Best Senior Dog Food: A Guide to Feeding Older Dogs

As your dog starts aging, it’s time to consider changing their dog food to something that meets their changing dietary needs.

With so much to take into account, this can be a daunting task, especially for dog owners who want to give their elderly pups the best of the best.

an old Golden Retriever eating on a pink dog bowl
A senior Golden Retriever eating on a pink dog bowl

Below you’ll find everything you need to know about what makes the best senior dog food for your canine, including our top picks.

Top 5 Picks for the Best Product for Senior Dogs in 2021

  Dog Food Recipes Our Rating
 

Best Overall Senior food (All sizes)

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Dog Food

  • Crafted with increased carbohydrates to keep your fido active
  • Has Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin
  • Free of soy, wheat, corn, poultry, and by-product meals
 

5

Best Budget Senior food Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+

  • An excellent choice for dogs with joint problems
  • Customers have seen amazing results in their senior dogs
  • Fortified with live probiotics for immune and digestive health
5
Best Senior Food for Toy or Extra Small-Sized Breed Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+

  • A limited-ingredient diet made with Omega-6 fatty acids and a synergistic ingredient blend
  • Has a delicious chicken flavor that will have your canine’s tummy grumbling 
  • Free from preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors
 

5

 

Best Senior Food for Small and Medium-Sized Breed

Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Food

  • Has superfoods, as well as vitamins and minerals, that meet your dog’s nutritional requirements
  • Contains glucosamine and chondroitin for joint mobility
  • Free from fillers, artificial additives, and preservatives
4.5
Best Senior Food for Large-Sized Breed Orijen Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

  • Natural and Gluten-free
  • Good for weight control
  • Made from locally sourced animal ingredients
 

5

15 Best dog food recipes for senior dogs by size

There are many excellent dog food brands on the market, but only a handful made it onto this list. These foods are the cream of the crop and will meet all your canine’s needs.

There are top picks that meet budget requirements, dog size requirements, and more.

If you want to ensure you keep your senior dog in good health, take a look at this video:

Best senior dog food for all sizes

Whether you’re looking for dog food with wholesome grains or grain-free options for dogs with a sensitive stomach and even wet food alternatives for old pets with sensitive gums, these recipes are good options. 

a senior GSP standing and trying to get dog food
Meet Salty, a super hungry German Shorthaired Pointer attempting to get kibbles – Image source

1. Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Chicken & Rice Formula

Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Poultry By-Product Meal, RIce
Type: Dry

Suitable for all breed sizes, this weight control diet by Purina nourishes senior dogs who are 7 years of age and beyond.

It promotes trainability, attention, and memory, as well as a healthy immune and digestive system, thanks to the live and fortified probiotics.

Pros:

  • Supports mobility and joint health with its glucosamine and EPA
  • Has vitamin A and Omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
  • Crafted with real chicken as its first ingredient and has enhanced botanical oils

Cons:

  • A few dogs don’t like this recipe
  • One owner complained that they didn’t see any change in their dog

CHECK PRICE HERE

2. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Dry Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice, Barley
Type: Dry

This formula combines high-quality protein with L-Carnitine with high-quality protein to maintain your canines lean muscle.

It’s made with Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits and Super 7 package of nutrients and antioxidant-rich ingredients.

Pros: 

  • Crafted with increased carbohydrates to keep your fido active
  • Has Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin
  • Free of soy, wheat, corn, poultry, and by-product meals

Cons:

  • A few dogs have gotten sick after switching to this diet

CHECK PRICE HERE

3. VICTOR Purpose Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food

VICTOR Purpose Senior Healthy Weight

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Beef Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Whole Grain Millet
Type: Dry

Not only does this formula offer weight control, but it’s also made for all breed sizes that suffer from sensitive digestion.

It’s a nutrient-dense and multi-protein diet made for canines prone to joint problems, especially less active pets.

Pros: 

  • Made with premium proteins like chicken and fish meals, as well as beef to sustain energy
  • Has L-Carnitine to assist in converting energy for lean muscle development
  • Packed with amino acids, essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, chondroitin, and glucosamine

Cons:

  • Some owners said that this recipe doesn’t agree with their dogs

CHECK PRICE HERE

4. Canidae All Life Stages Dog Dry Food

CANIDAE All Life Stages Less Active Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, White Rice
Type: Dry

One of the vet-formulated diets for weight control, this dog food for all life stages and breed sizes is one-recipe-serves-all dog food.

