Best Senior Dog Food: The Low-Down
Old age creeps up on pooches the same way it does on humans. At first, you may think that your pup has gotten lazy. They no longer jump up and down like they used to, and their overall physique starts to change: their coat gets grayer by the day, and their movement slows down.
While you can’t reverse the process of aging, you can help them adapt by adjusting the amount and type of food they consume to their energy levels.
To help you strike the perfect balance of nutrients for an older dog, we have done a little research in your stead by collecting information, testing various brands, and breaking down the best senior dog food brands we could find.
Here at Alpha Paw, we strive to offer the most comprehensive and bias-free info on all things canine, and we don’t profit from sponsored links.
How We Assess and Sort out Senior Dog Food Brands
Looking at dog food brands available in the market and trying to decide what’s best for your pooch can make your head spin. So, we took a more systematic approach. Yes, it has taken more time, but it has also delivered the desired result—a comprehensive guide to the best dog food for older pups.
We figured that, before doing the actual research, we should base our findings on scientific facts. We first spoke to several vets to learn more about the dietary needs of older dogs to determine the right levels of macro- and micronutrients, as well as calorie, salt, and fiber intake.
Pet store owners and workers were next in line—we asked them to share with us their best-selling brands and tell us what brands they usually recommend. Online reviews and our readers’ insights have also provided a solid basis for the research and helped us compile the definitive list of brands we tested later on.
We ended up with a list of close to 40 top-rated senior dog food brands that we then researched and dissected before offering them to pooches in our community of dog lovers.
You can guess who had the best time testing a bunch of different-flavored kibbles. Yup, it was elderly doggos owned by people close to us that got the most out of this research!
Criteria We Used to Choose Our Top Picks
Among dozens of kibbles that made it to our list, some were rejected in the first round as they didn’t meet the criteria we had established:
- Nutrient-to-calorie ratio
- Added joint supplements
- Added MCTs, Omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants
- Phosphorus and sodium content
The Nutrient-to-calorie ratio is the first criterion dog food should meet. Protein—from high-quality vegetable or animal sources—should make up at least 25 percent of calorie intake, whereas between 8–12 percent of energy should come from fat.
Digestibility, first and foremost, implies fiber content. As they get older, pooches experience digestive problems (constipation or diarrhea), and fiber is there to make those issues go away. The fiber content is one of the crucial elements in senior dog foods and should range between 3–5 percent to make the chow easy to digest.
The texture is particularly important for dogs with dental issues. Softer kibble or wet food can make a world of difference for their gnashers and the overall chomping experience.
Added joint supplements refer to the compounds that have been found to be beneficial for aging cartilage. The top two supplements in this category are glucosamine and chondroitin, both cartilage precursors.
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), Omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants are compounds that prevent changes related to behavior (e.g. memory loss, irritability, confusion), which means that they help the dog keep its nervous system functioning.
What we looked for in senior dog food we tested is complete and balanced nutrition measured against the above-mentioned criteria.
In the first round—which included looking for the right ingredients—the initial list was shortened to 15 of the best chows in the senior dog food market.
It took us three months and a lot of writing down of our canine test subjects’ reaction to the food and the changes these chows produced for their overall wellbeing.
The food reviews we conducted were done solely for the purpose of making it easier for you to choose the finest among dog food for senior pooches.
What Is the Best Dog Food for Older Dogs?
After careful consideration and the analysis of quality ingredients, the nutritional value of chows, as well as dog owner reviews, we ended up with several premium-quality brands.
We’re proud to say that this was honest research as we don’t profit from affiliate links, nor are we supported by any dog food producer or seller.
|Alpha Paw Picks||Brand||Rating|
|Best overall||Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food||4.7|
|Runner-up||Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe||4.6|
|Best on a budget||Wellness CORE Senior Dry Dog Food||4.3|
|Best for small breed||Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Senior Dog Food||4.7|
|Best for large breeds||ORIJEN Senior Dry Dog Food||4.5|
Our top pick: Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food
Image source: Nutro
Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food made its way to the top of our list of the best senior dog food you can offer to your best furry friend.
This kibble is specially formulated to satisfy the needs of older dogs. Apart from featuring premium quality chicken, lamb, and salmon proteins, it also contains a combo of 15 superfoods, including chia seeds, kale, coconut, and blueberries that help to maintain the health of senior dogs’ nervous systems.
