Best Senior Dog Food: A Well-Balanced Diet for Aging Dogs

As your dog ages, you may need to adjust its diet to incorporate the best senior dog food in order to suit its nutritional needs. The best senior dog foods are diets with lower calories, high fiber, and high quality protein, as well as less fat, sodium and phosphorus. This article discusses the transition to senior dog food and nutritional needs of senior dogs with health conditions.

senior dog
Photo by Kanashi on Unsplash

How to choose the best senior dog food?

Your dog may be getting older and less active, thus requiring less calories. Generally, when you look for the best senior dog food, you should look out for those that contain lower protein and calories. 

If your dog has metabolism issues which hinders the breakdown and absorption of nutrients from their diet, they may lose weight. Consequently, a diet of higher calories and more easily-digestible, high quality protein is more suitable to maintain healthy body weight and muscle mass. 

You can introduce the range of senior dog food from Petcubes to your dog for a balanced diet.

Should all older dogs eat senior food?

You may wonder if it is necessary for all dogs to switch to senior dog food and when is the right time to do it. The answer is it will depend on the health and breed of your dog. 

Small dogs such as toy poodles or Chihuahuas mature faster and their aging slows down after maturity. Thus, they are not considered senior until much later at around 10 to 12 years old compared to large and giant breeds at around 5 to 6 years old. Generally, dogs around the age of 7 to 8 years old will be considered senior dogs. 

The stamina and health of the dogs slowly deteriorate as they age. Their bodies’ abilities to repair and maintain normal body functions also decline. They also increasingly struggle to adapt to surrounding environmental changes and stresses. 

Most dogs at approximately 7 years old and giant breed dogs at approximately 5 years old will experience slower metabolism, thus needing less calories. However, those with digestion issues may need more calories.

Wet senior dog food vs dry food

Although dry dog food is more convenient in terms of clean up and expiry, some canines, especially senior dogs with dental problems (very common) may find wet food easier to eat. 

Don’t restrict protein

To have a healthy senior dog, you should feed it more protein to fuel muscle. When senior dogs age, a common problem is the loss of muscle mass. In fact, some older dogs lose so much muscle that they are unable to walk unassisted. 

As a general recommendation, senior dog food should contain about 50% more protein to muscle mass compared to younger dogs.

Senior dogs supplements for special nutritional needs

Senior food may not be the best dog food choice for all senior dogs, particularly for those who have health issues such as diabetes, kidney failures or poor absorption of nutrients in the gut, which require special nutritional needs.

If your dog’s kidney function is deteriorating, you can feed it with a higher digestibility and quality protein diet that aids in reducing the kidneys’ workload. To maintain a healthy kidney function, you should also decrease the phosphorus level in the senior dog’s diet and lower the sodium in food to keep its blood pressure normal.

Senior dogs that tend to have constipation can have a high fiber diet at around 3% to 5%. 

You can also introduce dry food to your senior dog that helps to control the buildup of tartar and lower the chances of getting gum disease. 

Beyond that, you should also incorporate supplements into your aging dogs’ diet to cater to their special nutritional needs. Supplements are beneficial to senior dogs who are absorbing lower vitamins, electrolytes and minerals through their intestinal tracts and losing more through their urinary tract and kidneys. 

Some of the supplements senior dogs need are

  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin: These are joint supplements that increase cartilage to help senior dogs feel less pain when moving around.
  • Antioxidants: Provide additional support to the dogs’ immune systems.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Reduce inflammation and improve kidney health. Can be found in certain nuts, plants or fish oil.

Transitioning to senior dog food

A gradual transition to senior dog food is recommended over 7 days to allow time for your dog to adjust. This is because abrupt changes may upset your dog’s tummy which can cause vomiting, diarrhea or less appetite. 

You can try to follow this general guide to incorporate more of the new food daily by mixing it with the current diet:

  • Day 1: 75% old diet and 25% new diet
  • Day 3: 50% old diet and 50% new diet
  • Day 5: 25% old diet and 75% new diet
  • Day 7: 100% new diet

Dogs who are picky eaters or have gastrointestinal sensitivity may probably be better off with a 10 to 14 days transition.

Feed senior dogs for organ health

You have to take into consideration the fact that senior dogs are more prone to having health problems such as heart and kidney disease.  For example, if your dog has a heart problem, you may want to feed it a low sodium diet. Of course, consult your vet beforehand. 

How to shop for senior dog food? 

After consulting your veterinarian, you can determine how many calories your dog needs. Measure portions of food and limit treats to 10% or less of your pet’s daily intake as senior dogs don’t need so many calories as compared to before. 

When you are buying senior dog food, you should also look for the nutritional adequacy statement from the Association of American Food Control Officials (AAFCO) though the AAFCO has not established an official dietary requirements for aging dogs. 

In order to prevent an upset stomach, you should gradually reduce the ratio of old food to new food every few days and not make the switch all at one go. Keep in mind that the best senior dog food is one that meets all your dog’s nutritional needs and if it has health issues such as joint problems, the ingredients should be aimed at easing said health issues.

Best grain-free senior dog food

Grain free dog food is made without wheat, rice, corn, and other grains. These foods usually use an alternate source of carbohydrates such as potatoes and pea flour to meet a dog’s daily carbohydrate needs. Carbohydrates are an important part of your dog’s diet as they are a great source of energy.