Those with multi-dog households will benefit from this nutritionally dense formula. Made with 27% less fat than the Multi-Protein CANIDAE All Life Stages formula

Pros:

  • Made without common food allergens such as soy, wheat, and corn
  • Includes HealthPLUS Solutions, which is a trip of omega-3 and mega-6 fatty acids, antioxidants, and probiotics
  • Crafted with premium ingredients like protein sources, plus vegetables, fruits, barley, and rice

Cons:

  • A few owners said their dogs gained weight, while some dogs won’t eat it

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best senior dog food for toy and extra-small sized breed

a senior Chihuahua sitting on a field wearing teal harness
Meet Nichols, a senior Chihuahua enjoying his walk – Image source

For a smaller-sized canine, you may want to consider a kibble of smaller pellets. Bite-size kibbles should still contain all the nutrients and allow for easier ingestion.

Little dogs tend to have a faster metabolism, which is another reason why they need tailor-made dog food.

5. Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Senior Dog Food 

Wellness Small Breed Complete Health Senior

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice
Type: Dry

Packed with nutrients from superfoods such as blueberries, apples, and spinach, this dog food will boost your dog’s immune system.

It contains ingredients that promote healthy skin, a luxurious coat, and higher energy levels.

With a strong turkey flavor, your dog will be munching away as soon as you set the bowl down.

Pros: 

  • A great dog food if you need to maintain or lower your dog’s weight
  • Taurine can help keep your dog’s eyes, bile, and heart in good shape
  • Weight control dog food formulated for extra small dogs

Cons:

  • Picky eaters may not like this dog food

CHECK PRICE HERE

6. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+

Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Small Bites

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Brewers Rice
Type: Dry

These bite-size kibble bits are high in protein and contain carbohydrates for a healthy, balanced diet.

It also contains vitamin C, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation, and vitamin E, which helps maintain eye and muscle health.

Packed with all the goodness, this makes it an excellent option for dogs who need to control their weight.

Pros: 

  • A limited-ingredient diet made with Omega-6 fatty acids and synergistic ingredient blend
  • Has a delicious chicken flavor that will have your canine’s tummy grumbling 
  • Free from preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors.

Cons:

  • Senior dogs with sensitive teeth or gums may struggle to chew this kibble

CHECK PRICE HERE

7. Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Small Breed Formula

Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Small Breed

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Rice, Poultry By-Product Meal
Type: Dry

This senior formula contains high protein levels, designed to keep your canine muscles lean and powerful.

Calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals will keep your dog’s bones and teeth strong. It also contains EPA and DHA – oils that keep dogs’ brains alert and functioning at an optimal level.

Pros:

  • An excellent choice for dogs with joint problems
  • Customers have seen amazing results in their senior dogs
  • Fortified with live probiotics for immune and digestive health

Cons:

  • Some dogs do not take to this kibble

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best senior dog food for small and medium-sized breed

a senior Boston Terrier posing for a picture
A precious Senior Boston Terrier looking adorable – Image source

As stated previously, small dogs have a higher metabolism. Thus, you should choose a dog food that meets this dietary requirement and keeps this sugar level constant.

In contrast, medium-sized dogs generally can pick and choose whichever dog food they like. 

8. Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Food

Diamond Naturals Senior Formula Dry Dog Food

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice
Type: Dry

Cage-free chicken, chia seeds, and quinoa are the protein sources for this kibble.

Formulated with K9 Strain Probiotics and fibers, this senior dry dog food will promote a well-functioning digestive system in your hound.

Pros: 

  • Has superfoods, as well as vitamins and minerals, that meet your dog’s nutritional requirements
  • Contains glucosamine and chondroitin for joint mobility
  • Free from fillers, artificial additives, and preservatives

Cons:

  • Your dog may develop diarrhea

CHECK PRICE HERE

9. Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free Senior Dog Food

Nulo Freestyle Senior Grain-Free

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Deboned Trout, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal
Type: Dry

With trout and salmon as two of the first three ingredients, you know that your dog will be getting sufficient omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

This senior recipe contains L-Carnitine, which helps dogs’ bodies digest fat – beneficial for dogs that aren’t active anymore. 

Sweet potato provides your pooch with a source of beta-carotene, minerals, and other vitamins, which aid in boosting your senior dog’s immunity.

