As dogs age, their tastes and dietary needs change. Our San Diego veterinarians answer questions about caring for geriatric dogs and the best food for older dogs.
At what age is my dog considered elderly or geriatric?
There's no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how long dogs live. The lifespan of dogs varies depending on their breed and size. Generally, smaller dogs can live up to 15-20 years, while larger dogs have a lifespan of around 12-15 years.
Bigger dogs tend to age faster and are considered "older" when they turn 6, whereas smaller dogs reach middle age around the age of 8.
Do senior dogs have special nutritional needs?
When it comes to choosing the best dog food for senior dogs, there are two important factors to consider. Firstly, keeping your dog's food low in calories is crucial. As dogs age, their metabolism slows down, so it's important to ensure they don't overeat and become overweight.
Secondly, it's important to provide your pet with high-fiber foods in their diet. Constipation can be very uncomfortable and can lead to further gastrointestinal problems. Senior dogs often face challenges with their gastrointestinal health, so feeding them with high-fiber food can help them stay healthy.
What health issues will the best dog food for senior dogs help prevent and treat?
Senior dogs with diabetes, kidney failure, or liver disease require special diets to manage their condition. If your dog is sick and you are worried about the impact of their diet, it is best to consult with a vet. Low-calorie senior dog foods can help dogs at an increased risk of heart disease maintain a healthy weight. In this regard, low-sodium recipes are preferred.
Our veterinary team at San Diego hospital advises the owners of diabetic or pre-diabetic dogs to choose foods that slow down the absorption of food into their companion's body. These special diabetic diets raise your dog's blood sugar slowly, reducing health complications arising from diabetes. These diets are low in fats and high in fiber. We also recommend discussing your senior or diabetic dog's dietary needs with your vet.
Senior dog food brands often use higher-quality protein sources than standard dog food. This helps senior dogs maintain a healthy body weight without putting undue strain on their aging kidneys.
What should I do if my senior dog won't eat their dog food?
As dogs grow older, it is quite normal for them to experience a loss in appetite. However, the reasons for sudden appetite loss can vary in both severity and scope. Your dog might be feeling nauseous due to minor gastrointestinal issues, or they might be experiencing the effects of something as serious as cancer.
If your senior dog has recently stopped eating without any apparent reason, it's best to consult with your vet immediately. They can rule out any potentially serious causes, such as dental disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer.
Once serious medical conditions have been ruled out, another possibility is that your dog might simply be bored with their regular food. To make their meals more tempting, try adding chicken broth, a small amount of canned food, or some water to their dry kibble.
Is prescription dog food the best dog food for older dogs?
The ideal dog food for your senior dog will vary depending on their specific situation. Sometimes, prescription dog food may be the best option. In other cases, switching to a healthier alternative may suffice.
Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs
The team at San Diego Bay Animal Hospital has compiled a list of some of the best dog food brands for senior dogs, all of which are available from our online store and pharmacy. Ask your vet what senior dog food is best for your pet.
Hill's® Science Diet® Dog Senior 11+ Adult Small Paws™ Dry dog food provides precisely balanced, easy-to-digest nutrition tailored to older small & toy breed dogs.
Recommended for senior dogs 11+ years of age. This diet contains 4.6 cups of food per pound.
Contains a patented kibble texture, with added antioxidants plus a natural source of glucosamine. Perfect nutrition for adult and senior dogs. Awarded the VOHC ® Seal of Acceptance
Purina Veterinary Diets® DH® Dental Health Canine Formula and DH® Small Bites Canine Formula have been formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition for adult and senior dogs while providing the following characteristics: Optimal kibble size, Patented kibble texture, Added antioxidants A and E, Natural source of glucosamine, Moderate calories, Exceptional palatability, and Perfect solution for everyday feeding of adult and senior dogs.
Medium-sized dogs are famous for their seemingly endless energy, but as they grow into their senior years, they've probably slowed down a bit, and so have their body. With age comes the probability of a dulling coat, and a decrease in energy—sometimes even in appetite. But with a right-sized diet tailor-made for the nutritional needs of senior dogs, your dog can thrive. This Royal Canin Medium Aging Adult 10+ senior dry dog food is made to support your older dog's vitality. An exclusive blend of antioxidants supports healthy aging and overall cellular health.
Royal Canin Medium Aging 10+ dry dog food is precise nutrition specifically made for senior medium-sized dogs 10 years and older weighing 23–55 lbs. Supports healthy aging with an exclusive blend of antioxidants for overall vitality. It helps support bones and joint health in medium-breed dogs. Nourishes with Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for healthy skin and coat. Easy to eat, rehydratable kibble designed specifically for the jaws of senior medium-sized dogs.
Size Health Nutrition Medium Aging 10+ is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance.
Large breed dogs are treasured for being hard-working animals and loyal family companions. But as they age, their nutritional needs change. Their large bodies can benefit from an age- and size-specific diet that can help keep them happy and healthy. Royal Canin Large Aging 8+ dry dog food (formerly Maxi Aging 8+) is tailored to support your big senior dog's vitality. An exclusive complex of antioxidants supports cellular health to help reduce the signs of aging. Precise nutrients keep large bones and joints healthy and strong to help your dog stay active. And high-quality proteins and a balance of fibers help your dog digest food easily for digestive health. Plus, this highly palatable kibble is rehydratable: Mix in warm water for an easy-to-chew meal your dog will love to eat. Add some variety to their bowl with Royal Canin Mature 8+ wet dog food.
Royal Canin Large Aging 8+ dry dog food (formerly Maxi Aging 8+) is precise nutrition specifically made for large dogs 8 years and older weighing 56–100 lbs. Supports long-life vitality with an exclusive blend of antioxidants made for healthy aging. It helps keep bones and joints healthy in senior large-breed dogs. Promotes healthy digestion with easy-to-digest proteins and a balanced supply of fiber. Large-sized rehydratable kibble is easy to chew and ideal for senior dogs' jaws.
Size Health Nutrition Large Aging 8+ is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance.
Hill's Science Diet Mature Adult, canned dog food, has all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and calories your senior dog needs to help him stay fit and healthy throughout his senior years. Made in the USA with global ingredients you can trust, these foods also use clinically proven antioxidants for a healthy immune system. Open up a can and serve either one of these mouthwatering entrées as a balanced meal or try dry dog food on top of Science Diet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.