By offering this kibble to your doggo, you can rest assured they won’t clog their digestive system with chicken by-product meal or artificial preservatives or colors commonly found in the worst dry dog food.
Dogs of all sizes love the taste of this food, while owners say that it is one of the rare brands that doesn’t have that specific dog food smell.
|Crude Protein||26.00% min|
|Crude Fat||11.00% min|
|Crude Fiber||4.00% min|
|Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)||0.10% min|
|Zinc||250 mg/kg min|
|Selenium||0.60 mg/kg min|
|Vitamin A||5000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin E||80 IU/kg min|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||200 mg/kg min|
|Glucosamine||80 mg/kg min|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||0.60% min|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||2.80% min|
Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran, Lamb Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Salmon Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Whole Grain Oatmeal, Pea Protein, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Sunflower Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Whole Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, DL-Methionine, Salt, Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Dried Egg Product, Whole Chia Seed, Dried Coconut, Tomato Pomace, Dried Kale, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Spinach, Dried Blueberries, Dried Apples, Dried Carrots, Natural Flavor, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Selenium Yeast, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.
Runner up: Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe
Image source: bluebuffalo
Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Chicken Dinner Senior Canned Dog Food is the right choice for pooches suffering from arthritis or other joint conditions as it boasts high glucosamine and chondroitin contents. Besides protein coming from real, cooked chicken, this wet food also contains protein from vegetable sources such as peas.
Omega-3 fatty acids are sourced from flaxseeds, while carbs and dietary fiber come from oatmeal, barley, and brown rice.
This canned brand is the ideal solution for dogs with dental issues.
|Crude Protein||7.5% min|
|Crude Fat||4.5% min|
|Crude Fiber||2.0% max|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||200 mg/kg min|
Chicken, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran, Lamb Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Salmon Meal, Whole Grain Oatmeal, Natural Flavor, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein, Sunflower Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Whole Flaxseed, Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (preservatives), Whole Chia Seed, Dried Coconut, Dried Egg Product, Tomato Pomace, Dried Kale, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Spinach, Dried Blueberries, Dried Apples, Dried Carrots, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Selenium Yeast, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.
Best on a Budget: Wellness CORE Senior Dry Dog Food
Wellness CORE Senior Dry Dog Food contains all the necessary supplements to promote the health of joints, skin, and coat of our beloved furry ladies and gents. The recipe is grain-free and packed with premium quality protein and nutrient-rich superfoods blended into a perfect kibble that is both delicious and healthy.
This kibble is a protein powerhouse with guaranteed protein levels between 32-37 percent, which means more meat and fewer carbs packed in a super delicious meal.
Doggos with digestive issues will love this kibble as it is abundant in probiotics that speed up their aging metabolism.
|Crude protein||32.00% min|
|Crude fat||12.00% min|
|Crude fiber||6.25% min|
|Vitamin A||25,000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin E||400 IU/kg min|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||3.25% min|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||1.25% min|
|Glucosamine||275 mg/kg min|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||200 mg/kg min|
|Total Lactic Acid Microorganisms||80,000,000 CFU/lb min|
Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Dried Ground Potatoes, Peas, Turkey Meal, Lentils, Ground Flaxseed, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Natural Chicken Flavor, Chickpeas, Salmon Oil, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Broccoli, Spinach, Carrots, Parsley, Apples, Kale, Blueberries, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Sweet Potato, Zinc Sulfate, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Chondroitin Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Riboflavin, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Chicory Root Extract, Thiamine Mononitrate, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Spearmint Extract, Green Tea Extract
Best Senior Dog Food for Small Breeds: Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Senior Dog Food
Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed Senior Dog Food is a 100% natural chow made from deboned turkey and peas that contains high levels of joint supplements to support the cartilage health of small breeds.
Controlled sodium levels are formulated to keep the pooch’s heart pumping, while spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, and blueberries provide the desired level of antioxidants for healthy skin, coat, and nervous system.
