Senior Dog Nutrition

There are specific attributes of senior dog nutrition that differ from diets for a younger dog. A dog is first considered a senior somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10. The older dog needs well balanced nutrition that is lower in calories, fat and protein, as well as being higher in fiber. Some older dogs need extra encouragement to eat, while others have a tendency to become overweight. You can transition your dog to a new diet smoothly with a plan and a little knowledge.

Formulas for Senior Dogs

There are several important aspects of a senior dog diet. First of all, it's lower in calories. As your dog's kidneys become less efficient, his food needs to be closer to 14 to 17% protein. Fat levels should be around 10 to 12%. These attributes will help keep obesity at bay. Older dogs are more prone to constipation, so a fiber content of 3 to 5% is helpful. You can add wheat bran to the regular dog food, but you don't want to go above a 5% fiber level.

Preventing Obesity

Some older dogs become less active and are thus more likely to gain weight. For this reason, it's important to make every calorie count in the dog food. A raw formula is the best for this goal. Each calorie is packed with nutrition. A high quality canned food with whole ingredients can be a good second choice if your dog doesn't take well to the raw food. You want to look for food with little to no grains. Dogs don't need grain, so it's just wasted calories.

Preventing Diabetes

Older dogs can sometimes develop diabetes. Keeping their weight down is key to avoiding this. It's also important to find a dog food formula that has a low glycemic index. Look for one that focuses on red potatoes versus white, and that is grain free. Your dog can still get necessary nutrition and fiber without the fruits and vegetables that are higher in sugar.

Proper Hydration

Proper hydration is especially important as the senior dog's systems slow down. Some older dogs are less likely to drink enough water. Giving your dog moisture in his food will mean he's ingesting moisture through his intestine, which is where it works the best. Always supplement with fresh, clean water in a clean dish that's in good shape. This is another reason why raw or canned food is a good choice.

Help for the Dog Who Is Disinterested in Food

Some older dogs lose interest in eating and may become underweight. Get your dog checked for hyperthyroidism or other medical problems that may be causing this. If your dog is healthy, try serving food that is softer and in smaller chunks for the weaker jaw. You can try adding a bit of chicken or beef broth or something stronger smelling to entice a dog whose nose may be less sensitive. This also works if the taste buds have lost some acuity.


Some older dogs benefit from added nutrition. Adding some mashed cooked yam can help with skin problems and allergies. Two drops of grapefruit seed extract is excellent for digestion. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can help keep joints and muscles flexible.