Treating your dog with love and care is easy – we do love our dogs after all!
But one of the hardest things owners must do is to try and keep your dog healthy while he or she begins to age.
One to keep your aging canine healthy is to consider special formulas of dog food that are uniquely engineered with senior dog health in mind.
Best Senior Dog Food: Quick Picks
- Nulo’s Senior Trout & Sweet Potato [Best Non-Chicken Senior Recipe] This protein-packed senior recipe from Nulo features 80% animal protein with trout, turkey meal, and salmon meal as the first 3 ingredients. It’s one of the only senior recipes we found with no chicken.
- Diamond Naturals Senior Dogs Food [Best Budget Senior Dog Food] This budget-friendly senior formula includes glucosamine and chondroitin. The biggest downside is that rice is the #1 ingredient, rather than an animal protein.
- Nutro Wholesome Essentials Natural Senior [Lamb + Chicken] A well-regarded senior dog food with lamb and chicken meal as the first two ingredients, plus healthy grains like brown rice and oatmeal.
Continue reading for more in-depth reviews
Why Do Senior Dogs Need Special Food?
Is “senior dog food” really any different from normal dog food? With trusted dog food brands, it really is.
Dog food for senior dogs contains special ingredients such as fish oils, chondroitin, glucosamine and MSM. These ingredients help to improve your dog’s health and help remedy common senior dog issues such as joint pain, coat thinning, and digestive troubles.
These ingredients are often used in dog joint supplements, and their presence in dog food can potentially mean reduced arthritis pain for your pooch.
Senior dog food also usually contains less calories. While some owners have trouble getting dogs to gain weight, senior canines struggle more with keeping their weight down.
This is mainly due to the fact that as they grow older, dogs’ metabolism begins to slow down. Energy levels gradually begin to decrease, with dogs moving much less as a result. Keeping your dog trim is very important for senior canine health, which is why these specialized dog foods try to control canine weight-gain.
Veterinarians agree that keeping your dog a healthy weight is the very best thing you can do for a senior dog. Overweight dogs suffer more from arthritis and live shorter lives. Keep your dog trim to keep him healthy!
What to Look For in Top Notch Food For Older Dogs
Here’s what to look for (and what to avoid) when shopping for senior dog food formulas:
Chondroitin, Glucosamine, & Other Special Ingredients. As mentioned above, many senior dog food formulas will have additional ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and fish oils, that can help alleviate senior dog joint paint and maintain a healthy coat and digestion.
Dry Food. While some dogs may be forced to resort to just wet food if their teeth are in really bad shape, it’s recommended to encourage your dog to eat dry food when possible, as dry food can reduce gum disease and control tartar build up.
Manufactured in Certain Countries. We suggest avoiding dog food that is manufactured in countries with lower food-quality standards. Instead, opt for dogs foods made in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Western Europe, when possible. While there is always a chance that any dog food brand could be recalled, dog foods manufactured in these countries are generally a safer bet.
Avoid Artificial Colors & Additives. Just as with humans, it’s best to avoid any artificial colors, additives, or preservatives in food.
Avoid Unidentified Meat Byproducts. Meat and protein are great for you pooch, but unidentified meat byproducts are best avoided. Note that meat meals are byproducts themselves are fine, so long as they are identified (ex. “chicken meal” or “beef byproduct”). However, vaguely labeled “meat meal” or “poultry byproduct” are best left out of your dog’s food.
Best Dog Food For Senior Dogs
Now that you know some of the key reasons behind how senior dog food helps aging dogs, here are a few of the best different types of dog food for you to contemplate buying for your elderly dog.
Note: Be prepared to try several brands and formulas of dog food before finding your perfect match. Often, the dog food that works for one dog won’t suit another as well. Try different dog foods and see which variety works best for your own dog’s unique body composition.
1. Nulo Senior Trout & Sweet Potato with Glucosamine
Protein-packed senior recipe
This protein-packed senior recipe features 80% animal protein with trout, turkey meal, and salmon meal as the first 3 ingredients.
About: Nulo’s Senior Trout and Sweet Potato recipe is one of the few senior formulas that doesn’t rely on chicken as a protein source.
