You want the best for your dog. Senior dogs have special dietary needs, which is why there are so many senior dog foods to choose from. How can you find the best one for older dogs? Here’s everything you need to know about picking the best senior dog food for your pup, along with our recommendations for the top 10 best options on the market today.
Our Top Picks for Senior Dogs
- 1Nulo Senior Grain Free Dog Food
- 2Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Dog Food
- 3Instinct Raw Boost Senior Grain Free Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food
- 4Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food
- 5ORIJEN Senior High-Protein, Grain-Free, Adult Dry Dog Food
- 6Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food Senior
- 7Victor Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food
- 8Halo Grain Free Natural Dry Dog Food
- 9Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Food
- 10AvoDerm Natural Senior Dry Dog Food, Supports Joint Health
How to Choose the Best Food for Senior Dogs?
So, how will you recognize the best senior dog food when you see it? What sort of ingredients should – and should NOT – be in food for older dogs? Here are some things to look for.
Protein is necessary for strong, healthy muscles. Senior dogs are prone to muscle wasting, so they need diets that are higher in protein than younger dogs. Look for food that contains at least 25% protein.
Additionally, those high protein levels should come from high-quality animal ingredients. “Meal” is rendered meat that loses some of its nutritional value due to being highly processed. Also, watch out for ingredient splitting, where lots of high-protein vegetables or grains add up to a higher protein content than the meat ingredients.
One exception to this would be if your dog has kidney disease. Older dogs with kidney disease usually do best on low-protein diets.
Avoid By-Products and Unidentified Meals
By-product is the parts of an animal (or plant) that humans won’t eat. These scraps could include entrails, feathers, beaks, or hooves, which don’t provide much nutritional value. These cheap filler ingredients add nothing positive for senior dogs.
Meal is rendered meat and bone that’s cooked at high temperatures. It’s somewhat less nutritious and harder to digest than whole meat. Fortunately, meal does provide more nutrition than by-product. However, meal should always be labeled with the type of animal it comes from. For example, “chicken meal” or “turkey meal” are acceptable ingredients, while you should avoid “poultry meal” or “animal meal.”
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Just like people, dogs are prone to joint pain as they age. Glucosamine and chondroitin help build and protect cartilage (the cushioning in the joints) and are crucial ingredients in senior dog food.
Avoid Artificial Ingredients
Why would your dog need artificial color or flavor in their dog food? The food itself should be appealing to your dog without adding artificial ingredients that could harm your dog in the long run. Look for foods with all-natural ingredients.
Omega Fatty Acids
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are crucial for skin and coat health and are essential ingredients in your dog’s food. Not only are they important for skin and coat health, but omega fatty acids (along with other vitamins and minerals) impact your senior dog’s immune system.
Whole or No Grains
There may be a link between grain-free dog food and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a heart condition. The Food and Drug Administration isn’t sure exactly what the link is and isn’t saying for sure that grain-free dog foods cause DCM. As a result, vets are split on whether grain-free foods are harmful or beneficial for dogs.
If you choose a grain-inclusive diet for your senior dog, look for one that includes whole grains rather than grain scraps. For example, whole grain brown rice is an acceptable dog food ingredient, while corn grits are a pointless filler ingredient.
We’ve included both grain free and grain inclusive foods on our list of the best senior dog food.
Best Senior Dog Food
1. Nulo Senior Grain Free Dog Food
When it comes to grain-free senior dog food, Nulo has one of the best products on the market. The first 3 ingredients (deboned trout, turkey meal, and salmon meal) are all animal-based, and the formula includes probiotics for gut health and chondroitin and glucosamine for joint health.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned trout, turkey meal, salmon meal, yellow peas, sweet potato
Customer Reviews: Like any food, a handful of dogs got an upset stomach or didn’t like the taste of this food. Most customer reviews of this food are positive, though. People report that even picky pups love this food, and dogs also experienced less pain and more energy after switching to Nulo from a different food.
Our Take: Grain-free diets aren’t right for every dog, but if they’re right for your senior dog, Nulo Senior Grain-Free Dog Food is one of the best you can find right now.
2. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Dog Food
Do you prefer to feed your senior dog a grain-inclusive diet? Blue Buffalo Senior Dog Food is a good option. It’s relatively budget-friendly compared to some of the other foods on our list, but it still contains good ingredients and essential nutrients for your senior dog.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned chicken, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, chicken meal
Customer Reviews: There are reports of some dogs getting sick after switching to this food. For the most part, though, dogs do well on this food, especially after switching from something cheaper.
