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Your dog’s time on this earth is limited, so you take advantage of every moment you have together. You cherish your daily walks, make sure your dog the best diet possible, and you never say no to a cuddle session. As your dog starts to get older, you may need to make some adjustments to his daily routine. Those walks may get shorter and you might want to switch to senior dog food.
Your dog’s basic nutritional requirements don’t change with age, but his body might. Tweaking your dog’s diet can help him maintain healthy body weight with strong bones and joints so he can enjoy his senior years to the fullest. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the best senior dog food.
Protein is the foundation of a healthy and balanced diet for dogs. In puppies, the amino acids in protein support growth and development. For adult dogs, protein is essential for maintaining lean muscle mass and healthy body weight. Animal proteins like meat, poultry, and fish are best for dogs because they are complete proteins–they contain all 10 essential amino acids.
Guidelines for the nutritional requirements of dogs have been established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO recommendations state a minimum of 22% protein for canine growth and reproduction (puppies and lactating females) and an 18% minimum for adult dogs. For fat, these numbers are 8% and 5%, respectively.
It’s important to remember that these are bare minimums–most dogs benefit from higher inclusions of protein in their diet and fat requirements vary based on breed, size, and activity level.
Though meeting your dog’s minimum nutritional requirements is a must, it’s equally important to consider the quality of the ingredients that provide those nutrients. Any high-quality diet for dogs will list a whole source of animal protein as the first ingredient, balanced with healthy fats and limited in carbohydrate content.
Nutritional guidelines for humans are generally separated into age groups but adult dogs are considered a single category. Though your dog’s basic nutritional requirements don’t change as he gets older, some adjustments to his diet may be beneficial.
Here are some considerations for a senior dog diet:
- Older dogs tend to be less active which may require a reduction in daily calorie intake to prevent unhealthy weight gain.
- Protein is just as important for older dogs–you may even need to increase your senior dog’s protein intake to help him maintain lean muscle mass.
- Senior dogs have a higher risk for kidney disease which may require a diet lower in phosphorus but pre-emptively reducing phosphorus intake may not prevent kidney disease.
- If your senior dog develops high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney disease, your veterinarian may recommend a low-sodium diet.
- Older dogs may be more prone to dehydration – switching to a premium-quality canned food can help with hydration and may be easier to chew and digest.
Many veterinarians consider a dog a senior once he reaches 7 years old, but it really depends on the breed. Larger dog breeds don’t live as long as smaller breeds, so a Great Dane may become a senior at 5 or 6 years while a dachshund reaches seniority closer to 10 years.
Keep this in mind when deciding if or when to change your dog’s diet.
Quality nutrition is essential throughout your dog’s life. In seniority, it is the key to healthy digestion, strong immunity, a balanced weight, joint mobility, and more. If you’re concerned about keeping your dog well in his older years, consider switching to a high-quality senior dog food diet.
Here are our top picks for the best senior dog food.
Made with 85% animal ingredients, this senior recipe features premium protein from free-run chicken and turkey, wild-caught fish, and cage-free eggs.
It’s biologically appropriate for your dog and formulated with the needs of senior dogs in mind.Shop on Amazon
If your dog develops food allergies or sensitivities in his senior years, this limited ingredient diet could be the perfect fit.
Made with just nine main ingredients, this senior dog food recipe is packed with protein and other wholesome, highly digestible ingredients.Shop on Amazon
This flavorful pate recipe features a trio of proteins including chicken, lamb, and salmon to nourish your senior’s dog’s body.
It is supplemented with healthy superfoods as well to provide natural sources for key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.Shop on Amazon
Formulated to help senior dogs maintain healthy body weight, this dry food formula is packed with protein with limited fat and calorie content.
You’ll also be glad to know it’s supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin for long-term joint health.Shop on Amazon
This grain-free recipe is formulated to provide for your senior dog’s unique nutritional needs.
It is made with 82% animal protein for lean muscle mass and L-carnitine to support the metabolism of fats. Plus, it’s supplemented with probiotics to support digestive health.Shop on Amazon
Your senior dog doesn’t necessarily need a senior-specific recipe, but he does need a high-quality diet.
This all life stages formula from Canidae is made with premium natural ingredients and formulated to meet the nutritional needs of all breeds and life stages.Shop on Amazon
Many dogs develop digestive issues and food sensitivities as they age which makes this Solid Gold recipe a perfect fit.
It features wholesome, highly digestible ingredients including fresh chicken, sweet potatoes, and spinach as well as prebiotics and probiotics to support digestive health.Shop on Amazon
This homestyle chicken dinner with garden vegetables is uniquely formulated for senior dogs.
Made with wholesome natural ingredients in a moisture-rich formula, this recipe is ideal for picky eaters and for dogs who have trouble eating dry food.Shop on Amazon
Small breed dogs have fast metabolisms compared to those of larger breeds.
Even though your small breed senior may slow down as he gets older, he may still require a higher concentration of fat and calories in his diet to maintain his weight. This recipe is specifically designed for small breed seniors.Shop on Amazon
Obesity and joint problems are two of the primary concerns for large-breed senior dogs.
This Wholesome Essentials recipe is specially formulated with these needs in mind, made with premium natural ingredients like farm-raised chicken and brown rice.Shop on Amazon
Made only with the finest natural ingredients, this grain-free senior dog food is the perfect fit.
It features plenty of lean animal protein to support your dog’s muscle mass and healthy body weight with omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.Shop on Amazon
According to Dog Food Advisor, switching to senior dog food is not always necessary. As long as your older dog is eating a healthy, high-quality diet you may not need to change recipes. You will have to adjust your dog’s calorie intake and you may want to consult your veterinarian about your dog’s specific dietary requirements.
Though completely changing your dog’s diet may not be necessary in every case, you should ask your vet whether he recommends dietary supplements. Dietary fiber supplements can be beneficial for dogs with digestive issues as an alternative to commercial high-fiber diets that are often low in calories. Some older dogs also benefit from omega-3 fatty acids for skin and coat issues or glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for bone and joint problems.
If you do change your dog’s diet, it’s important to make the transition slowly. Changing your dog’s food too quickly can lead to digestive upset. Transition your dog onto the new food by mixing it with his old food in increasing amounts over the course of 5 to 7 days.