As our dogs age, they are likely to develop different tastes and dietary needs. Here, our Oakland veterinarians answer questions about geriatric dog care and the best dog food for older dogs.
At what age is my dog considered elderly or geriatric?
There's no one size fits all as an answer to this question. The expected lifespans for dogs will vary based on both breed and size. As a rule of thumb, smaller dogs can be expected to live between 15 and 20 years, while larger dogs will live from around ages 12 to 15.
Bigger dogs age faster and are considered to be "older" around the time they turn 6, while small dogs generally pass into middle age at around 8 years old.
Do senior dogs have special nutritional needs?
Yes, there are two major things to consider when determining the best dog food for senior dogs.
The first thing to do is try and keep your dog's food relatively low in calories. Just like in people, a dog's metabolism will slow down as they grow older. It's important to remember to try to help our senior pets avoid eating too much in order to avoid obesity.
The second thing is to try and ensure that your pet's diet includes high-fiber options. Constipation will be painful in its own right and can lead to further gastrointestinal distress if it becomes severe enough. Maintaining your pet's gastrointestinal health is a common obstacle for older dogs, so food designed for seniors includes extra fiber to help them stay healthy.
What health issues will the best dog food for senior dogs help prevent and treat?
Senior dogs who are suffering from diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease are liable to require special diets that will help keep their condition under control. It is best to consult with a vet about your dog's diet if they are sick and you are concerned about the impact of their diet.
Dogs that are at an elevated risk for heart disease benefit from lower-calorie senior dog foods in order to help keep their weight down. Because of this, low sodium recipes are preferable.
The veterinary team at our Oakland hospital recommends that the owners of diabetic or pre-diabetic dogs choose foods that slow their absorption into their companion's body. Special diabetic diets tend to raise your dog's blood sugar much more slowly and reduce the chances of health complications arising as a result of diabetes.
These diets are also very low in fats and are very high in fibers. We also recommend speaking to your vet to learn more about their dietary recommendations for your senior or diabetic dog.
Many senior dog food brands make a point to include higher-quality protein sources than standard dog food; this helps senior dogs maintain a healthy body weight without putting unneeded strain on their aging kidneys.
What should I do if my senior dog won't eat their dog food?
It's relatively normal for aging dogs to have some loss of appetite. The causes for sudden appetite loss vary in scope and severity. Your dog may be experiencing nausea because of minor gastrointestinal issues or they may be suffering from the effects of something as serious as cancer.
If your senior dog has suddenly begun to demonstrate an unexplained loss of appetite, it is best to speak with your vet and have them rule out any potentially serious causes including dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer.
Once serious medical conditions have been ruled out as the cause for appetite loss, another avenue for consideration is the simplest one: perhaps your dog is simply tired of their regular food. Adding chicken broth, some water, or a small amount of canned food to your dog's dry kibble supply may serve to make it more enticing.
Is prescription dog food the best dog food for older dogs?
The best dog food for your senior dog will depend on the exact situation that your pup finds themselves in. In some cases, yes, the best option will be prescription dog food. In other cases, simply switching to a healthier alternative may be enough.
Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs
The team at East Bay Veterinary Clinic has compiled a list of some of the best dog food brands for senior dogs, all of which are available from our online store and pharmacy. Ask your vet what senior dog food is best for your pet.
Hill's® Science Diet® Dog Senior 11+ Adult Small Paws™ Dry dog food provides precisely balanced, easy-to-digest nutrition tailored to older small & toy breed dogs.
Recommended for senior dogs 11+ years of age. This diet contains 4.6 cups of food per pound.
Contains a patented kibble texture, with added antioxidants plus a natural source of glucosamine. Perfect nutrition for adult and senior dogs. Awarded the VOHC ® Seal of Acceptance
Purina Veterinary Diets® DH® Dental Health Canine Formula and DH® Small Bites Canine Formula have been formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition for adult and senior dogs while providing the following characteristics: Optimal kibble size, Patented kibble texture, Added antioxidants A and E, Natural source of glucosamine, Moderate calories, Exceptional palatability, and Perfect solution for everyday feeding of adult and senior dogs.
Medium-sized dogs are famous for their seemingly endless energy, but as they grow into their senior years, they’ve probably slowed down a bit, and so has their body. With age comes the probability of a dulling coat, and a decrease in energy—sometimes even in appetite. But with a right-sized diet tailor-made for the nutritional needs of senior dogs, your dog can thrive. This Royal Canin Medium Aging Adult 10+ senior dry dog food is made to support your older dog’s vitality. An exclusive blend of antioxidants supports healthy aging and overall cellular health.
Royal Canin Medium Aging 10+ dry dog food is precise nutrition specifically made for senior medium-sized dogs 10 years and older weighing 23–55 lbs. Supports healthy aging with an exclusive blend of antioxidants for overall vitality. Helps support bones and joint health in medium breed dogs. Nourishes with Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for healthy skin and coat. Easy to eat, rehydratable kibble designed specifically for the jaws of senior medium-sized dogs.
Size Health Nutrition Medium Aging 10+ is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance.
Large breed dogs are treasured for being hard-working animals and loyal family companions. But as they age, their nutritional needs change. Their large bodies can benefit from an age- and size-specific diet that can help keep them happy and healthy. Royal Canin Large Aging 8+ dry dog food (formerly Maxi Aging 8+) is tailored to support your big senior dog’s vitality. An exclusive complex of antioxidants supports cellular health to help reduce the signs of aging. Precise nutrients keep large bones and joints healthy and strong to help your dog stay active. And high-quality proteins and a balance of fibers help your dog digest food easily for digestive health. Plus, this highly palatable kibble is rehydratable: Mix in warm water for an easy-to-chew meal your dog will love to eat. Add some variety to their bowl with Royal Canin Mature 8+ wet dog food.
Royal Canin Large Aging 8+ dry dog food (formerly Maxi Aging 8+) is precise nutrition specifically made for large dogs 8 years and older weighing 56–100 lbs. Supports long-life vitality with an exclusive blend of antioxidants made for healthy aging. Helps support bones and joint health in senior large breed dogs. Promotes healthy digestion with easy-to-digest proteins and a balanced supply of fiber. Large-sized rehydratable kibble is easy to chew and ideal for senior dogs’ jaws.
Size Health Nutrition Large Aging 8+ is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance.
Hill's Science Diet Mature Adult canned dog food has all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and calories your senior dog needs to help him stay fit and healthy throughout his senior years. Made in the USA with global ingredients you can trust, these foods also use clinically proven antioxidants for a healthy immune system. Open up a can and serve either one of these mouthwatering entrées as a balanced meal, or try on top of Science Diet dry dog food.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.