As veterinary healthcare has improved and pet care overall has become more of a priority, our beloved dogs are living longer than ever.
Depending on your dog’s breed, they may be considered entering senior age as early as 6 or as late as 10 years old.
By maintaining a solid nutritional base, a good exercise routine, and regular vet visits, your dog can expect to live out their senior years as their healthy and active selves.
The best way to make sure your dog’s golden years remain quality years is to give them a well-balanced diet designed for their needs.
Older dogs may start to experience changes in vision, hearing, cognitive function, bladder control and mobility.
Digestive trouble may surface, including lower tolerance for some ingredients and very frequent constipation.
In their later years, dogs are also more prone to disease as their immune systems are not as efficient as they once were. Senior dogs are also likely to experience a loss in muscle mass as well as a subsequent gain in fat.
Obesity is a common problem in senior dogs, only complicating other issues like joint weakness and poor heart health. Due to a slower metabolism and decreased mobility, it can be very difficult to get an older dog back down to a healthy weight once they’ve become obese. It is important to prevent this by putting them on the right diet before they start to bulk up.
A quality senior dog food should address all of these specific needs.
Fundamentals Of The Best Senior Dog Food
Unlike for puppies, the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) does not have explicit nutrient profiles setting the standard for senior dog food. Dog food manufacturers must still adhere to the requirements for ‘all life stages,’ but there really are no separate rules for creating formulas for older dogs. This just means that you have to be even more informed and vigilant when choosing the best senior dog food for your aging pal.
A high-quality senior dog food should have the basic goodness of the best adult dog food: protein from animal sources, complex carbohydrates in moderation, healthy fats & oils, fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. The ingredient list should be as natural as possible and should not feature anything artificially or chemically processed, nor should it include by-products. Common fillers like corn, wheat and soy are not welcome sights on any dog food label and may be even more offensive to an older dog’s delicate digestion.
Beyond These Basics, There Are A Lot Of Other Things To Consider
First, a good senior dog food needs to be lower in calories, but still, leave them feeling full. If your dog is particularly sedentary, some research suggests cutting their calorie intake by as much as 20%, though this varies widely with the needs of individual dogs. On the other hand, older pups need sufficient levels of lean protein to sustain their diminishing muscle tone. Their food needs to contain quality calories that are coming primarily from protein rather than fat or carbohydrates to balance the risk of obesity with the risk of losing more muscle. They also need a food with higher amounts of fiber, even as much as 5% more, to help combat constipation and to keep your pup’s tummy feeling satisfied.
Senior dog food should contain a strong blend of antioxidants to bolster a weakened immune system and fight diseases that may surface in dogs’ older years. Their teeth may begin to show signs of wear, as well, making softer foods a better option for many senior canines. Moreover, older dogs are often not inclined to eat as much and wet foods tend to be more appealing because they have a stronger scent to whet your pup’s appetite. If you do still choose a dry food, try to choose one with smaller pieces of kibble. Alternatively, softening it by adding water may help, or adding a little low sodium broth or wet food may encourage your dog to eat if they are still not enthusiastic at mealtime.
Supplements like taurine or l-carnitine may help your senior dog maintain a healthy heart, while glucosamine and chondroitin can provide some joint support. What is more critical are ingredients like eggs, fish, flaxseed, or sunflower oil. These contain high levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which are beneficial for both the heart and mind. Your senior dog needs support with both his heart and cognitive functions as he ages.
Since there are no set regulations on senior dog food, they vary quite a bit in ingredients and ratios. This is actually a good thing as the needs of older pups will be very different, especially if there are health conditions to consider. For example, if your dog is starting to have problems with his kidneys, you want a food with lower protein content and lower levels of phosphorus.
To make sure your dog’s diet is benefiting and not harming any underlying health concerns, always keep close communication with your veterinarian about your pup’s very specific nutritional needs.
Our Top Five Choices For The Older And Wiser Canine
There are a lot of options for dogs of all ages on the shelves. Unfortunately, plenty of these foods are poor quality or contain ingredients that we do not believe are fit for our furry family members.
Remember to consider the specific requirements of your older dog when selecting a food that is best for him.
Here we have collected a few different options that suit senior dogs of different needs, for your consideration:
Blue Buffalo offers a great line of dog foods and their recipe for seniors is highly recommended. Simple, wholesome lean protein from chicken and complex carbs from brown rice, oatmeal, and barley offer a solid base for this formula. They also include a great antioxidant blend featuring a diverse mix of fruits and vegetables as well as supplements like green tea. Blue Buffalo also adds high levels of omega fatty acids, probiotics, glucosamine and chondroitin.
Another great option is Nutro Ultra, which also gets its protein and carbs from chicken, brown rice, and oats. For even extra protein they have added lamb and salmon for some diversity. This recipe has a strong antioxidant blend, as well, featuring fruits and veggies like pomegranate, spinach, and pumpkin. Nutro Ultra adds salmon, sunflower and flaxseed oils for an omega fatty acid boost. This senior formula is supplemented with l-carnitine, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
MIX-IN FOOD ENHANCER
Freshpet Vital has a great range food options and their mix-ins may be highly beneficial for a lot of older dogs. Mix-ins are a great substitute for buying multiple dog foods if you have multiple dogs, or as a taste enhancer if your senior dog is lacking interest in his food. Freshpet Vital’s Whole Blends Mix-in is an excellent blend of chicken broth, quinoa, sweet potatoes, lentils, cranberries, sunflower oil and more that adds all those vital senior supplements to any food. Simply mixing this into your normal wet or dry dog food adds glucosamine, chondroitin, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, amino acids and an overall nutrient boost designed to support your senior dog’s health.
If your pup needs a soft food, Wellness has one of the best options you can find. This all-natural recipe contains chicken, fish, chicken liver, barley, sweet potatoes, and carrots for a simple, wholesome, balanced meal that is easy to eat. Flaxseed gives this food the omega fatty acids your senior dog needs and supplemental vitamins and minerals ensure he is getting critical nutrients. Wellness Complete Senior has also lowered the calories and raised the fiber in this formula, making it highly recommended for senior dogs with weight or constipation issues.
While this selection is not specifically labeled for senior dogs, EVO Innova Canned is formulated for all life stages. This makes our list for seniors because it is a soft food option that mirrors a raw diet, meaning it is high in protein, very low in carbs, full of only natural supplements and absolutely free from fillers. EVO uses meat, bones, cartilage, and tendons that contain compounds like glucosamine and chondroitin. This recipe also includes raw fruits and vegetables as well as probiotics. Mimicking the ancestral diet your dog’s system craves, this is an easy-to-digest, protein-packed superfood for seniors.
Your dog needs a well-balanced, natural diet from day one. As they age, their nutritional needs often change based on their individual health conditions and activity level. The best thing you can do is to feed them a quality food that follows these general fundamental guidelines while keeping their individual needs in mind.
Senior dog food should have the same basic foundation of any quality dog food. The more natural the ingredients, the better the formula. Obesity is a rampant problem with aging dogs and can really exacerbate health problems. By feeding your dog a nutritious, high protein, low carb diet full of simple, natural ingredients and plenty of fiber, you should be able to keep them at a healthy weight. Encourage your older dog to exercise as much as they are comfortable with. Many healthy senior dogs can be just as active as much younger pups. Just like with people, growing old is a state of mind – health, fitness and overall wellness can happen at any age.
Since older dogs have a greater likelihood of having health concerns, always consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions at all about what to feed your pup.