As your dog ages, it’s important to properly take care of them during all stages of life. One way to do that is by switching your dog to a different dog food. We’ve scoured hundreds of products and thousands of verified reviews to find the seven best food options for your senior dog.
1. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Senior Dog Food
Nutro Essentials is a longtime favorite brand of many dog owners, with an all-natural mix of ingredients perfect for supporting the overall health and cognitive activity of older dogs. While more expensive than other brands, Nutro makes up for this in terms of quality: all ingredients are non-GMO, and include additional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Farm raised chicken is the top ingredient
- Comes in either chicken or lamb
- Formula designed to support senior dog muscles and cognitive health, including omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- On the higher end of price
- Many reviewers have been feeding this to their dogs for years, with some mentioning that the quality of their pet’s coat improved after switching to Nutro
2. Hill’s Science Adult 7+ Small Bites Dog Food
Perfect for owners of senior toy or small breed dogs, Hill’s Science Adult Small Bites is a blend of high-quality ingredients packed into small, easy to bite kibble. In fact, Hill’s has an-house team of 220 vets, food scientists, and PhDs that specifically formulate nutritional content to match the exact needs of your pet.
- Made specifically for senior toy or small breed dogs
- Easy to eat, small kibble
- Contains Omega 6 Fatty Acids, Vitamins E, A, B12, C, D3, as well as dozens of other minerals and antioxidants
- Veterinarian recommended
- Made in the USA
3. Eukanuba Senior Maintenance Dog Food
Eukanuba Senior Maintenance is a great choice for owners of medium breed dogs over the age of 7. This high protein, high vitamin, mix contains higher levels of glucosamine for joint health, as well as DentaDefense, a Eukanuba ingredient that promotes dental health.
- Made specifically for medium breed senior dogs over 7 years old and between 24 and 54 pounds
- Chicken is the #1 ingredient
- Includes glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for joint and muscle health
- DHA, antioxidants, and minerals to support crisp brain functioning
- Eukanuba DentaDefense reduces tartar buildup on teeth
4. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
The Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula is an all-natural food made specifically to support the health and activity of senior dogs. The food has two parts: a healthy kibble containing high end ingredients such as real chicken, brown rice, flaxseed, blueberries, and sweet potatoes, and LifeSource Bits, a blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that specifically support senior muscle and joint health. All in all a great choice for those looking for a higher end, all-natural option for their dog.
- Real deboned chicken is the first ingredient
- Contains healthy brown rice, flaxseed, blueberries, peas, carrots, cranberries, and sweet potatoes
- 100% natural and made without byproducts, wheat, soy, or artificial ingredients.
- Comes with LifeSource Bits; a proprietary blend of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals to help keep your senior dog healthy and active
- Formula driven by vets and animal nutritionists
- On the higher end of price for senior dog foods
5. IAMS Proactive Health Mature Dog Dry Food
IAMS Proactive Health is a solid bang for your buck when looking for senior dog food. While more affordable than other options, the easy to digest kibble contains ingredients such as chicken, dried beets, carrots, flaxseed, peas, and whole grain corn.
- Made with farm-raised chicken
- No wheat, soy, or artificial preservatives
- Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune health
- Promotes healthy digestion with fiber and prebiotics
- Made with no artificial flavor or preservatives and zero fillers
- Affordable option compared with other brands
- Very high protein content
6. Hill’s Science Wet Dog Food, Chicken & Barley for Adult 7+ Dogs
A complete nutritional wet dog food, the Hill’s Science Chicken & Barley is an all natural, high protein option for your senior dog 7 or older. While it’s a great meal on its own, Hill’s Science is also a perfect topper for any of the dry kibble options on our list.
- Contains Vitamin E, Niacin, D Calcium Panotothenate, Vitamin B12, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Riboflavin, and more.
- Mineral mixture for optimal senior health
- Can be paired with dry dog food for picky eaters
- Comes in a pack of 12 cans
- All natural
7. AvoDerm Natural Senior Dog Food – Chicken & Brown Rice
AvoDerm gets its name from the California avocados added to its dry food, which helps to promote healthy skin, coat, and overall immune system health for your dog. This senior specific formula is packed with dozens of natural ingredients including chicken, brown rice, flax seed (omega 3s), alfalfa, carrots, pineapple, and more.
- All natural with no artificial flavorings or colors
- Wheat free, corn free, soy free
- Highly rated, with 77% of customers reviewing it a perfect five stars at the time of writing
Pet Food for Senior Dogs Buying Guide
In this article, we’ll explain the best ways to pick a dog food, what specific qualities to look for, and how to know it’s a safe choice. It can be overwhelming to decide, but our guide helps you make an educated decision for your pet!
