The Best Senior Dog Food: Small Breeds and Large Breeds

by | Jun 9, 2019 | 0 comments

Are you worried about how much weight your senior dog has gained? Are you concerned about how much your dog’s interest in food has dropped since he started aging?

You are in the right place. Today, we will look at some factors that affect your dog’s eating habits in its senior years and also review some of the best dog foods for senior dogs.

Let’s dive in.

At What Age Is a Dog Considered Senior?

The age at which a dog is considered senior depends on its breed and body weight. Smaller dog breeds age at a slower rate than their larger counterparts. Overweight dogs also tend to age faster than lean dogs.

Generally, a dog is considered older when it has reached half of its life expectancy.  Big dogs live for about 12 to 15 years while smaller dogs live for 15 to 20 years. Bigger dog breeds are therefore considered older at 6 years and smaller dogs are considered senior at around 8 or 9 years.

Do Senior Dogs Have Special Nutritional Needs?

Elderly dogs need lower calorie diets to help curb obesity which is a huge problem in senior dogs. Their diets should also be rich in fiber to improve gastro intestinal health.

It is important to note that the energy requirement for senior dogs is much lower than that of younger dogs. Their slower metabolic rate causes a significant increase in their chances of becoming obese or overweight.

Fortunately, there are many dog companies that now offer the best dog food which is age appropriate and lower in calories.

At snack time, always serve yo ur dog a healthy low-fat low sodium snack. You don’t always have to go for milk and bones; there are other great alternatives such as apple slices and carrots. Generally, vegetables are good for your older dog, but steer away from grapes and raisins as they can harm your dog.

In addition to giving your dog the best dog food and adding some healthy snacks, you also need to ensure that your dog is well hydrated. As they age, dog’s bodies lose their ability to retain water, so it is important to ensure that you provide enough water for your dog.

What Health Problems Can Affect a Senior Dogs Diet?

If your dog has medical conditions in its old age, you might need to consult a veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist to help you plan a proper diet. Older dogs with health conditions such as kidney failure, liver disease and diabetes require special diets to aid in the treatment of their conditions.

A dog with heart disease will need to consume a lower calorie diet with low sodium formulation to help it keep its weight down.

A diabetic dog, on the other hand, needs a diabetic diet that aims at delaying the absorption of food. Blood sugar rises more slowly when foods are absorbed slowly. A diabetic dog will also benefit from lower fat, higher fiber foods. Consult your veterinarian about the best senior food to buy for your diabetic dog.

Another problem that is common in senior dogs is constipation. Giving your dog a diet that is rich in fiber will help alleviate this problem.

The best senior food has higher quality protein sources as compared to regular dog feeds. These proteins help to maintain muscle mass and body weight without straining the kidneys.

Should Senior Dogs Take Supplements?

It’s no secret that senior dogs are likely to suffer from arthritis and joint pain. To tackle this problem, the best senior food contains Chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine. Even though these supplements are useful in managing arthritis and joint problems, the best solution for a sick dog is slimming down.

What if my senior dog won’t eat?

You might realize that even after serving the best dog food, your dog may not eat. Older dogs tend to have reduced appetites. Some have cancer and others suffer from gastro intestinal problems that cause nausea.

If your senior dog refuses to eat, have a vet rule out underlying health problems such as kidney disease, dental disease or cancer.

You can also try adding chicken broth, warm water or a little canned food when your dog seems disinterested in dry food.  Another alternative is to try a home cooked meal. The extra smell might make the food more appealing.

As a measure of last resort, you can get a bottle of flavor enhancers from a pet store to add flavor to your dog’s food. These treatments should only be administered after a veterinarian has determined that the loss of appetite is not a result of serious health problems.

Good ingredients for the best dog food for senior dogs

Alpha lipoid acid- this is a powerful antioxidant. It improves eye and brain function, fights cancer and supports a healthy metabolism. Other antioxidants also help your dog to avoid cancer.