Instead, this recipe uses trout, turkey meal, and salmon meal as the protein sources. And with the top three ingredients all being animal proteins, this food is protein-rich for a healthy pooch.
- Deboned trout, turkey meal, and salmon meal, are the first ingredients – tons of great animal proteins!
- High meat, low carb with 80% animal-based protein. Lower glycemic ingredients.
- Grain-free recipe with no corn, wheat, soy, as well as no white potatoes, tapioca, artificial colors, flavorings or preservatives.
- Includes glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support.
- Contains patented BC30 probiotic to support healthy gut flora, better food digestions, and regulated metabolism.
Deboned Trout, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, Yellow Peas, Sweet Potato...,
Chickpeas, Deboned Turkey, Pea Fiber, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid), Lentils, Natural Flavor, Yeast Culture, Dried Chicory Root, Dried Tomatoes, Dried Carrots, Dried Blueberries, Dried Apples, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, L-Carnitine, Choline Chloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Iron Proteinate, Niacin, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Source of Vitamin B1), Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Source of Vitamin B6), Sodium Selenite, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract
One owner made the switch to Nulo when his vet recommended it, and he’s been very pleased with the results. Another owner noticed changes in his 15 year old dog after switching to Nulo, including healthier hips, ears, and coat!
One owner noted that this food is very smelly due to the high protein count.
2. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Senior
Non-GMO, grain-inclusive senior recipe
A non-grain free dog food with lamb and chicken meal as the first two ingredients, plus healthy grains like brown rice and oatmeal.
About: Nutro Wholesome Essentials Natural Senior is a non-grain free recipe – so if you’re not looking to avoid grains, this is a good pick.
It also featured lamb as the #1 ingredient (although since chicken meal is the #2 ingredient, it still won’t work for owners looking to avoid chicken).
- Pasture-fed lamb is featured as the #1 ingredient
- Designed to maintain dog’s cognitive health
- Packed with omega 3 & 6 fatty acids
- Contains healthy grains like brown rice and oatmeal
- Non-GMO ingredients
Deboned Lamb, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran...,
Whole Grain Oatmeal, Lamb Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Natural Flavor, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Sunflower Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Soybean Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein, Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Selenium Yeast, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.
One veterinarian notes that this is the food she feeds her dogs! Another owner noted that when she compared the ingredient of this recipe with a much more expensive brand, they were nearly the same, with this formula actually having more glucosamine and chondroitin!
One owner seemed to think this food was responsible for their dog’s anal gland issues, but most seem to have only good experiences with this food.
3. Canidae Platinum Senior Dog Food
Essential nutrients with less fat
Features four lean meats – chicken, turkey, lamb and fish – and made without any wheat, corn or soy.
About: The Canidae Platinum senior dog food helps to keep your dog forever young with its reduced fat and protein levels, plus plenty of ingredients for senior dog health in mind.
- 4 High-Quality Meat Sources. Contains 4 high-quality meats, chicken, turkey, lamb and fish to help provide numerous health benefits while remaining tasty for dogs.
- Reduced Fat for Overweight Dogs. This senior dog food has reduced fat and protein levels for senior and overweight dogs. This helps less active older dogs remain at their optimal, healthy weight.
- Healthy Joints. This senior dog food contains glucosamine and chondroitin that can help to alleviate the bone and joint pain often experience by senior dogs.
- Wholesome Ingredients. Contains wholesome grains like brown rice, plus peas, papaya, and sage for a great, healthy taste.
- No Fillers or Other Additives. This food contains no fillers, antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial anything else. This dog food also contains NO wheat, corn, or soy.
- Guaranteed Levels of Probiotics, Antioxidants, and Omega 6. This dog food for senior dogs contains guaranteed levels of live probiotics for healthy digestion, powerful antioxidants for healthy immune systems, and omega 6 and 3 for healthy skin and glossy coat.
Chicken meal, brown rice, white rice, rice bran, peas, ...,
potatoes, oatmeal, cracked pearled barley, millet, turkey meal, lamb meal, chicken fat, tomato pomace, natural flavor, flaxseed, oceanfish meal, salmon oil, choline chloride, salt, potassium chloride, suncured alfalfa, inulin (from chicory root), lecithin, sage extract, cranberries, beta-carotene, rosemary extract, sunflower oil, yucca schidigera extract, dried enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid), minerals (iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite), mixed tocopherols (a preservative), papaya, pineapple. Contains a source of live naturally occurring microorganisms.