Our Take: Blue Buffalo provides a quality senior dog food at a price point that most people can afford.
3. Instinct Raw Boost Senior Grain Free Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food
Are you interested in safely adding raw meat to your senior dog’s diet? With Instinct Raw Boost Senior Grain-Free, you get freeze-dried raw meat mixed in with nutritious dry dog food. It’s a simple, safe way to add the power of raw meat to your senior dog’s diet.
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken meal (source of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate), chickpeas, peas, tapioca, chicken
Customer Reviews: There’s no consistent theme to the few negative reviews of this food. For the most part, dogs love the taste and had more energy after being switched to this food from something else.
Our Take: Instinct Raw Boost is a great way to add some raw meat to your senior dog’s food with little risk of contamination. This food also includes important things like probiotics and chondroitin and glucosamine, making it an excellent choice for senior dogs.
4. Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food
Are you concerned about GMO ingredients that might be lurking in your dog’s food? Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food is made from non-GMO ingredients and combines chicken, salmon, and lamb with rice and superfoods for excellent nutrition.
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal (source of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate), whole brown rice, brewers rice, rice bran
Customer Reviews: Like most dog foods sold on Amazon, there are some complaints about quality control. Overall, though, dogs love the flavor and thrive on it, including at least one 18-year-old dog.
Our Take: If you want a dog food that’s full of nutritious ingredients that are non-GMO and your senior dog tolerates grains, this formula is an excellent choice.
5. ORIJEN Senior High-Protein, Grain-Free, Premium Quality Meat, Adult Dry Dog Food
When it comes to high-quality animal ingredients, Orijen Senior High-Protein, Grain-Free leads the pack. You won’t find unnecessary filler ingredients here. Also, Orijen is made in the USA, so you can count on the quality.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, flounder, eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel
Customer Reviews: Not all dogs loved the taste of this food or did well with the high protein content. However, most dogs do enjoy this food and do really well on it.
Our Take: Orijen’s quality ingredients come at a price, making this food out of the budget of many people. If you can afford it, though, it’s one of the best kibbles you can get for your senior dog.
6. Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food Senior
Wellness Core Natural Grain-Free Senior Dry Dog Food is an excellent all-natural food for senior dogs with chondroitin and glucosamine for joint health and omega fatty acids for a healthy skin and coat.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned turkey, chicken meal (source of chondroitin sulfate), lentils, dried ground potatoes, peas
Customer Reviews: A few dogs had stomach trouble after eating this food, and a few dogs weren’t wild about the taste. Most dogs, though, thrive on this food and seem to enjoy the taste.
Our Take: If you’re looking for a grain-free diet for your senior dog, Wellness Core Senior is a great choice.
7. Victor Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food
Does your senior dog struggle with their weight? Obesity causes many of the same problems for dogs as it does for people. That’s why Victor Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food is an excellent choice for senior dogs who need to lose some weight or need the right food to maintain a healthy weight.
First 5 Ingredients: Beef meal, whole grain brown rice, whole grain millet, grain sorghum, chicken fat
Customer Reviews: There are quite a few reports of dogs who refuse to eat this food, and a handful of dogs experienced digestive problems when switching to this food. By and large, though, most dogs enjoy the taste and are doing well eating this food.
Our Take: Victor is an excellent grain-inclusive diet that’s low in calories and is a great option for senior dogs who struggle with their weight.
8. Halo Grain Free Natural Dry Dog Food, Senior Turkey, Turkey Liver & Duck Recipe
Unlike most other dog food companies, Halo never uses any rendered meat meal in any of their foods. Halo’s Senior Turkey, Turkey Liver & Ducks Recipe is no different. It features whole turkey as the first ingredient. Halo also uses only non-GMO fruits and vegetables.
First 5 Ingredients: Turkey, tapioca, dried sweet potatoes, dried peas, potato protein
Customer Reviews: A few dogs got sick after eating this food, but most dogs love the flavor and are as healthy as ever.
Our Take: For people who care about the welfare of the animals used in their dog’s food and the quality of the ingredients in the food, Halo is an excellent choice.
9. Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Food
Diamond Naturals Senior Dog Food features probiotics, antioxidants, chondroitin and glucosamine, and omega fatty acids for a well-rounded nutrient blend. Additionally, they use cage-free chicken as the first ingredient.
