become more important. But what kind of diet is best for a senior dog, and how do you choose the best dog food for seniors?
Keep reading to learn more about your senior dog’s changing dietary needs and to receive some tips for picking the best dog food to meet those needs. You’ll also receive our top 5 picks for the best dog food for senior dogs.
Quick Look at Our Top Picks:
Special Dietary Needs of Senior Dogs
Before getting into the details about the special dietary needs of senior dogs, you first need to understand the point at which your dog becomes a senior.
The fact of the matter is that dogs of different sizes have different lifespans. Toy and small breeds like Pomeranians and Pugs have the longest lifespans – generally 12 to 15 years. Medium-sized breeds like Bulldogs and Australian Shepherds also tend to live fairly long, depending on the breed. For larger breeds like the Golden Retriever and German Shepherd, lifespans between 10 and 12 years are more common and giant breeds like Great Danes may not live to see their 10th birthday.
Generally speaking, small and toy breeds reach “senior” status around 10 to 12 years while most other breeds become seniors when they turn 7 or 8. Giant breeds may be considered senior citizens as early as 5 or 6 years when their expected lifespan is less than 10 years.
Once your dog reaches senior status, its nutritional needs don’t suddenly change. Your dog still needs a high-quality diet rich in animal proteins, healthy fats, and digestible carbohydrates with modest fiber content and plenty of essential vitamins and minerals.
Here are some of the things to look for in a senior dog food:
- Calorie Content. Your dog’s metabolism will slow down as it ages which means that it’ll require fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight and too many excess calories could lead to obesity.
- Digestibility. As your dog’s metabolism slows down, its digestion may also become more sensitive which means that additional fiber and probiotics may be helpful.
- Joint Support. Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help keep your aging dog’s joints healthy to prevent osteoarthritis and other joint diseases.
- Antioxidants. Found primarily in fresh fruits and vegetables, antioxidants may help slow the effects of aging for your senior dog.
Keeping all of these things in mind, you’re now ready to learn how to choose the best dog food for seniors. Here’s what you need to know:
How to Choose the Best Dog Food for Seniors
When shopping for senior dog food, you need to make your dog’s basic nutritional needs a priority. All adult dogs require a minimum of 18% crude protein in their diet with at least 8% crude fat. Protein should come from animal sources like meat, poultry, and fish with healthy fats from animal sources as well – chicken fat and salmon oil are two excellent examples.
In terms of carbohydrates, senior dogs do not have any specific requirements other than they come from digestible sources. Many dogs develop food allergies and sensitivities as they age, so it becomes even more important to choose highly digestible carbohydrates which, for many senior dogs, means grain-free options like sweet potatoes, legumes, and other vegetables.
For fiber content, about 5% is best although some senior dogs will benefit from additional fiber in their diet. You should also make sure that your senior dog’s diet contains at least 10% moisture.
When it comes to beneficial supplements in a senior dog food, fresh fruits and vegetables are always a bonus. Not only are they natural sources for key vitamins and minerals, but fresh fruits and vegetables are also rich in antioxidants which help slow the effects of aging.
A high-quality senior dog food will still contain synthetic supplements for nutritional balance, so keep that in mind as well and know that chelated minerals are the best synthetic supplements to look for.
These are simply minerals that have been chemically bonded to protein molecules which makes them easier for your senior dog’s body to absorb and utilize. Probiotics may help your senior dog maintain healthy digestion, and joint-supporting supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin are welcome additions to any senior dog food as well.
Now that you’ve become familiar with the specific dietary needs of senior dogs, you’re ready to start shopping. Keep reading to see our top 5 recommendations for the best dog food for seniors:
The Top 5 Best Dog Foods for Seniors
Even though your senior dog’s metabolism will start to slow down as it ages, your dog still needs plenty of protein to maintain lean muscle mass with healthy fats for energy. Choosing a size-specific recipe will help ensure that your dog gets the right balance of these nutrients, though many dogs do well on regular senior dog food recipes.
Here are our top 5 picks for the best dog food for seniors that you should consider:
How Much Should You Feed Senior Dogs?
How often you feed your senior dog depends on several factors. First and foremost, the number of meals your dog gets per day is determined by its energy needs and its size. Small and toy breeds generally do best with three smaller meals per day while larger dogs may be fine with two.
As your dog ages, however, you may notice that it eats less at a time, so it might be a good idea to make each meal a little smaller and add an extra one partway through the day.
In terms of how much to feed your senior dog, again, that varies. Smaller dogs will still need more calories per pound of body weight than larger dogs to maintain their metabolisms, but you should account for some slow-down in that department. Switching your dog to a senior dog food will help reduce the calories and you should follow the feeding recommendations on the package.
What About Food Allergies and Sensitivities?
All dogs are at-risk for food allergies and sensitivities, but the fact of the matter is that the risk seems to increase with age. The more a dog eats a certain ingredient, the more potential there is for it to develop an allergy. By the time your dog is ten years old, these allergies are likely to become apparent with digestive or skin-related symptoms. Senior dogs are also at risk for developing allergies to fleas and various environmental allergens like dust and pollen.
In addition to food allergies, many senior dogs develop digestive problems. For some, it is simply a matter of occasional digestive upset while, for others it may be chronic diarrhea or frequent vomiting. Sometimes feeding your senior dog several smaller meals a day can help and switching your dog to a limited ingredient diet or a hypoallergenic formula might make it easier to digest. You should also make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water and consider giving it fiber supplements like canned pumpkin once in a while to help its digestion along.
Best Dog Food for Seniors: Summed Up
While it might not be so quick to chase the ball, and it might take a little longer to get out of bed in the morning, your senior dog is still your best friend and most loyal companion. To make sure you get to enjoy its company for as long as possible, choose a high-quality senior dog food like the top 5 picks we’ve reviewed above.