Owners love this dog food that is made in the USA – it comes well recommended.
Unlike some of the other dog foods listed, this senior dog food is not grain free (although it is a healthy source of grain).
4. Wellness Complete Health Senior
Chicken & healthy grains with no nasty additives
Wellness boasts a healthy senior-friendly recipe with no meat by-products, wheat, corn or soy included.
About: The Wellness Complete Health senior dog food prides itself on only using the finest, most high-quality ingredients and combining them with unique, effective nutrients for canine whole-body health.
- Wholesome Grains + Fiber. Contains wholesome grains and natural fiber (plus real fruits and veggies) to help maintain a healthy intestinal tract for digestive health.
- Quality Animal Protein. This senior dog food features quality animal protein sources to help build and maintain lean muscle mass. Wellness Complete only uses real meat.
- Healthy Hips + Joints. Contains glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate to help maintain healthy hips and joints for senior dogs.
- No Fillers. This healthy senior dog food has no meat by-products, no wheat, no corn, no soy.
- No Preservatives. This dog food contains no artificial flavors, no colors, and no preservatives.
- Digestool Confirmation Studies. Wellness Complete evaluates their dog food through digestive stool studies – less nutrients in the stool means more nutrients are staying in your dog’s body. Certain levels of calcium and other nutrients are guaranteed.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice...,
Peas, Rice, Ground Flaxseed, Tomato Pomace, Chicken Fat, Tomatoes, Carrots, Natural Chicken Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Spinach, Vitamin E Supplement, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Chondroitin Sulfate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Chicory Root Extract, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Garlic Powder, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract. This is a naturally preserved product.
There is overwhelmingly high praise for Wellness Complete Senior Dog Food from owners, who rave about the quality of the food and the improvements seen in their dogs after transitioning to this dog food. To sweeten the deal, this Wellness Complete food is satisfaction guaranteed, and the business is family owned, which gives comfort to consumers.
This dog food comes extremely highly rated, and at such a high level of quality, this senior dog food isn’t cheap.
5. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Senior Dog
Affordable, senior-focused food with healthy grains
This chicken and brown rice recipe also includes glucosamine and chondroitin for maintaining senior joint health.
About: Blue Buffalo Life Protection Senior is an affordable dog food that comes in chicken & brown rice flavor, providing good quality ingredients such as fish oils and flaxseed that is rich with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
- Meat as #1 Ingredient. Made with real, deboned chicken as the #1 ingredient.
- No By-Products or Unnatural Additives. Contains no chicken by-product meal, no corn, no wheat, and no soy.
- Immune System Health. This dog food for senior dogs is fortified with vitamins and chelated minerals to support a strong immune system.
- Healthy Muscle Mass and Mobility. Dog food protein that includes glucosamine and chondroitin joiny health and mobility.
- Healthy Skin & Coat. Rich in omega-6 fatty acids resulting in a healthy skin and a lustrous, shiny canine coat.
Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Chicken Meal...,
Peas, Pea Starch, Pea Fiber, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Flaxseed (Source of Omega 3 And 6 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein, Fish Oil (Source of Dha-Docosahexaenoic Acid), Dicalcium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potassium Chloride, Potatoes, Dried Chicory Root, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Salt, Taurine, Dried Tomato Pomace, Vitamin E Supplement, Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Dl-Methionine, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Garlic, L-Carnitine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice For Color, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Copper Sulfate, L-Lysine, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Chondroitin Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.
This dog food is much more affordable than other senior dog food brands. Plus, it remains affordable while still featuring meat as the #1 ingredient.
Deboned chicken is the first ingreident, but the next mention of meat is fairly far down on the list. However, since seniors generally need less protein than younger dogs, this isn’t necessarily a huge issue.
6. Diamond Naturals Senior Dogs Food
Budget-friendly senior recipe
With chicken and chicken meal as the first ingredients, along with brown rice and oatmeal, this is a great affordable senior recipe.