It is ideal for petite dogs struggling to maintain weight in their senior years, boasting high lean protein content and select fats that promote a healthy weight, while small kibble pieces make it easy to munch and swallow.
|Crude protein||25.00% min|
|Crude fat||12.00% min|
|Crude fiber||5.00% min|
|Vitamin A||25,000 IU/kg min|
|Vitamin E||300 IU/kg|
|Ascorbic acid||100 mg/kg|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||3.00% min|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||0.50% min|
|Glucosamine||250 mg/kg min|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||200 mg/kg min|
|Total Lactic Acid Microorganisms||20,000,000 CFU/lb min|
Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Peas, Rice, Oats, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Ground Flaxseed, Tomatoes, Pea Fiber, Natural Chicken Flavor, Carrots, Spinach, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries, Apples, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C),Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Chondroitin Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Dried Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Spearmint Extract, Green Tea Extract, Rosemary Extract
Best Senior Dog Food for Large Breeds: ORIJEN Senior Dry Dog Food
Image source: Orijen
ORIJEN Senior Dry Dog Food is a simple formula based solely on essential ingredients. Protein in this kibble comes from six different sources, including chicken, turkey, and wild-caught fish.
With a meat content at 85 percent meat inclusions and a fat-to-protein ratio of around 44 percent, this chow will give your senior pooch the much-needed protein to keep their muscles lean.
The rest of the formula are legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils that, apart from being the source of high-quality carbs, are also an exceptional source of vegetable-based protein.
This is a highly digestible formula that’s easy on the tummy and prevents a common problem experienced by older dogs—constipation. We also wrote about Orijen dog food for puppies, so if you are a proud friend of both a senior and a junior doggo, give it a read!
|Crude protein||38% min|
|Crude fat||15% min|
|Crude ash||8% max|
|Crude fiber||8.00% min|
|Omega-3 fatty acids||0.9% min|
|Omega-6 fatty acids||2.3% min|
|DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) (min.)||0.3% min|
|EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) (min.)||0.2% min|
|Ascorbic acid||100 mg/kg min|
|Chondroitin Sulfate||1200mg/kg min|
Fresh chicken meat (13%), fresh cage-free eggs (7%), fresh turkey meat (7%), fresh whole herring (7%), fresh chicken liver (6%), fresh turkey liver (4%), fresh chicken necks (4%), fresh chicken heart (4%), fresh turkey heart (4%), chicken (dehydrated, 4%), turkey (dehydrated, 4%), whole mackerel (dehydrated, 4%), fresh whole flounder (4%), whole sardine (dehydrated, 4%), whole herring (dehydrated, 4%), whole green lentils, whole red lentils, lentil fibre, fresh whole chickpeas, fresh whole green peas, fresh whole yellow peas, whole pinto beans, fresh chicken cartilage (1%), whole navy beans, lavender, chicken fat (1%), herring oil (1%), fresh turkey cartilage (1%), chicken liver (freeze-dried), turkey liver (freeze-dried), fresh whole zucchini, fresh whole pumpkin, fresh whole butternut squash, fresh carrots, fresh whole Red Delicious apples, fresh kale, fresh spinach, fresh whole parsnips, fresh turnip greens, fresh beet greens, brown kelp, whole cranberries, fresh whole Bartlett pears, whole Saskatoon berries, whole blueberries, chicory root, turmeric root, milk thistle, burdock root, marshmallow root, rosehips. ADDITIVES (per kg): Nutritional additives: Zinc chelate: 100 mg. Zootechnical additives: Enterococcus faecium
Ideal Amount of Macros in Food for Older Dogs
Aging prompts necessary changes in a pooch’s diet. Less activity and slower metabolism mean that the dog can no longer burn as much fat as they once could and causes them to lose the muscle mass much faster.
Macroelements are substances that provide energy and allow growth, and they are divided into three groups:
Carbohydrates (simple and complex sugars) are mainly responsible for providing energy to the pooch as well as essential micronutrients and fiber. Carbs differ from the rest of the macronutrients because there are no prescribed limits for carb content in dog food.
When it comes to sugars, the source is far more important than the amount contained in a particular food. As a rule of thumb, grains are considered an inferior source, whereas leafy vegetables and fruits provide higher levels of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Proteins are macronutrients responsible for building muscle. Although pooches are not strict carnivores, they have a rather high protein requirement.
Dogs need 22 different amino acids—protein building blocks—but can synthesize only 12. The rest must be provided through quality food. Senior dogs need 2.55 grams of protein per kilo of body weight and the amount of food they eat should match those requirements. Going higher than that can only be beneficial for the dog’s health.