Essential vitamins and minerals- they boost immune function

Glucosamine and chondroitin- these two ingredients help to support joints. They are great for a dog suffering for arthritis and joint pain.

Whole animal products-  whole animal products should be antibiotic free. Unlike animal byproducts, whole animal products contain the right nutritional composition to keep your dog strong, energetic and healthy despite its old age.

Healthy fats and oils- the best dog food should incorporate healthy fats and oils in their list of ingredients. Healthy fats and oils are essential in regulating metabolism and ensuring that your dog’s coat is always shiny.

L-carnitine- this is an amino acid that helps to prevent unhealthy weight gain. It is a great ingredient to help maintain your dog’s youthful appearance.

Whole grains loaded with fiber- the healthy bacteria in your dog’s system feed on fiber from whole grains. Fiber also plays a significant role in smoothing the digestive process.

Digestive enzymes and probiotics- an aging dog is likely to have a more sensitive tummy than younger dogs. Digestive enzymes and probiotics improve digestion and regular elimination. The best dog feed should include enzymes lipase (breaks down fats), celullase (breaks down fiber), protease (breaks down protein), and amylase (breaks down carbs)

Harmful Ingredients to Avoid When Selecting the Best Dog Food

Corn syrup- corn syrup is sugar. It can lead to obesity and diabetes

Unidentifiable veggie and meat by products- these ingredients cause an imbalance in your dog digestive system.

Chemicals- your dog’s digestive track is sensitive to chemicals. They can also increase the risk of cancer.

Fillers like wheat and corn- fillers offer no nutritional value and can interfere with the absorption of nutrients.

Reputable Brands for the Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs

Many dog food brands invest in quality advertising that sells their products as the best senior dog feed but in reality, only a few are high quality.

Wellness

Wellness was established in 1926. Initially, it went with a different name. They are concerned about the overall welfare of your dog including its mind, body and spirit.  Their mission is to take care of a dog’s overall well-being using nutrition. And they don’t just leave out the bad stuff when making the best senior dog feed, they only choose the highest quality, most authentic ingredients.

Tate of the wild

Taste of the wild cares about your dog’s food cravings. They manufacture grain-free, high quality kibble. They believe that the key to sustenance is vegetables and roasted meats. They only include natural ingredients in their dog feeds, their water is purified through reverse osmosis to further protect your dog from harmful toxins.

Holistic select

Holistic select was established about a decade ago. They strongly believe in the power of natural nutrition and are committed to supporting digestive health with probiotics, protanicals, fiber and enzymes. The company is also excellent when it comes to taste. In fact, they offer a money back guarantee that your dog will love their dog feed.

Castor and pullox

Started by a couple who wanted to feed their puppies the best possible nutrition, castor and pullox is committed to organic, non-GMO ingredients. Their food line is non-GMO approved and certified by USDA organic.

Orijon

Orijon is a brand based in Canada. They only use locally sourced ingredients when preparing the best senior dog feed. Their biologically appropriate feeds are meant to meet your dog’s instinctual cravings. Orijon has bagged numerous awards for its outstanding quality.

Canidae

This is a family owned pet food company established from a California based feed store in 1996. They understand that every dog’s nutritional needs are different and provide feeds for sensitive small dogs, food for dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes, grain free dog food, and farm fresh dog food.

This is not a conclusive list of all the dog feed companies that offer the best quality senior dog feed but it is a great starting point. More brands are featured below.

The Best Senior Dog Foods

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Wellness Complete Health Natural, Small Breed Senior Wellness Complete Health Natural, Small Breed Senior
  • Designed for weight maintenance
  • With omega 3 and omega 6 that help support healthy skin and healthy coat
  • With fat levels of 12%, fiber levels of 15% and protein levels of 25%
Check Price on Amazon.com
Holistic Select Natural, Small and Mini Breeds
  • With antioxidant rich feeds
  • Contains natural fibers that ease the movement of food down the digestive system
  • With high fiber content
Check Price on Amazon.com
Taste of The Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine Formula
  • Protein rich for LEAN, STRONG MUSCLES
  • Nutrient rich with added vitamins & minerals
  • Contains fruits and vegetables with powerful antioxidants
Check Price on Amazon.com
Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed
  • Formulated with a unique digestive health support system
  • All natural ingredients
  • With L-Carnitine and Taurine to help maintain a healthy heart
Check Price on Amazon.com
Nutromax Natural Adult Dog Food (Large Breed)
  • All natural, affordable dog food
  • Contains no artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Made with real chicken
Check Price on Amazon.com

Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs

Let us now look at the best senior dog feeds. We have separated them into the best senior dog food small breeds and the best senior dog food large breeds.

Best senior dog food small breeds

Small dogs, typically below 20 pounds, have a high metabolism. They therefore require energy dense, high calorie food. Look for feeds that have 15% fat, 30% protein and fiber.

Here are some of the best senior dog food small breeds:

Wellness Complete Health Natural, Small Breed Senior

Small breed dogs have a unique physical composition that creates special nutritional needs.  Wellness complete health natural small breed senior is created to take care of these special requirements

Key benefits

  • Has controlled sodium levels, therefore supporting heath health
  • Contains omega 3 and omega 6 that help to support healthy skin and healthy coat
  • Provides a complete and balanced everyday nutrition for your senior small breed dog
  • Designed for weight maintenance

Ingredients

Oatmeal, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, apples, groundnuts, chicken meal, deboned turkey, brown rice, peas.

It has fat levels of 12%, fiber levels of 15% and protein levels of 25%.

Wellness Complete Health Natural, Small Breed Senior

Is created to take care of the special nutritional needs of small breed dogs

Holistic Select Natural, Small and Mini Breeds

This senior dog food for small to medium sized breeds is created using a unique digestive health support system that includes probiotics, digestive enzymes and healthy fibers. The recipe also includes a variety of other natural and high quality ingredients that enhance absorption and utilization of vital nutrients throughout your dog’s body.

Key benefits

  • Contains antioxidant rich feeds such as pomegranate and blue bellies that provide natural support to your dog’s cellular health.
  • Includes sources of cellulose, protease and alpha amylase that breaks down starch, protein and fat respectively.
  • Has natural fibers that ease the movement of food down the digestive system.
  • Has healthy vegetables and fruits which have a high fiber content to support a healthy digestive system
  • Ingredients such as flax seed that help to nourish the dogs skin and coat as well as providing the needed calories.

Ingredients

Papaya, cranberries, pumpkin, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, dried beet pulp, anchovy and sardine meal, ground brown and white rice, chicken, 28% protein, 18% fat and 3% fiber

Holistic Select Natural, Small and Mini Breeds

With variety of other natural and high quality ingredients that enhance absorption and utilization of vital nutrients

 

Taste of The Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine Formula

This dog feet formula is created using novel proteins such as venison. The feed is grain free and is sized into small kibble perfect for your small breed dog’s teeth and tummy.

Key benefits

  • Grain free recipe contains venison as the main ingredient and other proteins such as egg, lamb, ocean fish and duck for lean nutrition and to help the development of strong muscles.
  • A highly digestible recipe packed with nutrients and proprietary K9 strain probiotic that supports your canine’s digestive health.
  • Contains fruits and vegetables with powerful antioxidants that support the dog’s overall health. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids support a healthy skin and shiny coat.
  • Created with ingredients sourced from reputable sources. It does not contain corn, grain, filler, and wheat. Artificial color or preservatives.

Ingredients

Tomatoes, tomato pomace, blueberries, raspberries, venison, lamb meal, peas, garbanzo, lentils and beans.

It contains 32% protein, 13.5% fat, and 5% fiber.

Taste of The Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine Formula

Grain free recipe contains venison as the main ingredient and other proteins to help in the development of strong muscles

Best Senior Dog Food Large Breeds

Large dogs, weighing over 50 pound, need help managing their weight. Their food should have a lower calorie content, reduced fat and protein than that of small dogs.  The best senior dog food large breeds should contain 10% fat and 20% protein. Their kibble should be large to prevent the dog from gobbling.

