As your dog gets older, finding the right senior dog foods is important to keep your home buddy happy. We’ve already covered the best dog foods to consider, as well as the best dry dog foods, and even dog foods – but how do you decide what’s best for an older dog?
“Pets age differently than humans,” says KT Boyle, DVM at Banfield Pet Hospital, noting that large breed dogs such as Great Danes may be considered older by age six, but smaller breeds such as Miniature Poodles may not be seniors until they turn 10 old. While age does matter, Boyle suggests keeping an eye on your dog’s energy levels, whether or not they have white hair on their face and whether or not you notice a blue clouding or clouding in their eyes known as nuclear sclerosis is. If you notice your dog is slowing down or having physical changes, speak to your veterinarian to see if changing diet might help. To that end, we’ve consulted animal experts on how to buy senior dog food and have compiled some of the best senior dog foods available today.
AHEAD skip The best senior dog food
How to Shop for Older Dog Food
If you are considering switching your dog’s food to older dog recipes, Boyle suggests a slow transition to avoid upset your pup’s stomach. Gradually reduce the ratio of old to new foods every few days. If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea while switching to a new food, call your veterinarian.
The number of calories in older dog foods is a good place to start when shopping. Your dog’s metabolism may be slowing down and they may not need as many calories as they did when they were young. Talking to your veterinarian can help you determine how many calories your dog needs based on his breed, weight, age, and activity level. To keep track of how much your pet is eating, “measure servings and limit treats to 10 percent or less of your pet’s daily intake,” recommends Boyle, adding a statement on diet adequacy from the Association of American Food Control Officials (AAFCO) on a dog food label. Remember that while terms like “organic” are regulated, the AAFCO does not provide specific guidelines for senior dog foods.
Your dog’s health is a factor when trying to choose the right senior dog food as well. For example, an older dog may need a special diet if they have kidney disease, liver disease, or arthritis. And while some older foods contain supplements such as essential fatty acids or glucosamine for joint disease, Boyle notes that “the amount of supplements in a diet is very limited, so additional supplements may be required.”
Pay special attention to your dog’s coat, looking for “patchy hair loss, excessive dandruff or the appearance of a dull, non-shiny coat.” Boyle notes that “nutritional skin problems in general are caused by a lack of nutrients”. This is where a conversation with your veterinarian can help determine whether fatty acid supplements or a change in diet can improve your dog’s coat or skin problems.
What about wet food versus dry food?
While some dogs with dental problems find wet food easier to eat, dry food is more convenient and does not spoil as easily. A call to the vet will help balance your dogs’ needs with the right food. – Boyle recommends that your dog try both wet and dry options. “Switching from dry to wet foods – or vice versa – can be more difficult if you are picky eaters,” says Boyle. “Therefore, exposing pets to both types of food during their lifetime can be a good idea.”
What About Grain-Free Seniors Dog Food?
Check with your veterinarian before buying grain-free dog food. As reported by NBC News, the FDA opened an investigation in 2018 to investigate a possible link between a grain-free diet and a heart condition known as canine dilated cardiomyopathy. “Grains, when properly processed, can be nutritionally valuable and a source of fiber and minerals,” says Boyle.
Best dog food for older dogs
1. Eukanuba Small Breed Senior dry dog food
The small nibbles in this dry food from Eukanuba prevent tartar from building up on your dog’s teeth. Chicken by-product meal is the first ingredient in the feed designed for older, small breed dogs (over seven years old).
2. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Chicken Meal, Barley + Rice Recipe
This option from Hill’s Science Diet is a mix of chicken meal, cracked pearl barley, and beer rice (the three main ingredients). It also has vitamin A, B12, and D3 supplements.
3. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Recipe for Chicken and Brown Rice
The first three ingredients for Blue Buffalo’s crispy nibbles are boned chicken, brown rice, and barley. The dry food is also packed with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables (berries, pumpkin, pomegranate, and spinach).
4. Iams Proactive Health Recipe for Mature Adult Chickens and Whole Grains
Chicken, chicken by-product meal, and ground whole grain barley are the first three ingredients in this older dog food from Iams. It also contains dried beet pulp, a prebiotic that is believed to aid digestion.
5. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Senior Farm-Raised Chicken, Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Recipe
This Nutro dry dog food is made from non-genetically modified ingredients. Chicken, chicken meal, and barley are offered along with sweet potatoes, peas, whole brown rice, and lamb meal.
6. The farm dog
The Farmer’s Dog is a consumer subscription service and part of what Judy Morgan, DVM referred to as “TV Dinner for Dogs.” The fresh human-quality meat, along with vegetables, forms a mix based on your dog’s calorie needs.
7. Royal Canin Small Aging Wet Dog Food
This Royal Canin wet food is designed for dolls that are 12 years old and under 22 pounds. A mix of chicken and pork by-products, it can be used as a supplement to entice a dog to eat dry food or as a meal on its own.
8. Diamond Naturals Senior Formula dry dog food
Diamond Naturals dry dog food combines chicken, a lean protein, with superfoods like coconut, chia seeds, blueberries, kale, spinach, and quinoa.
9. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Hearty stew with beef and vegetables
Hill’s Science Diet wet food is a stew that features beef chunks with carrots and peas in sauce that are gentle on your pup’s tummy – and delicious too.
10. Nom Nom
Nom Nom’s subscription service uses AAFCO nutritional guidelines to formulate its recipes. The Turkey Fare – fresh human-quality dog food – has ground turkey, eggs and brown rice in its first three ingredients, followed by carrots and spinach.
11. Victor Senior Healthy Weight
These Victor dry nibbles are made with beef meal, whole grain brown rice, and whole grain millet. It also has glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for healthy joints.
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