As our pet companions grow older, they are likely to find themselves with different dietary requirements or tastes. Here, our Apple Valley vets address your questions about geriatric pet care as well as what the best dog food for older dogs is.
When is my older dog considered geriatric?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The expected lifespans for dogs will vary widely based on their breed and size. As a general rule, however, small dogs will be expected to live to about 15-20 years old while larger dogs will often live between 12 and 15 years.
Bigger dogs age faster and are considered to be "older" around the time they turn 6, while small dogs generally pass into middle age at around 8 years old.
Do senior dogs have special nutritional needs?
Absolutely! There are two major factors to consider when determining the best dog food for senior dogs.
The first thing is to try and keep their food low on calories. Just like in humans, our dogs' metabolisms slow down as they grow older. To prevent unhealthy weight gain, it's critical to make sure our older dogs aren't eating too much.
The second is trying to make sure their diet includes high-fiber options. Constipation is painful in its own right, and it can lead to further gastrointestinal issues when it becomes severe enough; maintaining gastrointestinal health is a common obstacle for older dogs, so the best dog food for senior dogs will have lots of fiber to help them stay healthy and regular.
What kinds of health issues will the best dog food for senior dogs help prevent?
Senior dogs who suffer from health issues like kidney failure, liver disease or diabetes are liable to require specialized diets that may help to keep their condition under control. Generally speaking, it's better to consult with a vet if your dog is ill and you are concerned about the impact their diet is having on their health.
Dogs who have or are at elevated risk for heart disease benefit from lower-calorie senior dog foods that help keep their weight down; low sodium recipes are preferable
The veterinary team at Apple Valley Animal Hospital recommends that the owners of diabetic or pre-diabetic dogs choose dog foods that slow their absorption of food. These kinds fo specialized diabetic diets will tend to raise blood sugar in order to reduce the chances of health impacts in dogs with diabetes. These kinds of diets are, generally, pretty low in fats and quite high in fibre. We advise that you ask your vet whether they are able to provide recommendations for the diet of your diabetic dog.
Many senior dog food brands make a point to include higher-quality protein sources than standard dog food; this helps senior dogs maintain a healthy body weight without putting unneeded strain on their ageing kidneys.
As previously mentioned, constipation is a common struggle for older dogs, the high amount of fiber present in the best dog food for older dogs helps to prevent constipation and keep their bowel movements regular.
What should I do if my senior dog won't eat their dog food?
It's quite normal for older dogs to suffer from some amount of lost appetite. The causes of sudden appetite loss are quite varied both in their scope and severity. Your dog may be suffering from simple nausea brought on by their own gastrointestinal problems, or could even be suffering from the effects of serious diseases like cancer.
If your senior dog has suddenly begun to demonstrate an unexplained loss of appetite, it is best to speak with your vet and have them rule out any potentially serious causes including dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer.
Once serious medical conditions have been ruled out as the cause for appetite loss, another avenue for consideration is the simplest one--perhaps your dog is simply tired of their regular food. Adding chicken broth, some water, or a small amount of canned food to your dog's dry kibble supply may serve to make it more enticing. You could also try preparing a simple meal for your dog of cooked chicken and barley or cooked lamb and rice. These home-cooked meals are both nutritious, and bland enough to sit well with them if your older dog is experiencing some nausea.
Is prescription dog food the best dog food for older dogs?
Depending on the exact situation affecting your dog's health, prescription food might be the right choice for your pup. In other cases, however, it may be as simple as a switch to a healthier dog food alternative.
Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs
The team at Apple Valley Animal Hospital has compiled a list of some of the best dog food brands for senior dogs, all of which are available from our online store and pharmacy. Ask your vet what senior dog food is best for your pet.
Hill's® Science Diet® Dog Senior 11+ Adult Small Paws™
Hill's® Science Diet® Dog Senior 11+ Adult Small Paws™ Dry dog food provides precisely balanced, easy-to-digest nutrition tailored to older small & toy breed dogs.
