Top 7 FAQ’s About Senior Dog Food

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Top 7 FAQ’s About Senior Dog Food

Do you have a senior dog?

Senior dogs have special needs when it comes to food…

So, finding the right senior dog food is vital!

In this article, you’ll find some answers and useful tips regarding this issue.

Table of Contents

  1. When is a Dog Considered Senior?
  2. It’s Time to Change Your Dog’s Food
  3. Do Older Dogs Have Different Nutritional Needs?
  4. How Much To Feed My Senior Dog?
  5. Common Health Problems in Senior Dogs
  6. Choosing the Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs
  7. Does My Senior Dog Need Food Supplements?
  8. My older dog doesn’t want to eat… What Should I do?

senior dog food

When is a Dog Considered Senior?

Generally, small dogs live to about 15 to 20 years of age, while large and giant dog breeds live to about 12 to 15 years.

As rule of thumb, dogs are considered mature when they have reached half of their life expectancy.

At what age is a dog considered mature?

Larger dogs are considered mature at around 6 years, and smaller dogs become older at around 8 to 9 years.

It’s Time to Change Your Dog’s Food

Senior dogs benefit from dietary changes. The right time to switch your dog’s food for a senior formula will depend on his breed and health.

For example, small breeds mature more rapidly, but age more slowly after reaching maturity.

Just like humans as a dog age, there are a lot of things that change:

  • Their health and vigor decline
  • Their bodies are less able to repair themselves, maintain adequate body functions and adapt to the stresses and changes in the environment
  • Their metabolism slows down and requires fewer calories

The following table indicates the right age to switch your dog’s food to a senior formula.

Breed Size When to Switch To Senior Dog Food
Small Breed 8 – 9 years
Medium Breed 6 – 7 years
Large & Giant Breed 5 – 6 years


Do Older Dogs Have Different Nutritional Needs?

Dog food companies produce specific food formulations for different life stages.

If possible, you should feed your senior dog an appropriate formula.

Your dog body’s ability to maintain water balance is decreased as he gets older.

It’s crucial to make sure that senior dogs have plenty of water.

Mature dog foods:

  • Contain less energy
  • Are lower in protein, sodium and phosphorus
  • Increased amounts of specific vitamins

However, senior dogs need a dog food including high quality, digestible protein in order to maintain muscle mass and appropriate organ and immune function.

Remember that your dog’s nutritional needs may change after reaching senior age.

You may need to adjust his diet from time to time.

For example, if your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, he will need a veterinarian dog food formula for dogs with diabetes and not a senior dog food.

How Much To Feed My Senior Dog?

Senior dogs may gain some extra weight over the years because they are less active.

You may have to reduce the amount of food you offer your dog or buy a dog food formula low in calories.

On the other hand, dogs may become thinner as they get old. Weight loss can be a sign of health problems (e.g. dental disease, renal disease, diabetes).

If your senior dog is losing weight, you should take him to a vet consult.

As a general rule, you should keep feeding your dog twice a day, like your feed an adult dog.

Common Health Problems in Senior Dogs

Mature dogs may suffer from the following diseases:

  • Kidney failure
  • Liver disease
  • Heart Failure
  • Joint problems
  • Obesity
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Constipation
These animals may require special veterinary diets to help in the treatment of their diseases.

You may need assistance from a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to plan a proper diet.

Choosing the Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs

A good and well balanced diet for a senior dog should:

  • Be lower in calories
  • Have adequate protein and fat
  • Be higher in fiber

Most senior dog foods have:

  • 18 % of protein
  • 10 to 12% of fat
  • 3 to 5 % of fiber

Feeding your dog dry food will help to control periodontal disease.

Does My Senior Dog Need Food Supplements?

Aging dogs have special nutritional requirements thus sometimes supplements will be beneficial to older dogs.

Older dogs may suffer from:

  • Arthritis: they can benefit from vitamins and supplements (e.g. chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine)
  • Reduction in the intestinal absorption of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes
  • Oral disease may influence older dogs to eat less
  • Constipation: to reduce the incidence of these problem a fiber product (wheat bran) may be beneficial
For these reasons and others older dogs may need supplements to fulfill these gaps.

You should always ask your veterinarian for advice about nutritional supplements.

My older dog doesn’t want to eat… What Should I do?

In my veterinarian’s opinion, if your dog presents decreased appetite and is losing weight, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinary assistant to exclude any possible disease related problems.

My Advice:

If the veterinarian confirms that the decreased appetite is not health related, then you'll need to change your dog's diet.

To modify your dog’s diet you can:

A) Make the food easier to chew:

  • Feeding a kibble with smaller pieces
  • Moistening the food with water
  • Adding a nutrient dense canned food
B) Make the food more appealing adding:

  • Different types of food (canned plus dried)
  • A little water from canned tuna
  • A small amount of cooked chicken
C) Try a homemade recipes:

  • Ask your veterinarian for a homemade diet recipe suitable for your dog
  • Do not try to formulate one yourself
A well balanced and complete diet is crucial in the care of an aging dog.

An adequate nutrition may help mature dogs to live happier and healthier lives.

Always remember to stimulate your dog’s activity according to his age and health and to schedule regular veterinary checkups.


About the Author:

Hi! I'm Dora Mancha, DVM. I am graduated for the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of Lisbon (2009). My degree is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). I completed my degree in Veterinary Medicine in July, 2009. Over the first years as a veterinarian my work was closely related to the animal health field. I have gained some average experience having worked in Barcelona University (UAB) Equine Hospital and by working with veterinarians in Portugal. In addition, in 2009 - 2010 I was in Madrid at the University Alfonso X el Sábio doing an internship in the equine service. I am also very interested in small animal medicine and surgery. In fact I worked in several small animals clinics in Portugal improving my knowledge about small animal behavior and health. Dogs always have been present in my life, since I was a child. At the present moment I have four dogs a Labrador, a Epagnheul Breton, a Whippet and a mixed breed dog.

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