As our canine companions age their nutritional needs change, but reading through countless labels to find the best food for your dog is overwhelming. That's why we recommend you speak to your vet about the best food for your older dog. In the meantime, here are a few tips on feeding your senior dog from our Berkeley vets.
Is my dog considered senior?
The age at which a dog is considered elderly or geriatric can vary depending on breed and size. Generally, small dogs have a life expectancy of 15-20 years, while larger dogs usually live between 12-15 years.
As bigger dogs age faster, they are considered to be "older" around the time they turn 6, while small dogs generally pass into middle age at around 8 years of age.
Do older dogs really need different food?
Yes, there are two major things to consider when determining the best dog food for senior dogs.
The first thing to be aware of is caloric intake. Just like with people, a dog's metabolism slows down as they age, and gaining extra weight becomes easier. This means pet owners must ensure their dog receives the correct amount of nutrients and protein to thrive without intaking too many calories.
The second consideration is trying to make sure their diet includes high-fiber options. Constipation is painful and it can lead to further gastrointestinal issues when it becomes severe enough. Maintaining gastrointestinal health is a common obstacle for older dogs, so the best dog food for senior dogs will have lots of fiber to help them stay healthy and regular.
Will special food help my senior dog with their health issues?
In some cases, specialized diets will be prescribed by your vet to help your senior dog with their health issues. There are foods tailored to help a range of issues, from kidney and liver health to urinary tract and digestive conditions.
Even if your older dog doesn't have specific health issues, it is a good idea to switch them to dog food geared towards senior dogs to help preserve their wellbeing. Talk to your vet about what the best option is for your dog.
What if my older dog won't eat the new food?
It is relatively normal for older dogs to have some loss of appetite. 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 tired of their regular food. You can try adding things like chicken broth, cooked chicken (unseasoned), or a small amount of canned food to your dog's dry kibble to make it more enticing.
Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs
Below are a few of the dog foods and supplements the vets at Berkeley Dog & Cat Hospital recommend for senior dogs, all of which are available from our online store and pharmacy. Ask your vet about the best dog food for older dogs.
For Small Dogs
Hill's® Science Diet® Dog Senior 11+ Adult Small Paws™
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.
Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition SMALL Indoor Senior Dry for Dogs
Royal Canin Small Indoor Senior dry dog food (formerly called Indoor Life Senior) is tailored to support your older small dog’s quiet, indoor lifestyle. Optimal levels of EPA, DHA, and a complex of antioxidants support healthy aging.
For Large Dogs
Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition LARGE 8+ Dry for Dogs
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.
For Dogs with Food Intolerances
BLUE Natural Veterinary Diet™ Dog HF Hydrolyzed for Food Intolerance Dry
Formulated for dogs experiencing food sensitivities, BLUE HF Hydrolyzed for Food Intolerance helps minimize the chance of adverse reactions to common proteins.
Supplements For Senior Dogs
In some cases, your vet may recommend that your dog's diet be supplemented with extra nutrition to support healthy joints or relieve skin issues. Below are a couple of brands you may want to look into.
SmartCanine™ Joint Senior Soft Chews
SmartCanine™ Joint Senior Soft Chews are designed to support healthy joints and normal inflammatory responses in senior dogs.
SmartCanine™ Combo Senior Soft Chews
SmartCanine™ Combo Senior Soft Chews are designed to provide support for joint, digestive, skin and coat health in senior dogs.
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.