A series of educational pet nutrition blogs written by pet experts, just for pet parents.

Senior Dog Food Guide

Posted on 05.04.2024

How to Choose a Food for a Senior Dog?

Just like humans, your pup's body changes as they get older. While each dog is different, most small and medium dogs are considered "seniors" about 3/4 the way through the typical lifespan,  and most large dogs are considered "seniors" at around ages 6-8. As dogs get older, their metabolism slows and the digestion process changes. It is important to adjust your pet’s diet in accordance with their age- ensuring their food is specified to their needs and easier to process. It is also crucial to include extra nutrients that their tiring bodies might need.

Senior Dogs Diet Needs

There are a number of different signs that your pup might be starting to transition into the senior category. If you notice your pet's weight beginning to increase (or even decrease), it might be time to put them onto a senior-specified diet. Look to brands like Fromm, Orijen, and Acana for Senior/Low Calorie kibbles.These foods are typically lower in calories to help balance the lack of activity and decreased metabolic function seen in older pets. 

Another common sign of declining years is a notable difference in dental health. As dogs get older, they also begin to accumulate more plaque and tartar on their tooth enamel. Due to the lack of the enzyme amylase in their saliva, dogs are unable to break down plaque and tartar buildup. It is important to recognize the signs of build up and introduce supplements to help combat the issue. 

Another common health problem experienced by senior dogs is joint pain or arthritis. After years of running, playing, and being a typical pup, dogs tend to get a little sore as they get older. Introducing extra supplements into a senior dog's diet can increase stability and decrease pains that accompany daily life.

Dog Food for Immune Support

As dogs get older, their immune system tends to decrease in functionality. A dog's gut makes up over 70% of their immune system, so in order to support overall health, healthy and balanced foods need to be a part of every senior dog's diet. Any product that contains active prebiotics and probiotics are a great addition to a senior diet. Probiotics are full of live microorganisms that help to support and maintain a healthy microflora. Fish oil is also a beneficial supplement for boosting immune support. Whether a fish-based kibble or a fish oil supplement, Omega-3's and Omega-6's produce both internal and external benefits. After a few weeks of adding fish oil to your senior's diet, you'll see a shinier coat and smoother skin while also knowing their brain function and gut health is improving. Since dogs cannot produce Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, they require these anti-inflammatory supplements to be included in their daily diet.

Dental Health

Unlike humans, dogs require extra assistance when it comes to dental hygiene. For the most part, humans will never be able to grow excess plaque and tartar. This is because our saliva contains an enzyme called Amylase. Amylase breaks down the starches we consume which, in turn, leads to the natural breakdown of plaque and tartar. Unfortunately for our furry friends, they lack amylase in their saliva. Because of this, it is important to introduce products into your pup's diet that will work as a toothbrush substitute. Whether this be actually brushing your dog's teeth, giving them raw bones, or giving them dental chews, anything that breaks down plaque and tartar helps make life a little better for our canine companions. If buildup is left to grow, it can be accompanied by pain, infections, or other issues. 

Digestive Health 

As dogs get older, their stomachs often become more sensitive and they might require a simpler diet. Similarly, it is common to see allergies pop up in seniors that were previously not an issue. After a while of consuming the sane food, a dog's digestive system can often grow accustomed to the food and begin to turn against it. In cases like this, it is important to identify what the intolerance could be and switch to a food without the ingredient. Since older dogs have an increased chance of having digestive issues, introducing limited ingredient diets help eliminate the chance of allergies, intolerances, or upset tummies. Look to A Pup Above's gently cooked food or Zignature kibble for a mouthwatering limited ingredient dog food.

Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight

As puppies and adults, dogs typically work off the calories they consume through playing and daily walks. However, as dogs age, they gradually become less active. This can lead to weight gain, which can negatively affect joint health, immune health, and overall quality of life. Most kibble brands carry senior or weight management specific lines of food. These foods are lower in calories, making them a perfect alternative for our friends with gray muzzles. Strangely enough, some dogs actually begin to lose weight as they increase in age. This is due to the loss of muscle mass. In these cases, in order to maintain weight, it is important to introduce a higher protein diet. This can be achieved in a number of different ways. One option is to change their kibble to a food with higher protein content. Another option is introducing supplements like bone broth or goat milk to increase both calorie and protein content. If weight loss persists after multiple different attempts, it is important to see your veterinarian as there could be underlying medical conditions.

Supplements for Senior Dogs

We get that introducing supplements can get a little confusing and time consuming. There are so many options out there, how can you find the right fit for your pup? Luckily, all Treats Unleashed employees are trained to help figure out the best fit for every pup's specific needs. Some things to look for in a supplement are ingredient lists that are short, sweet, and to the point. Most high-quality supplements will contain just the basics and nothing more. For example, Super Snouts Joint Powder contains one ingredient - 100% Green Lipped Mussels! This supplement is great for joint, skin, and coat health. Another example of a high quality supplement with limited ingredients is Ultra Oil. Each of the 9 ingredients have a distinct purpose, making sure that pups are getting the best and nothing less. When in doubt, look at the ingredient list. If there's anything on there that seems unnecessary, it might be time to look for a limited-ingredient alternative. However, those extra ingredients might not be as important if you have a picky pup who only likes flavored supplements. 

Find the Right Food for Your Dog

At the end of the day, as much as we wish it so, our dogs can't tell us how they're feeling or if they need help. It's up to us to interpret their needs and act accordingly. Team members at Treats Unleashed are trained in pet nutrition and are just one store visit, website chat, or phone call away from a recommendation. We're always introducing new supplements and trying out new combinations. Visit your local Treats Unleashed or fill out a personalized feeding plan form now for a happier and healthier life for your furry friend. 

We’re not veterinarians. Treats Unleashed staff are well educated, and our writing is well-researched, but neither the advice of a Treats Unleashed staff member nor reading Treats Unleashed's written materials can substitute for visiting a veterinarian. We offer carefully chosen, natural solutions, but we believe that veterinary conditions should be diagnosed and treated by professionals. 
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