As your dog ages, it’s important to support their health and wellness as they enter their later stages of life. One way to do that is by switching them to food formulated specifically for seniors, which can provide a tailored balance of vitamins, minerals, and supplements.
But with all of the options, it can be difficult to decide which food is best for your dog. To help, we sifted through hundreds of products, and thousands of verified reviews, to find the 8 best senior dog foods available now. Here’s our list:
Our Picks for the Best Senior Dog Food
1. CANIDAE Pure Senior Recipe Dog Food
The CANIDAE Pure Senior Recipe is a grain free, limited ingredient diet made for senior dogs. This high protein recipe is made from just 9 total ingredients including chicken, turkey, sweet potatoes, and garbanzo beans, and includes no artificial flavors or preservatives.
- Grain free dry food for senior dogs
- Made from only 9 total ingredients
- Contains essential vitamins and minerals to support an aging dog’s body
- Includes Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, as well as probiotics for digestion
- High 28% protein content by volume
- No wheat, corn, soy, or anything artificial
- Made in the USA from American sourced ingredients
2. Nulo Senior Dry Dog Food with Glucosamine
Does your aging dog have joint issues? Nulo Freestyle Senior Dog Food is your best bet. It’s a grain free, high-quality senior dog food made with glucosamine and chondroitin for optimal joint support. The recipe also includes probiotics for digestion, as well as L-Carnitine to support a slowing metabolism.
- Grain-free senior dog food made with trout, turkey, salmon, and sweet potato
- High 30% protein content
- Contains probiotics for enhanced digestion
- Glucosamine and chondroitin for joint and hip health
- L-Carnitine to help an aging metabolism
- Quality comes at a price; more expensive than other senior dog options
3. Wellness Complete Senior Canned Dog Food
Wellness Complete Senior Formula is our top choice for canned senior dog food. The food is available in lamb, chicken, duck, and venison varieties, and is nutritionist formulated to support an aging dog’s health. Its natural recipe also contains no corn, wheat, soy, or animal byproducts.
- Canned senior dog food made with natural ingredients
- Available in eight different recipes with varying proteins
- Formulated by nutritionists and veterinarians for older dog health
- High 32% protein on a dry food basis
- Contains grains and vegetables
- Made in North America
4. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Senior
Nutro Wholesome Essentials contains a natural mix of ingredients that supports the overall health and cognitive activity of senior dogs. While more expensive than other brands, Nutro makes up in terms of quality: all ingredients are non-GMO, and the recipe include essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- All natural dry dog food with chicken as the first ingredient
- Formula designed to support senior dog muscles and cognitive health
- Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- No corn, wheat, soy, or poultry byproducts, Non-GMO
- Contains grains
- Minimum 24% protein by volume
- Pricer than other senior dog foods
5. Eukanuba Senior Maintenance Dog Food
Eukanuba Senior Maintenance is a great choice for senior dogs over the age of 7. This high protein, high vitamin mix contains glucosamine for joint health, and DentaDefense, a Eukanuba ingredient that supports dental health.
- Dry dog food for medium breed seniors over 7 years old and between 24-54 pounds
- Chicken is the first ingredient
- Also available for large breeds, and small breeds
- Includes glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health
- DHA, antioxidants, and minerals to support brain functioning
- High 27% protein by volume
- Eukanuba “DentaDefense” reduces tartar buildup on teeth
6. 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 made of chicken, brown rice, flaxseed, blueberries, and sweet potatoes, and LifeSource Bits, a blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that supports senior muscle and joint health.
- Real deboned chicken is the first ingredient
- Contains 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 blend of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals
- Formula driven by vets and animal nutritionists
- Minimum 24% protein by volume
- Pricier than other senior dog food options
7. Hill’s Science Adult 7+ Small Bites Dog Food
Perfect for owners of older small breed dogs, Hill’s Science Adult Small Bites is a blend of high-quality ingredients packed into small, easy to eat kibble. 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.
- Dry dog food formulated for senior toy or small breed dogs aged 7 or older
- Easy to eat, small sized kibble
- Includes Omega 6 Fatty Acids, Vitamins E, A, B12, C, D3, as well as dozens of other minerals and antioxidants
- Contains grains
- No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
- Made in the USA
- Note: contains a lower 16.5% protein
8. IAMS Proactive Health Mature Dog Dry Food
IAMS Proactive Health is a solid bang for your buck option. While affordable, this easy to digest kibble contains quality ingredients such as chicken, dried beets, carrots, flaxseed, and peas. It’s also made without wheat, soy, or artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
- Dry kibble 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
- Minimum 24% protein by volume
- Affordable compared with other brands
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Buying Guide for Senior Dog Food
In this guide, we’ll cover topics including how to choose a senior dog food, proper nutrition for older dogs, and how to make a seamless switch to new foods. As with any changes to your dog’s diet, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian to make sure you’re providing optimal care for your dog.
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 decision can differ based on your dog’s unique circumstances, including their breed, health, weight, appetite, and other factors. More often than not, people opt to switch to a new senior dog food to support their dog throughout their older life stages.
At What Age is a Dog Considered a Senior?
In general, dogs are considered to be senior when they start to show signs of aging, which can be anywhere between 5-10 years old. This wide range is due to differences based on their breed: large dogs are typically considered senior earlier in their life, while smaller dogs are considered seniors later in life.
