A Guide To Feeding Senior Dogs

Key points

  • It can be challenging to determine when your pet needs to start eating a senior dog diet. It’s different for all breeds, but according to most vets, dogs are considered seniors when they’ve reached half of their life expectancy.
  • Including a lot of fiber in your dog’s diet will help prevent constipation and maintain healthy glucose levels in the bloodstream.
  • Adding fructooligosaccharides (FOS), vitamin E, beta-carotene, and Omega-6 fatty acids such as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) can help boost your elderly pet’s immune system, keep its skin and coat healthy, and prevent indigestion.
  • For dogs with liver or kidney problems, it’s better to follow a low protein diet.
  • Dogs’ metabolism tends to slow down with age; therefore, elderly pets need 20% fewer calories to maintain the same weight as younger dogs. If your senior dog has lost weight, check with your vet to eliminate the possibility of underlying health issues, such as liver and kidney disease, diabetes, dental problems, and cancer.

Switching Your Dog To A Senior Dog Diet

Choosing a proper diet for your senior dog may be tricky, as different dogs age differently. Your small dog may not need a diet change even at 12 years of age, but if you own a big dog, you should consider switching to senior dog food when your pet is just 6 years old. According to Fred Metzger, a doctor of veterinary medicine and a Diplomate ABVP, large dog breeds age faster and overweight dogs tend to become seniors faster than lean dogs.

brown short coated dog on white ceramic plate beside clear glass vase

It is indeed a very individual thing, and all you can do is rely on your observations and your vet’s advice to determine if your pet needs to switch to a senior diet. If your dog is okay with its regular diet, then there is no need to change anything. But if your pet is getting older and gaining weight or losing its appetite, you should start looking for a different dog food. Unfortunately, there are no official guidelines regarding elderly dog diets. As a result, a broad spectrum of commercial dog foods is marketed to senior dog owners, but these products only meet industry guidelines for adult dogs.

Diet Tips For Older Dogs

Include a lot of fiber

red and green vegetable on brown woven basket

Fiber is essential for dogs of all ages, but when you own a senior dog, you want to make sure it eats enough fruits and vegetables. As dogs age, they become more susceptible to constipation, and a high-fiber diet helps ensure regular bowel movements. Fiber also helps regulate glucose levels in the blood. Some of the best sources of fiber for your pet include plain canned pumpkin, wheat bran, steamed, or canned green beans.

Senior dogs need more nutrients

As dogs age, they need more nutrients to remain healthy. Your elderly pet may benefit from consuming extra antioxidants as part of its diet. Some of the most popular supplements include fructooligosaccharides (FOS), vitamin E, and Omega-6 fatty acids. These nutrients can help promote healthy digestion, improve the pet’s immune system, and make its skin and fur smooth and shiny. These nutrients can be found in high-quality commercial pet foods, or you can give them separately in the form of nutritional supplements.

According to Mark Nunez, a vet who served as the California Veterinary Medical Association president, adding a daily glucosamine-chondroitin supplement can help improve the quality of life in dogs suffering from arthritis.

Monitor your dog’s dietary needs

It’s essential to consult your vet and take into account your dog’s needs before making any diet changes. In addition, you can monitor your pet’s condition by taking it in for a blood test once or twice a year.

Many older dogs that develop liver or kidney problems need to switch to a low protein diet. However, if your dog doesn’t show any kidney issues, you might need to increase its protein intake, as older dogs tend to lose muscle mass faster. Most senior dogs should receive at least 25 percent of their caloric intake from protein in their diets. Feeding your pet only high-quality food can help prevent or delay many age-related health problems. We suggest trying Petcan’s premium insect-based pet food for your senior dog.

Ensure a balanced mineral intake

white and gray crystal stone

Dogs usually consume more sodium than they require. This can be detrimental to pets suffering from heart and kidney problems or hypertension, and it’s recommended that they eat a low-sodium diet. Keep in mind that you need to decrease, not eliminate sodium in your senior dog’s diet.

As for calcium, most senior dogs are not likely to develop osteoporosis like people, so they don’t need any additional calcium supplementation.

Ensure proper hydration

Maintaining your dog’s water balance is essential at any stage of their lives. But if your elderly pet is suffering from kidney disease or taking heart medications, they might urinate more often, which can sometimes lead to dehydration.

person holding green water dispenser with dog drinking on it

Senior dogs need fewer calories

Dogs become less active as they age and that’s the main reason why they tend to put on weight, so you may want to slightly decrease your dog’s caloric intake to avoid causing any additional health problems that come with obesity. It’s not that dogs get lazy with age. Even if your pet maintains its normal activity levels, its metabolism will become slower with age. As a result, senior dogs require 20 percent fewer calories than younger animals.

Weight loss in older dogs

If, however, your dog has lost some weight, you should check with the vet as it may be a sign of various health problems, including dental issues that complicate the process of chewing the food. According to Dr. Metzger, if your dog expresses a loss of appetite, your vet needs to eliminate health issues such as diabetes, kidney or dental disease, and cancer.

brown french bulldog in yellow shirt holding blue ceramic mug

If your dog is underweight, try switching to smaller-sized kibble or canned food. You can also try adding warm water, a small amount of canned food, or chicken broth to dry kibble to make the food more appealing, as senior dogs often lose interest in dry food in particular. Dr. Nunez also suggests buying flavor enhancers or using medication to stimulate the pet’s appetite after consulting with your veterinarian.

How Often Should I Feed A Senior Dog?

There is no need to change your pet’s eating routine unless a vet advises it. Keep feeding your pet twice a day at its regular feeding times to avoid causing your furry friend any stress.


Do senior dogs need special food?

Yes, older pets with diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease require special diets to assist in the treatment of their conditions. In addition, dogs suffering from heart-related diseases may need lower-calorie foods to help keep their sodium intake low and prevent obesity.

What to feed an elderly dog who won’t eat?

Try adding water to dry kibble or mixing dry and moist food together and warming it up. Alternatively, consult with your vet and try to change your dog’s diet.

What can I feed my senior dog to gain weight?

Try feeding the pet more calories, but don’t choose a high-fat diet. You should also consult with your vet to discuss any possible diet changes that may be suitable for your dog.

What is the best thing to feed an old dog?

It’s better to choose a low-calorie and low-fat food for senior dogs, but it all depends on your pet’s health history.