Pros: 

  • Grain- and gluten-free kibble 
  • Protein-rich for strong muscles
  • A low glycemic senior dog food

Cons:

  • Some owners said their dogs won’t eat it while others pets got sick

CHECK PRICE HERE

10. CANIDAE PURE Senior Limited-Ingredient Dry Dog Food

CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Senior Limited Ingredient

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal
Type: Dry

If your home has multiple dogs and most of them need a limited-ingredient diet, this grain-free recipe that’s suitable for all breed sizes may help.

It’s made with only 9 wholesome and natural ingredients minus common food allergens like grains or anything artificial. It’s also gluten-free!

Pros:

  • Fortified with Canidae’s HealthPLUS blend of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, antioxidants, prebiotics, and probiotics.
  • Has no soy, wheat, or corn
  • Promotes healthy muscle tone and good immunity

Cons:

  • Some dogs don’t like this particular recipe, and owners think it’s because of the smell

CHECK PRICE HERE

11. Halo Holistic Senior Grain-Free Turkey, Turkey Liver, & Duck Recipe

Halo Holistic Senior Grain-Free

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Turkey, Dried Chickpeas, Dried Lentils
Type: Dry

A drool-worthy combination of superfoods like fruits, veggies, and whole meats from cage-free poultry, this recipe will help your pooch stay healthy.

It’s also packed with other premium proteins, DHA, fiber – just the good stuff for your pooch!

Pros: 

  • Free from GMOs, preservatives, artificial additives, and rendered meat meal
  • Suitable for all breed sizes
  • Recommended for doggos with sensitivities to grains

Cons:

  • Not a likable cuisine for some dogs, while some owners said their dog became overweight

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best senior dog food for large-sized breed

a happy senior Greyhound wearing a collar
Meet Miley, a captivating Senior Greyhound with a sweet smile – Image source

If you’re considering feeding a large dog, they would have certain nutritional requirements.

It’s best to know that larger breeds tend to have a slower metabolic rate than smaller dogs. These bigger dogs are more prone to health issues such as weight gain.

Thus, larger dogs often require fewer calories. The type of food your dog consumes can play a vital role in keeping your big dog in tip-top shape. 

12. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Dog Food

Nutro Natural Choice Large Breed Senior

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice
Type: Dry

This senior dog recipe contains essential fatty acids to promote healthy skin and soft coats in dogs.

Glucosamine and chondroitin help keep your dog’s cartilage and overall mobility in good shape.

If your dog prefers wet dog food or the kibbles with a topper, you can add the Nutro Ultra Grain-Free Senior Pate.

Pros: 

  • Naturally, occurring fiber aids your dog’s digestive system
  • Free of GMO, soy, wheat, corn, and chicken by-product meal
  • Designed for large breed seniors that are 6 years and older

Cons:

  • Some dogs wouldn’t even try this recipe
  • One owner said the pet food smelled old

CHECK PRICE HERE

13. Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Large/Grand Aging 8+ Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Large Aging 8+

Our rating: 4.5
Top ingredients: Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Wheat
Type: Dry

Recommended for aging large breed dogs who excel in different jobs, such as assistance, guard, rescue, tracking, and herding dogs, this recipe addresses their needs against cardiac issues, joint pain, and digestive sensitivities.

Pros: 

  • This senior recipe is specifically made for large breeds and giant breeds
  • Made with highly digestible proteins and adapted fiber content for easier digestion and better stool quality
  • Has antioxidants, DHA, and EPA to support healthy cells

Cons:

  • Some dog owners have mentioned that the kibble is too big and hard to chew

CHECK PRICE HERE

14. Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Senior Dog Food

Wellness Complete Health Senior

Our rating: 4.5 
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal
Type: Dry

This dog kibble contains flaxseed, which is high in omega fatty acids that give dogs a shinier coat. High-quality protein sources provide your dog with ample energy to stay active.

To aid your pup’s immune system, Wellness Complete included blueberries and spinach in the recipe. It also has taurine, which is vital for cognitive functioning in older dogs. 

Pros:

  • Made with superfoods rich in antioxidants
  • Free of GMO, fillers, or artificial preservatives 
  • Live enzymes that support digestion

Cons:

  • Some customers have noted that the kibble was too hard for their senior dogs to chew
  • A few customers have also said their old pups developed loose stools

CHECK PRICE HERE

15. Orijen Senior Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

ORIJEN Senior Grain-Free Dry

Our rating: 5
Top ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Deboned Turkey, Atlantic flounder
Type: Dry

This protein-rich kibble is a great choice for pet owners whose senior dog requires a specialized diet. This Canadian dog brand received several awards for its high-quality product.