Signs of aging include changes in:
- Sleeping Patterns
- Activity Levels
- Bathroom Behavior
- Cognitive Function
- Lumps and Bumps
- Dental Issues
Vets typically recommend annual checkups as your dog transitions into their senior years.
A Primer on Dog Foods
There isn’t a one size fits all approach, as many factors go into the decision. While our guide provides helpful information on the topic, it’s best to follow your vet’s advice given the unique needs of each dog.
Types of Dog Food
There are many different types of dog food to consider. One specific type isn’t better than the other — it’s more about what works best for your dog and family.
Dry food, or kibble, is the most common form of dog food. It comes in various bag sizes and can easily be found at pet stores.
Wet Food/Canned Food
Wet or canned dog food is another common option. While many dogs prefer the taste of wet food, it can also be much pricier than dry kibble.
Raw, Dehydrated, & Freeze Dried
Many pet parents are now choosing to feed their dog either raw or freeze-dried dog food. As heat can strip away nutritional content from food, proponents claim that feeding dogs raw food mimics their natural diet in the wild. However, given that raw foods aren’t cooked, they can come with dangers such as bacteria and other issues. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before fully switching over.
Food toppers are bits of food that can be sprinkled on a bowl of dog food — perfect for picky eaters. It’s also another way for dogs to get nutrients or supplements that might be missing from their regular food.
Homemade and Delivery 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.
Ingredients to Look for (and Look Out for) in Dog Food
With dozens of ingredients in each dog food, it can be hard to understand which ones are good and bad. It’s up to us to keep our pets safe and understand what’s exactly on the labels. Patrick Mahaney, a Wellness Vet, gives a comprehensive list to follow. Here are some general guidelines:
Ingredients to Look for
- Natural preservatives: vitamin C, vitamin E
- Made in the USA
- Human-grade ingredients
- High quality meat as the first ingredient
- Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
- Nutritionally complete and balanced meals
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
- Feed grade ingredients: these are of a lower grade than human-grade
- Corn and wheat gluten
- Excessive added sugar
Proper Nutrition for Senior Dogs
All dogs need 6 basic nutrients in their diet: water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. The percentage of each nutrient will vary based on a dog’s breed and age, so you should discuss these with your vet. The right balance is often a complex calculation that involves looking at your dog’s individual situation.
A common consideration for senior dogs is their muscle mass. As dogs age, they tend to lose muscle mass, and therefore should adjust the amount of protein they eat upwards. The American Kennel Club recommends seniors follow a diet with at least 25% of all calories coming from protein to counteract this.
Sodium intake is another consideration. The AKC suggests lowering a senior dog’s sodium intake (but not eliminating it) as long as they dog keep eating their food. All dogs like some salt in their food for taste, but the majority of commercial dog foods already include more than enough sodium. Senior dogs with hypertension, heart, or kidney problems will require a low sodium diet.
Common Senior Dog Ailments & Foods to Help
Here are a few of the most common aging issues along with food supplements or tips that can help.
Senior dogs are at a higher risk of developing dental or gum issues. It’s important to brush their teeth at least a few times per week, and take them to annual cleanings to avoid these problems. Giving your dog dental chews or treats can help, but only as a supplement to a regular oral care routine.
Joint Pain or Arthritis
For joint pain or stiffness, Dr. Heather Frankfurt, a Texas Veterinarian, recommends “MSM, chondroitin, and glucosamine—when combined, these ingredients promote healthy joints.” Certain breeds may also be prone to joint or mobility issues. If you suspect your senior dog is dealing with this, consider adding a dog joint supplement to their diet.
Raising your dog’s food and water bowl can also help as it means your dog won’t have to bend over to eat. There are a number of elevated dog bowls on the market, or you can make your own with a DIY project.
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 dog-safe fruits, vegetables, berries, and turmeric, or through foods that include them in the kibble recipe.
Obesity decreases a dog’s lifespan, and increases the risk of many health issues including cancer, diabetes, joint pain, and arthritis. To ensure your senior dog doesn’t become overweight, make sure they’re getting enough exercise and eating the right amount of calories based on their activity.
Impaired Cognitive Function
As your pup ages, he or she may encounter issues with their cognitive functioning. Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids can help with this; Dr. Judy Morgan, a vet with a specialty in food therapy, recommends sardines or fish oil supplements. Many commercial dog foods also contain Omega fatty acids via fish oil or flaxseed oil.
Making the Switch
When you’ve decided on the right dog food, you’ll want to gradually make the switch to prevent your dog from getting an upset stomach, diarrhea, or other issues. A simple rule of thumb is to follow this schedule:
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 precisely measure all of your dog’s food out by the ounce. Add a bit more food every day based on these general percentages.
Certain dogs with sensitive systems or gastrointestinal issues may require even longer to transition. Keep an eye on them to see if any new issues crop up, and contact your vet if you notice serious issues or drastic changes in their appetite.
If your dog is a picky eater, it can be even more difficult to want to switch foods. Here are some things you can do to help:
- Don’t feed your dog human food or table scraps
- Limit the amount of time their food is out to 30 minutes
- Avoid unnecessary treats
- Consider adding a food topper to make their food taste better
If all else fails, consider feeding your dog a high protein diet, so they’ll get enough nutrients even if they only eat a small amount.
Choosing a new food for your senior dog doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By following the above guidance, and speaking with your vet, you’ll be able to create a new diet that addresses the unique nutritional needs of your aging pup. With a little extra care and research, your dog can continue to live a happy, healthy, and fit life throughout their golden years.