Your dog's dietary needs - and likely their overall health - will change as they get older. Our Dallas vets list the best types of food that can help keep your senior dog healthy and active.
When is my dog considered a senior?
Since every dog will have unique needs and characteristics, there's not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. A dog's anticipated lifespan can change depending on their breed and size. Generally, small dogs are predicted to live between 15 and 20 years, and larger dogs typically live about 12 to 15 years.
Smaller dogs typically enter middle age at around 8 years old, while larger dogs age more quickly and are considered "older" around the time they turn 6 years old.
Does my senior dog have specific nutritional needs?
We recommend keeping two primary criteria in mind when looking for the best dog food for senior dogs.
First, seek out low-calorie dog food. Similar to people, a dog's metabolism slows down as they age. This is why it's important to keep our furry best friends from eating too much or too quickly. This will help keep obesity at bay.
Second, integrate high-fiber options into their diet. Constipation is a fairly common issue for aging dogs and may lead to further gastrointestinal problems if it becomes severe enough. Plus, it can be painful.
The best dog food for senior dogs will contain lots of fiber to help keep your pooch's gastrointestinal system healthy.
What should I do if my senior dog won't eat?
Our Dallas vets sometimes see older dogs that have lost at least some of their appetite. Causes for sudden loss of appetite can vary in both scope and severity; gastrointestinal issues may be causing your dog to suffer from simple nausea, or they could be suffering from cancer-related illness.
Talk to your vet if your senior dog has suddenly started to lose their appetite so any potentially serious causes - including cancer, diabetes, dental disease, or kidney disease - can be ruled out.
Once your vet has eliminated serious medical conditions from the list of possible reasons for appetite loss, you might consider whether your dog is simply bored with their regular food.
Adding a small amount of canned food, water, or chicken broth to your dog's dry kibble may help to make it more tempting. You could also try preparing a simple meal of cooked chicken and barley or rice and cooked lamb. These home-cooked meals are bland but nutritious, and will probably sit well on your dog's stomach if they are experiencing some nausea.
Which health problems can the best dog food for senior dogs help prevent?
If your senior dog suffers from health conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, or kidney failure, he or she will probably need a special diet to help manage the condition. If your dog is ill and you are concerned about any potential side effects of their diet, discuss this issue with your vet.
Best Dog Food for Older Dogs
Our veterinary team at New Hope Animal Hospital has compiled a list of some of the best types of dog foods for senior dogs. Ask your vet which senior dog food is best for your four-legged friend.
Prescription Dog Food
Depending on your dog's specific circumstances and health conditions, in some cases a medical prescription dog food might be the best option for your senior pooch. In other cases, your vet may simply recommend you switch to a healthy alternative.
Low-Calorie Dog Food
Low-calorie senior dog food can benefit dogs that are at a higher risk for heart disease (or who have already been diagnosed with it), as it will help keep their weight down. Low-sodium recipes are preferred.
High-Fiber, Low-Fat Dog Food
Our veterinarians in Dallas recommend owners of pre-diabetic or diabetic dogs place a high priority on the slow absorption of food. Blood sugar tends to rise more slowly with special diabetic diets, reducing the risk for health complications. These diets are also exceptionally high in fiber and low in fat.
As mentioned previously since older dogs commonly struggle with constipation, the higher amount of fiber, the better. This will help to prevent constipation and keep their bowels working regularly.
Dog Food High in Protein
Many senior dog foods will also contain higher quality protein sources than standard dog food, which can help senior dogs maintain a healthy body weight without putting unnecessary strain on their aging kidneys.
Limited Ingredient Dog Foods
If your senior dog has allergies, your vet might recommend limited ingredient dog foods, which include just a single protein source (such as chicken, beef or lamb), often combined with one carbohydrate source.
This can be used to eliminate allergens that might be causing allergic reactions or symptoms. When looking for limited ingredient dog foods, it's important to check for the Association of American Feed Control's (AAFCO) seal of approval, in addition to a "complete and balanced" claim from the manufacturer.
Your vet will be able to provide dietary recommendations for your senior or diabetic dog, along with comprehensive geriatric care and exams.
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.