Recommended for senior dogs 11+ years of age. This diet contains 4.6 cups of food per pound.
Purina® Pro Plan® Veterinary Diets Dog DH Dental Health Diet Dry
Contains a patented kibble texture, with added antioxidants plus a natural source of glucosamine. Perfect nutrition for adult and senior dogs. Awarded the VOHC ® Seal of Acceptance
Purina Veterinary Diets® DH® Dental Health Canine Formula and DH® Small Bites Canine Formula have been formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition for adult and senior dogs while providing the following characteristics: Optimal kibble size, Patented kibble texture, Added antioxidants A and E, Natural source of glucosamine, Moderate calories, Exceptional palatability, and Perfect solution for everyday feeding of adult and senior dogs.
Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition MEDIUM Aging 10+ Dry
Medium-sized dogs are famous for their seemingly endless energy, but as they grow into their senior years, they’ve probably slowed down a bit, and so has their body. With age comes the probability of a dulling coat, and a decrease in energy—sometimes even in appetite. But with a right-sized diet tailor-made for the nutritional needs of senior dogs, your dog can thrive. This Royal Canin Medium Aging Adult 10+ senior dry dog food is made to support your older dog’s vitality. An exclusive blend of antioxidants supports healthy aging and overall cellular health. And because older medium breed dogs may put stress on their bones and joints as they age, key nutrients are included to help keep them playing. Omega-3 fatty acids promote your dog’s skin and coat health to help maintain their youthful shine. And a specially designed rehydratable kibble is adapted for a senior medium breed dog’s jaw, with a highly palatable formula for a meal they’ll love. For variety in texture, Add Royal Canin Mature 8+ wet dog food to their bowl.
Royal Canin Medium Aging 10+ dry dog food is precise nutrition specifically made for senior medium-sized dogs 10 years and older weighing 23–55 lbs. Supports healthy aging with an exclusive blend of antioxidants for overall vitality. Helps support bones and joint health in medium breed dogs. Nourishes with Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for healthy skin and coat. Easy to eat, rehydratable kibble designed specifically for the jaws of senior medium-sized dogs.
Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition LARGE Adult 8+ Dry for Dogs
Large breed dogs are treasured for being hard-working animals and loyal family companions. But as they age, their nutritional needs change. Their large bodies can benefit from an age- and size-specific diet that can help keep them happy and healthy. Royal Canin Large Aging 8+ dry dog food (formerly Maxi Aging 8+) is tailored to support your big senior dog’s vitality. An exclusive complex of antioxidants supports cellular health to help reduce the signs of aging. Precise nutrients keep large bones and joints healthy and strong to help your dog stay active. And high-quality proteins and a balance of fibers help your dog digest food easily for digestive health. Plus, this highly palatable kibble is rehydratable: Mix in warm water for an easy-to-chew meal your dog will love to eat. Add some variety to their bowl with Royal Canin Mature 8+ wet dog food.
Royal Canin Large Aging 8+ dry dog food (formerly Maxi Aging 8+) is precise nutrition specifically made for large dogs 8 years and older weighing 56–100 lbs. Supports long-life vitality with an exclusive blend of antioxidants made for healthy aging. Helps support bones and joint health in senior large breed dogs. Promotes healthy digestion with easy-to-digest proteins and a balanced supply of fiber. Large-sized rehydratable kibble is easy to chew and ideal for senior dogs’ jaws.
Hill's® Science Diet® Dog Mature Adult Canned
Hill's Science Diet Mature Adult canned dog food has all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and calories your senior dog needs to help him stay fit and healthy throughout his senior years. Made in the USA with global ingredients you can trust, these foods also use clinically proven antioxidants for a healthy immune system. Open up a can and serve either one of these mouthwatering entrées as a balanced meal, or try on top of Science Diet dry dog food.
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.
Do you need help navigating the labels of your dog's food or to find out what the best nutritional option for your senior dog is? Our veterinarians are dedicated to helping geriatric pups get the nutrition they need each day. Contact Apple Valley Animal Hospital today to get started!