Although large dogs tend to have shorter a lifespan, with proper nutrition you can lengthen their lifespan.

Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed

This chicken meal and oatmeal recipe is created with a unique digestive health support system. It contains digestive enzymes, active probiotics and healthy fiber. It also contains several other high quality natural ingredients that support the absorption and utilization of nutrients.

Key benefits

  • L-Carnitine and Taurine help to maintain a healthy heart
  • Contains healthy fruit such as papaya and pumpkin which provide fiber to support a healthy digestive process
  • Contains a source of live microorganisms typically found in a healthy digestive tract
  • Contains protease, cellulose and alpha amylase

Ingredients

Has a variety of proteins that support lean muscle mass and add flavor and glucosamine to help support the healthy function of joints and hips. Papaya, cranberries, pumpkin, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, dried beet pulp, anchovy and sardine meal, ground brown and white rice, chicken.

Holistic Select Large and Giant Breed

Created with a unique digestive health support system and contains digestive enzymes, active probiotics and healthy fiber

Hills Science Diet Adult Healthy Mobility Large Breed Dry

This is one of the best senior dog food large breeds. It provided your pet with precise nutrition for a healthy lifestyle. Its recipe consists of wholesome ingredients such as rice and savory chicken meal. The recipe is well balanced to provide your dog with the required nutrients, improve mobility and promote healthy joints and cartilage.

Key benefits

  • Chondroitin and glucosamine are vital in the development of healthy joints and cartilages.
  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids that cause a noticeable improvement in movement in just 30 days of use.
  • Contains no artificial additives or colors
  • Has antioxidants that work together with vitamin E and C to help support a healthy immune system.

Ingredients

Fish oil, dried beet pulp, carrots, cranberries, apples , broccoli, chicken meal, whole grain wheat, brewers rice, and whole grain sorghum

Hills Science Diet Adult Healthy Mobility Large Breed Dry

One of the best and well balanced recipe to provide your dog with the required nutrients

Nutromax Natural Adult Dog Food (Large Breed)

This is one of the best senior dog food large breeds that is created from ingredients that can be traced back to their source such as real chicken protein from farm raised chicken and whole grains.  The company is committed to using the best ingredients so they never use any soy protein, corn, wheat or chicken by product meal.

Key benefits

  • Made with real chicken which tastes good, and contains amino acids that boost metabolism and help in building muscle.
  • Created from natural ingredients that deliver a balanced nutrition with visible health benefits.
  • Contains no artificial additives
  • The dog feed is made with naturally sourced glucosamine and chondroitin.

Ingredients

Wholegrain oatmeal, alfalfa meal, whole brown rice, and whole grain sorghum.

Nutromax Natural Adult Dog Food

Uses the best ingredients and made with naturally sourced glucosamine and chondroitin

Final Word

Proper nutrition is essential across the lifespan of a dog.  Getting the right nutrients in the required amounts assists in supporting the different growth maturation and development needs of dogs in various stages. Just like elderly human beings, senior dogs require special diets to meet they age appropriate nutritional requirements and to improve their declining functionality. It is therefore important for you as a dog parent to invest in high quality, and age-appropriate nutrition for your pet.

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Amanda Wilson
A licensed veterinarian and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Amanda Wilson grew up in a family of biologists and veterinarians from her hometown of Boston, MA. Amanda used to work in an animal research facility in California. However, she had a change of heart after being assigned temporarily to support a big state animal shelter and seeing the conditions of the dogs admitted. She felt that they deserve more love and that first-time pet parents should be well-informed about all aspects of pet parenthood—even the not-so-great ones.

Currently practicing at her own clinic in another city, Amanda lives with her husband and son, as well as their family dog—a Dalmatian named Tiny. Aside from attending to the needs of her fur-bulous clients, she also enjoys teaching young children about responsible pet parenting.