This senior is made with 85% being chicken and fish and other essential nutrients, including fatty acids, chondroitin, and glucosamine.

Pros: 

  • Natural and Gluten-free
  • Good for weight control
  • Made from locally sourced animal ingredients

Cons: 

  • Has quite a strong fish smell

CHECK PRICE HERE

Best senior dog food buying guide: How to shop for senior dog food

a senior Yorkie sitting on a car
Meet Olive, a beautiful Senior Yorkshire Terrier on her way to vet – Image source

When looking to choose the right dog food for your aging canine friend, pay attention to the various ingredients included.

Your pet must have a well-balanced diet that caters to their senior needs, and it should contain ingredients that can alleviate diseases and increase their quality of life.

Dog nutrition 101: What kind of food does your senior dog need?

As dogs begin aging, their dietary requirements and eating habits may change.

Besides their weight, age, and metabolism, senior dogs often require a different diet primarily due to health problems, such as kidney or heart diseases and joint problems, that may arise.

A well-balanced diet can play a vital role in combating these illnesses and give your senior dog a better quality of life.

The six basic ingredients of their dog food should include water, carbohydrates, fats, protein, minerals, and vitamins.

But it’s crucial to ensure that your pooch is getting enough protein, at least 25%, to maintain muscle mass and keep his immune system functioning at an optimal level.

Too little protein translates into low levels of amino acids and lower metabolism.

Dog foods that contain high fiber levels are difficult to absorb and may hinder your pup’s ability to take in essential nutrients. However, not having enough fiber may lead to constipation in your dog.

It’s best to keep the salt levels in your dog’s food low, especially if he’s suffering from high blood pressure, heart and kidney problems.

Low levels of phosphorus can help maintain healthy kidney function, and decreased sodium levels can help to keep your dog’s blood pressure regular.

Additionally, you must also be wary of the level of ash (minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, and zinc).

Puppies and adult dogs have different nutritional needs. Senior dog foods contain ingredients that help combat or manage diseases associated with old age and increase a dog’s longevity.

On the other hand, puppies need food that supports their growth or development.

It’s possible to continue feeding your dog the same recipe from his adult stage but decrease the amount you’re providing to prevent weight gain.

Some of the illnesses that are common in senior dogs are:

  • Arthritis 
  • Cognitive dysfunction (dementia)
  • Dental diseases
  • Kidney diseases
  • Obesity
  • Some cancers
  • Skin diseases 

Don’t miss: 11 Best Dog Foods for Kidney Disease

Things to look for when selecting a senior dog food: What should senior dogs eat?

a senior Labrador Retriever licking the rain
Meet Lenn, a Senior Labrador x Retriever mix loving the rainy day – Image source

Dog foods that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals will help keep your dog’s immune system healthy.

Look for foods that contain fatty acids (like Omega 3’s and 6’s), glucosamine, and chondroitin that can improve your four-legged friend’s cognitive functioning, joint health and keep their skin and coat healthy.

Choose senior dog foods that contain high-quality sources of protein and L-carnitine. The protein will help maintain leaner muscles, while the latter can help promote the conversion of fat into muscle.

Dog food that has prebiotics, probiotics, and other active enzymes can help your dog’s digestive system function better, as well as good fiber balance.

Older pups can also become fussy eaters, so be sure to choose a food that smells good, which should help to stimulate your dog’s appetite.

While corn, wheat, and soy are not harmful to your dogs, some dogs are allergic to these items. Again, you can check in with your veterinarian before feeding your dog kibble that contains any of these goods.

Avoid foods with artificial flavoring, colorants, and preservatives, as these can negatively impact your dog’s health.

Fillers can also negatively impact your dog’s health, and they also tend to be non-nutritious.

It’s best to steer clear of dog foods with high-fat levels, as this can lead to weight gain or obesity.

Wet, semi-moist, or dry? Which food is best for your senior dog?

It can be challenging to choose between different types of dog food for your older canine. Wet or canned dog food can be a great option.

It generally contains more protein closer to its original state, which dogs may find more appetizing. The sealed packaging means it’s less likely to spoil and thus may contain fewer preservatives.