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, whole grain brown rice, ground white rice, egg
Customer Reviews: Some dogs didn’t care for the taste of this food, and some got sick. Mostly, though, customers report that their dogs like the taste and are thriving on this food, with several people reporting an improvement in their dog’s energy levels or coat shininess.
Our Take: Diamond Natural is more affordable than some of the other foods on our list, but it’s still a quality dog food that we feel comfortable recommending.
10. AvoDerm Natural Senior Dry Dog Food, Supports Joint Health, Chicken & Brown Rice Formula
Not only does AvoDerm Natural Senior Dog Food contain glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints, but it also has avocadoes for skin and coat health. AvoDerm also formulates their food to reduce the likelihood of your dog having skin problems.
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken meal, ground brown rice, ground white rice, oatmeal, rice bran
Customer Reviews: Interestingly, there are a few reports of dogs feeling hungry after eating regular portions of this food, alongside the usual handful of reports from dogs whose stomach didn’t handle the new food well. Overall, though, most owners report healthy, happy dogs, and there are several stories of dogs with improved skin or coat after switching to this food.
Our Take: This food may be a good choice for senior dogs with skin problems, and it’s reasonably priced.
Frequently Asked Senior Dog Food Questions
How Old Is My Dog In Human Years?
Figuring out a dog’s age in human years is more complicated than the formula of 1 dog year = 7 human years that you may have grown up with. There are a couple of reasons for that.
First, dogs grow quite a bit during the first two years of their life. For the first two years, the formula is more like 1 dog year = 10.5 human years. Then, aging slows down quite a bit and averages out to something more like 1 dog year = 4 human years.
The other thing to consider is that large dogs live shorter, faster lives than small dogs. 7 years is quite old for a dog breed that typically only lives 7-10 years, but it’s not that old for a breed that usually lives 12-15 years.
To get an idea of how old your dog is in human years, check out this chart on WebMD.
When Is a Dog Considered a Senior?
Dogs are considered seniors at different ages based on their breed and size. In general:
Should All Older Dogs Eat Senior Food?
If your senior dog is maintaining a healthy weight and doesn’t seem to be experiencing joint pain, they may be fine on their regular adult or all life stages dog food.
Senior dogs who are gaining weight or becoming lame on an adult or all life stages formula are the ones who usually benefit the most from switching to senior dog food.
Your dog may also benefit from senior food if they have any health issues, like diabetes or thyroid problems.
Do Older Dogs Need More Protein, or Less?
Dogs tend to lose muscle mass as they age. Protein helps build muscles, so senior dogs actually need more protein than younger dogs to help prevent muscle wasting. Your dog should be on food that contains at least 25% protein.
What Can I Do to Satisfy My Picky Eater?
It can be incredibly frustrating trying to deal with a dog who refuses to eat. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help entice your picky eater:
It can be incredibly frustrating trying to deal with a dog who refuses to eat. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help entice your picky eater:
How Much Food Should I Feed My Senior Dog?
Different foods contain different calorie amounts, and each individual dog has different calorie requirements, so we can’t give you specific advice. Generally, you’ll want to follow the feeding instructions on the bag of food.
Keep in mind your dog’s activity level. Senior dogs tend to be less active, meaning they burn fewer calories, so you may need to feed your aging dog less than the bag states.
Dog Food Advisor has a handy calorie calculator to help you figure out how many cups of food you should give older dogs based on their weight and activity level as well as the calorie content of the food you’re feeding.
When in doubt, you should consult your dog’s vet for more advice on how much to feed your senior dog.
How Do I Determine My Dog’s Ideal Weight?
In general, you should be able to feel (but not see) your dog’s ribs when they are standing up. Your dog should have a definitive waistline when viewed from the side and above. Here’s a great chart for determining your dog’s body condition score.
Obesity causes many of the same health problems in older dogs as it does in people, and it can take as much as 2 years off your dog’s expected lifespan. So, if you can’t feel your dog’s ribs, or if they don’t have a visible waistline, you should talk to the vet about what your dog’s ideal weight should be and how you can help them achieve that weight.
Wrapping Up: What Is the Best Senior Dog Food?
While there is no one best dog food for all senior dogs, we’ve provided you with some excellent options to find the one that will work the best for older dogs and any budget. Hopefully, we’ve also provided you with some useful information on dog aging to help you enjoy these senior years with your pup.