The source of protein also plays a role—dogs absorb protein from animal sources more easily, but vegetable-based protein contains essential micronutrients, meaning that it is important to strike a balance between the two sources.
Lipids’ main function is to store energy. Apart from being an efficient energy source, lipids are needed to maintain the health of the pooch’s skin and coat. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are the most essential of all, and when looking for a perfect dog meal, you should look for these.
Although canines require a high intake of fats and can digest and metabolize up to 95 percent of lipids, their calorie intake from fats should be limited to a maximum of 30 percent.
Micronutrients—Vitamins and minerals—are equally important, although their irregularity can be fixed by giving your furry pal a food booster such as Nutra Thrive dog food supplement.
When’s the Right Time to Start Feeding Your Dog Top-Rated Senior Dog Food?
Dogs enter their golden years at a different age, depending on the breed. Generally speaking, small breeds such as the Terrier or the Chihuahua are considered to be older dogs between 10 and 12 years of age, while larger breeds, such as the Doberman enter their golden year much earlier, at around six years of age.
Senior dog food formulas are designed for doggies that have reached their golden years, and the change in their diet should not be taken lightly. The right formula and amount of food can make a serious impact on the dog’s health.
What makes specially crafted senior dog food formulas special are the contents of macro- and micronutrients that fit an older dog’s needs.
When choosing the right kibble or wet food, you should look for:
- High protein-to-fat ratio
- High fiber content
- Healthy fatty acids
- Controlled sodium content
Unlike best puppy food brands, in which lipids are more abundant, older dogs need to have their fat intake under control as some of them can be prone to gaining weight.
Contrary to popular belief, the amount of protein should not be reduced as the dog grows older. It is quite the opposite: older pooches should eat even more protein than the amount found in best dry dog food for small dogs or best large breed dry dog food that are designed specifically for adult doggos.
Pros and Cons of Mixing Wet and Dry Food
The dispute about mixing dry and wet food comes down to a particular dog’s personal preference. Some dogs—especially seasoned ones—prefer wet food as it is easier to consume, while others enjoy munching on a kibble.
The best way to go is to try out several different brands and let your pooch decide which one they prefer.
If your dog loves both, consider some of the disadvantages and drawbacks of both kibble and canned food:
|Dry food||Wet food|
What Is the Ideal Amount of Food for My Senior Dog?
As dogs grow older, their physical activity levels and metabolic rates drop, prompting necessary changes in their diet. The general agreement among canine experts is that the calorie intake for senior pooches should be reduced by 20 percent compared to adult dogs.
For instance, puppies require more fat as they burn calories much faster, thanks to the process of growth and the level of activity.
There are three important factors to consider when deciding the portion size for your older furry friend:
- Sensible sized portions
- No human food
- Keeping snacks to a minimum
Early on in the doggo’s life, you should learn to resist those big, hungry eyes wanting more of both canine and people food. Begging for food is a survival strategy that after millennia of bonding between man and dog has no point—you’re gonna feed them anyway, but they will always worry you maybe won’t.
Keeping your pooch in good health comes down to preventing obesity. Being overweight or obese can not only trigger various heart conditions and malicious diseases such as osteoarthritis, but it can also shorten the dog’s lifespan.
Here’s a general guide for senior dogs feeding needs:
|Dog’s weight (in pounds)||Cups of food a day|
Depending on the effect you want to produce (e.g. weight loss or gain), you should switch to chows that contain a higher, or lower, fat-to-protein ratio.
Wrapping Up the Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs
Senior dog food should have higher protein and fiber content, while at the same time boasting lower fat and carb percentage.
Depending on the health of your pooch’s teeth and their preference, you can opt for either a dry or wet brand. It’s fine as long as it satisfies the nutritional needs of an older canine.
The size of a dog is another feature to consider—kibbles designed for small breeds have tinier pieces and are easier to swallow.
The best brands are, of course, made from all-natural ingredients and are artificial preservative-free, just as the ones featured on our list!
- Manteca, Xavier. “Nutrition and Behavior in Senior Dogs.” Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, vol. 26, no. 1, 2011, pp. 33–36., doi:10.1053/j.tcam.2011.01.003.