The only reason to move your senior dog to a grain free diet is if has developed an allergy to grains. Fortunately, grain allergy in dogs is quite uncommon. It is far more likely for your dog to develop an allergy to a protein source. 

If you’re considering a grain free diet for your senior dog for some reason, it’s also important to consider the quality of your dog’s food. Grain free diets have been linked to heart disease in dogs. As such, the best grain free senior dog food may not be grain free at all. It might be better if you opt for high quality whole grains such as quinoa, rye, oats and brown rice. 

Whole grains contain high levels of essential vitamins and nutrients such as fiber, iron, B vitamins and phosphorus which will help keep your senior dog strong and healthy. As it’s important to find balance when it comes to your dog’s diet, you might still want to have some form of carbohydrates to ensure that your dog has enough energy. 

Best senior dog food for dogs with diabetes

Some of the symptoms of diabetes in dogs are weight loss, extreme thirst, frequent urination, extreme tiredness, vomiting, and dehydration. 

Senior dogs with diabetes should consume food with less fat and high fiber. High fiber dog food tends to be digested slowly, leading to a slower rise in blood sugar level. High fiber food also helps your dog feel full for a longer period of time, thus you can cut down on its calories intake.

It will be helpful for you to monitor your dog’s food intake and portion according to their activity level and weight. It is important to maintain a normal blood sugar or glucose level for diabetic dogs to avoid further complications related to diabetes, for example urinary tract infections and cataracts. 

Therefore, you should avoid serving food that is high in sugar or stop giving treats to your dog. Ingredients that contain syrup, fructose, molasses, maltose or dextrose should be avoided. Homemade food such as dehydrated meats, snap peas or carrots and canned pumpkins can be given to your dogs.

Best senior dog food for dogs with heart disease

Heart disease, particularly congestive heart failure (CHF) is a common dog disease whereby its heart is unable to pump blood effectively to all organs in the body. High blood pressure, or commonly known as hypertension is a contributor to CHF and heart disease. About one-third of dogs over 10 years old have heart disease and most of them are small dogs. 

For dogs with CHF, they usually experience retention of water, chloride, and sodium in their bodies. Excess sodium retention in the heart will worsen their heart condition by raising the blood pressure and adding to its workload. Therefore, a senior dog with heart disease should be given a diet with low sodium to manage the disease effectively. 

Other than that, you can supplement the amino acids, namely Taurine and L-Carnitine in your dog’s diet to support energy production in its heart muscles. B-Vitamins, which are lost through urine owing to use of heart medications should be replenished. 

Make sure to check the level of magnesium and potassium in your dog’s blood to determine if you should supplement them. The decrease in magnesium can weaken your dog’s heart muscle and increases the risk of experiencing side effects from its heart medications.

Best senior dog food for dogs with arthritis

Most senior dogs are affected by arthritis, which refers to inflamed joints and muscles. Some of the signs of arthritis in dogs are lethargy, limping, chewing, irritability, and chewing. 

Arthritis may worsen if the dogs are overweight due to pressure exerted on the joints while moving. Thus, it is beneficial to adjust the diet to maintain an ideal weight for dogs with arthritis. 

Supplements that list ingredients such as long-chain omega 3 fatty acid, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), chondroitin, and glucosamine hydrochloride can support your dog’s joint health, You can also buy Petcube’s supplement for joint mobility and bone broths for your arthritic dog.   

bone broths

Best senior dog food for overweight dogs 

Senior dogs have lower requirements for energy due to decreased activity levels as they grow older. This leads to a lower metabolic rate that increases their likelihood of becoming obese or overweight. 

Overweight dogs require diets with a lower fat level of approximately 8 to 12%, that often means lower calories that help to maintain a healthy weight. Additional weight may cause more work for your dog’s joints, which may worsen if they have existing inflammation problems due to hip dysplasia, luxated kneecap or arthritis. 

To determine the ideal weight for your dog, refer to the dog weight management chart as a guide to managing your dog’s weight.

How much food should I feed my senior dog?

It is difficult to determine the food portion that is best for your senior dog. The best option is to follow the serving suggestion on the food packaging. 

Then, monitor the changes in your dog and adjust accordingly based on its preference, weight and appetite. 

What should I do if my senior dog won’t eat?

Some senior dogs may lose interest in their food and start to lose weight. You should consult a veterinarian should these happen to determine any underlying issues with their health. If your dog is perfectly healthy, you may need to change its diet.

If you usually serve dry food such as kibbles to your dog, the possible reason your dog eats less is because he is experiencing issues with chewing large kibbles. The easiest solution is to break them down into smaller pieces or switch to wet dog food. If you would like to find out more about how wet dog food can benefit your dog, you can read the article Best wet dog food


In summary, if your dog does not have any health issues and is not overweight, you can continue serving its regular adult diet. The best option is to consult your veterinarian to do a full evaluation to determine whether your dog needs to change its diet. 

Reviewed by: 

Dr Francis is one of the top wildlife nutritionists in Asia. Originating from Montreal, Canada, he left at 21 to pursue his Masters and subsequently a PhD in wildlife nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Instead of taking the path of common animal science to learn about farm animals, or through the veterinarian space and taking a certificate in nutrition, he took the road less travelled to dive deep into the world of animal ecology, metabolism and nutrition.