Do Senior Dogs Need Special Food?
Senior dogs may or may not need special food, so it’s important to have the discussion with your vet as your dog ages. This ensures that together you can make the best decision for your dog. This decision may differ based on your dog’s breed, health, weight, appetite, and other factors. More often than not, people are opting to switch to a different senior dog food to take care of their dog throughout their whole life.
What Age is a Dog Considered a Senior?
Before we get into the different types of food, we should understand at what age is your dog classified as a senior. This number can differ depending on breeds: larger sized dogs are typically considered senior younger in their life, while smaller dogs are considered seniors later in their life. However, anywhere from 5-10 years old can be considered senior in dog breeds. We typically classify a dog as a senior when they start to show signs of aging.
Some signs of aging might be changes in:
- Sleeping Patterns
- Activity Levels
- Bathroom Behavior
- Cognitive Function
- Lumps and Bumps
- Dental Issues
By knowing some of the common aging signs, you can better prepare your dog for an easier transition into his or her senior years. Vets typically recommend annual checkups as your dog begins to become a senior. This is the best way to address and keep an eye on any health issues.
What Senior Dog Food Should I Choose?
This isn’t an easy, quick question to answer as there are a lot of factors that go into picking the right food. Once you and your vet decide that your dog is becoming a senior, that’s the best time to start having the conversation about switching dog foods. Ideally, your vet will determine if your dog needs special food. They will then recommend several types of food for senior dogs. It is best to follow their advice since they are trained experts, but if they give you a few options it may be up to you to decide on a final food.
Types of Dog Food
When it comes to dog food, there’s many different choices that you can choose from. Some of the most common are:
Dry food, or kibble, is the most common type. It comes in various bag sizes and can easily be found at pet stores.
Wet Food/Canned Food
Wet and canned food is another common option. This is typically recommended for dogs with dental issues as it can be easier for them to chew.
Raw, Dehydrated, & Freeze Dried
Many people are now choosing to feed their dog either raw food or dehydrated and freeze-dried food. It’s important to keep track of the nutrients your dog is getting. Some companies offer dehydrated raw food so you don’t have to deal with the mess.
Food toppers are bits of food that can be sprinkled on a bowl of dog food. This is a good option for picky dogs. It can also be another way for dogs to get nutrients that they might be missing from their main food.
Homemade Dog Food
Some people are now opting to make their own dog food at home. There are even meal delivery services for pets that will deliver homemade dog food weekly and bi-weekly.
It’s important to understand the main types of dog food and all of your options before deciding on one. Some breeds do better on specific types, so it’s important to discuss these options with your vet. One specific type isn’t better than the other — it’s more about what works best for your pet and your family.
Where to Buy – Online vs In-Store
Another factor that may help you decide on is where you want to buy your dog food. Is it easier for you to buy online? If so, perhaps you should look at which options are available on Amazon above. And if you’re a Prime member you can receive free 1-2 day shipping. They also have an auto-renewal program for some items. If you’d rather buy in store, we’d recommend visiting a few local pet stores in your area to see what food options they have. We mention some of the pros and cons of shopping online and in person below.
Is it Safe to Buy Dog Food Online?
Yes! Personally, we recommend ordering dog food online versus in person. There are often more options online, so it is a great way to help narrow down dog food. Now, more and more websites are offering free shipping so you might not even have to pay shipping. You don’t have to leave your house and your dog food is delivered right to your door, which is a perk because the bags can be heavy.
Good vs Bad Ingredients
It can be hard to decipher all of the ingredients in our dog food, but there are certain ingredients you should stay away from. As manufactures try to cut costs, they substitute healthy ingredients for toxic ones. It’s up to us to keep our pets safe and understand what exactly is on the labels. Patrick Mahaney, a Wellness Vet, gives a comprehensive list on what ingredients to avoid and which ingredients to look for.
Ingredients to Avoid:
- Chemicals and Preservatives
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), Propylene Glycol (PG), and Ethoxyquin
- Food Dyes
- Blue 2, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, and 4-methylimidazole (4-MIE) that’s often found in colors
- Rendered Fat
- Corn and Wheat Gluten
The Good Ingredients:
- Natural Preservatives
- Vitamin C, Vitamin E
- Made in the U.S.A.
- Human-Grade Ingredients
More and more people are choosing to feed their dog raw or homemade food to avoid these toxic ingredients. This isn’t always necessary because it is possible to find dog food with safe ingredients.