About: This Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Food offers great ingredients designed to keep your older dog lean and healthy, all in a tasty egg, chicken and oatmeal formula.
- Supports Joints. This senior dog food contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help support your senior dog’s joints.
- Vitamin E and Selenium. Contains guaranteed levels of vitamin E and selenium, ensuring that your senior dog receives top antioxidant nutrition.
- Contains Antioxidants. Antioxidant formula provides the best health benefits for your dog.
- Healthy Skin & Coat. Includes a balanced amount of Omega Fatty Acids to help keep skin and coat healthy.
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Ground White Rice, Egg...,
Oatmeal, Rice Bran, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Flavor, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Dl-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Dried Chicory Root, L-Carnitine, Kale, Chia Seed, Pumpkin, Blueberries, Oranges, Quinoa, Dried Kelp, Coconut, Spinach, Carrots, Papaya, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Animalis Fermentation Product, Vitamin E Supplement, Beta Carotene, Chondroitin Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D Supplement, Folic Acid. Contains A Source Of Live (Viable), Naturally Occurring Microorganisms.
Owners note that this is a great senior dog food at an affordable price. The dog food comes in very small pieces, making it a great choice for smaller dogs.
The biggest downside to this formula is that rice is the #1 ingredient. It’s much preferred to see animal protein as the 1st ingredient.
Do I Need to Switch to a Special Senior Formula?
In some cases, you’ll be fine feeding your dog his normal dog food formula – you just may need to feed him less of it. This is especially true if your dog is active and in good shape physically.
It’s worth noting that a dog is considered a “senior” in the last third of the dog’s normal expected lifespan. This is when you may want to consider switching to a dog food for older canines.
Many dogs slow down and develop arthritis and joint issues when they age, and in this case, a unique senior formula can be helpful as it can aid in alleviating some of those senior symptoms.
Of course, there’s always the option of feeding your dog additional supplements to combat arthritis, keep fur healthy, etc. It’s best to discuss any supplement regiments with your vet to ensure your pooch is getting all his nutritional needs met.
Ultimately though, be prepared for a trial and error process. Dogs react differently to various brands of senior dog food, and you may need to try several options before you find the perfect formula for your unique canine. Still, start with these recommended dog foods and you’ll be at a good starting point.
Help! My Senior Dog Won’t Eat His Food!
Some dogs can get a bit picker about their food as they get older. While you’ll need to first rule out any medical problem that could be contributing to your four-legged pal’s fasting, there are a few tricks you can use to try to get your dog to eat.
Check With Your Vet. First, check with your vet to make sure this lack of eating isn’t due to more serious health concerns like kidney disease or cancer.
Mix In Wet Stuff. While dry food is good for dogs, it isn’t always as appealing. Try mixing in warm water or chicken broth to soften up that dry food. Many owners choose to mix in some wet canned food with their dog’s dry kibble as well.
Switch to Smaller Kibble. While some senior dogs can chew down kibble just fine, some pooches may prefer a smaller kibble size, as it’s easier to chew.
Switch to Wet Food. If your dog still isn’t eating when you mix wet and dry food together, you may need to try an all wet diet. Just make sure you’re picking out something that can meet your senior dog’s nutritional needs.
Add Sardine Oil. Many owners swear by mixing in some tasty, fishy oil in with their dog’s dry food. This doesn’t just soften up the food, but also makes it smell spectacular. Plus, the fish oil is really great for older dogs’ joints and coat.
Feed Smaller Amounts. Some dogs fare better by being fed a small amount of food several times throughout the day, rather than just one big meal.
Homemade Diet. As a last resort, if your dog refuses to eat, you may need to start cooking him a homemade diet. Be sure to consult your vet when planning out your dog’s new eating regiment, and it’s very important to make sure all your pooch’s nutritional needs are met – something that isn’t always easy to do when you’re not using a commercial dog food.
Looking for other ways to care for your senior dog? Make sure to check out our post about dog steps and ramps (for improving senior dog mobility), our post about Fresh Patch and other dog potty pads (for when trips outside get more difficult), as well as our evaluation of the best dog beds for senior dogs.