Wet food is also easier to eat, which is ideal for older dogs with significant dental issues. However, canned wet dog food is generally higher in calories.

To grain or not to grain: Do senior dogs need grain-free dog food?

There has been significant controversy over whether grain-free diets are suitable for dogs or not.

The FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) started an investigation in 2018 to see whether grain-free diets were causing dogs to develop Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).

This heart condition affects the heart’s ability to pump blood.

The FDA found no significant issues. However, many reports indicated that this condition improved or disappeared once owners took their dogs off a grain-free diet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

a senior dog wanting to eat dinner
Meet Henry, a Senior dog wanting to eat the ribs he’s eyeing – Image source

How much food should I feed my senior dog?

Senior dogs are often less active, and their metabolism slows.

Some dog breeds, such as dachshunds and rough collies, are prone to weight gain as they age, so they would need diets that are lower in calories and contain less fat.

Other dogs may lose weight due to a loss of appetite, poor digestion, difficulty eating, or muscle loss.

In such cases, it would be best to give them pet food with higher calories, as well as fatty acids and other ingredients that aid food absorption.

The most important consideration is their size and weight. Once you have determined this, you can follow the labels on the dog food container.

When and how often should you feed your older dog?

It’s best to keep a feeding routine with any dog. You should feed your dog twice a day – once in the morning and again at night. If your dog doesn’t seem hungry, don’t leave the food lying around all day.

Give them about 30 minutes and, if they haven’t eaten, keep the food for later. When you give them their meal 8 hours or so later, they should be ready to eat.

When should you put your dog on senior food?

The age at which your dog transitions from an adult to a senior will depend on its size.

Like Chihuahuas, smaller breeds reach seniorhood at the age of 10, while a larger breed, such as a Great Dane, will transition to a senior status between the ages of 5 and 6.

Therefore, larger breeds will often transition to senior dog food sooner than smaller dogs.

When considering changing to new dog food, slowly or gradually transition your dog to his new diet by mixing it to his current formula little by little.

You can watch this video on how to switch to a new diet to avoid giving your dog a tummy ache:

What’s the top cause of food-related illness in senior dogs?

Obesity is the number one cause of chronic disease and early death in senior dogs. This is because extra weight puts added pressure on your dog’s joints.

Joint strain is severe in dogs that are already suffering from arthritis, hip dysplasia, or a luxated kneecap.

This is why it’s important to find a balance between a fulfilling diet and a healthy weight.

What can you do if your senior dog refuses to eat?

There are several options you can try to get picky eaters to try their new food. The most popular one is to mix the dry pellets with tasty wet or canned food.

Alternatively, you could mix some fresh meat, such as chicken, or even a plain scrambled in with their food.

Another idea is to praise your dog or give them a treat if they finish their meal. Yummy wet food toppers and treats should get your pup drooling. Do remember that this will add calories to your dog’s meal.

Can you feed homemade dog food to your senior dog?

If you prefer to feed your aging pet home-cooked meals, that’s a good alternative. We found this Brown Rice, Turkey, and Veggies Recipe for you to make for your aging pooch.

It’s packed with protein, fats, and carbohydrates and makes about 12 single servings (1 cup per serving).

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • Half a package of frozen broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower. Or finely chop up 2 carrots, half a broccoli, and half of the cauliflower and cook for about four minutes until they start to become tender
  • 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
  • 2 cups of brown rice
  • 1 pound of ground turkey or chicken

Directions: 

  1. Add the ground turkey (or chicken), rosemary, and brown rice into a large pot along with the 6 cups of water.
  2. Break up the ground turkey or chicken and mix well.
  3. Allow the mixture to cook until it starts to boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the vegetable mix and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Once cooked, allow the homemade dog food to rest and cool before serving it to your hungry pooch.

Found the best senior dog food for your aging furry friend?

a senior Toy Poodle wearing stripes dress while sitting on a chair
Meet Koume, a fashionable Senior Toy Poodle on a cushion – Image source

Dog food that is well-balanced and contains essential nutrients can significantly increase your dog’s quality of life.

So we hope we were able to provide the necessary knowledge to choose the best food for your aging dog with our guide. 

Our top picks will help you decide better, but remember to consult your vet first before changing your dog’s diet.

Let us know if your furry friend loves any of the above dog foods. Or, if you didn’t spot your favorite senior dog food in this guide, leave a comment below – we’d love to hear from you.

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