Proper Nutrition for Senior Dogs
When it comes to nutrition in dogs, there are 6 basic nutrients that they need: water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. The percentage of each nutrient will vary based on breed and age, so you should discuss percentages of each with your vet. However, here are some basic overviews of nutrition guidelines in senior dog food.
American Kennel Club recommends an increased protein-to-calorie ratio with at least 25% of calories coming from protein. As your dog ages, they might lose some muscle mass. More protein in their diet can help with this. As dog’s age, their energy levels slow down. If this is the case for your pup, consider a lower-calorie dog food. Obesity is very common in dogs, especially seniors, so you want to keep their weight in check so they can live longer. If your dog is the opposite and loses weight, you might want to consider increasing the fat and calorie content of their food. If your dog has kidney issues, heart issues, or urinates frequently, you will want to keep them on a low-sodium diet and increase their water intake. This will ensure that they don’t become dehydrated.
Common Senior Dog Ailments & Foods to Help
As your dog gets older, he or she might develop certain health problems. These health problems will differ based on age, breed, and overall health. Here are a few of the most common aging issues along with food supplements or tips that can help.
Senior dogs may develop dental or gum issues. It’s important to frequently brush their teeth and get them properly cleaned if needed to avoid these issues escalating. If your pup does develop dental issues, wet or soft dog food is a great option because it doesn’t hurt them to chew.
Joint Pain or Arthritis
Dr. Heather Frankfurt, a Texas-vet, recommends products with, “MSM, chondroitin, and glucosamine—when combined, these ingredients promote healthy joints.” Raising your dog’s food and water bowl may also help with joint pain because it means your dog does not have to bend over to eat.
General Health & Aging
One of the best supplements to keeping your dog healthy is antioxidants. Some can carry anti-aging properties as well. As easy way to add antioxidants is through some dog-safe fruits, vegetables, berries, and turmeric or through dog foods that offer them in the kibble.
Obesity can cause several other health issues in dogs. To ensure that your dog isn’t overweight, make sure they’re still getting enough physical activity and exactly the right amount of their dog food.
As your pup gets older, he or she may get more confused or have cognitive function issues. Omega-3 fatty acids can help with brain and heart health. Dr. Judy Morgan, a vet with a specialty in food therapy, recommends sardines or fish oil supplements.
Making the Switch
When you’ve decided on the right dog food, here’s the best way to switch. You don’t want to just change up your dog’s food completely. Instead, you’ll want to gradually mix the two foods together. When you have about a week’s worth of old dog food left in your bag, gradually add a bit of the new food to the old food. Here’s a good template:
Day 1: 90% old food, 10% new food
Day 2: 70% old food, 30% new food
Day 3: 50% old food, 50% new food
Day 4: 30% old food, 70% new food
Day 5: 10% old food, 90% new food
Day 6: 100% new food
Don’t feel like you need to measure all of your dog’s food by ounce to make sure the percentage is correct, just add a bit more of the new food every day. Monitor your dog closely and if you observe any changes, call your vet. Switching too fast can upset your dog’s stomach and cause them to have digestive issues.
If you’re switching dog foods because of a medical issue like heart disease or kidney failure, your vet may want you to switch the food over cold turkey. However, your vet will let you know if that’s the case. If you’re switching because of their age or your personal preference, doing the gradual method works just fine.
If your dog is a picky eater, it can be even more difficult to want to switch dog foods. Dogs can be picky eaters for many reasons. First, we recommend seeing a vet to make sure their eating habits are not the cause of an underlying issue. Once you’ve ruled out any health issues, you can start addressing their eating habits. The most common reason dogs are picky is because they’ve been fed human food or treats and they’re holding out for something better.
Here are some things you can do to address your picky eater:
- Don’t feed them human food or table scraps
- Limit the amount of time their food is out to 30 minutes
- Avoid un-necessary treats
- Consider adding a food topper to make their food a bit more interesting
If all else fails and they don’t want to eat, consider feeding them a food with a high protein count so they’ll get enough nutrients, even if they only eat a small amount.
If you end up buying a bag of dog food and your dog decides they don’t like it, and you can’t return it, consider donating it to your local pet shelter. Most shelters are always in need of food and it might make you feel good to donate.
As you can see, there are so many options for senior dog food. It can be overwhelming, but it can be easily managed by following the steps listed above. It’s important to take care of your dog throughout his or her whole life, including senior years! Picking a great food will ensure that they’re well fed, taken care of, and happy as they age.