An older dog licking a smiling child's face

What Should You Feed Older Dogs?

As of 2022, the majority of dog-owning households in the U.S. have senior dogs. Though age is just a number, when it comes to our furry companions, age carries significant weight, especially when it comes to nutritional needs.

As dogs mature, their dietary requirements go through a subtle yet crucial transformation. Just as we adapt our own diets as we get older, dogs require that same attention and care.

So, what exactly should you feed your older dog to help them live their golden years to the fullest? In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about senior dog diets, as well as some specific dog foods that may be good options for your pup.

Defining What “Older Dog” Means

Before diving into specialized nutrition for older dogs, it’s important to establish what we mean by “older dog.” Contrary to popular belief, the terms “older” and “senior” aren’t necessarily interchangeable.

Dogs typically reach senior status around the age of seven or eight, but the definition of an “older dog” can vary based on breed, size, and individual health.

For most breeds, a dog is considered “older” when they reach nine years old. However, larger breeds may enter this stage earlier, around seven years old, while smaller breeds may maintain their youthful energy until 11 or 12.

Physical characteristics also play a significant role in defining an older dog. Slowing metabolism, decreased activity levels, changes in muscle mass, and the onset of age-related conditions like arthritis and heart disease are key indicators that your best friend is transitioning into their older years.

How To Know When It’s Time to Change an Aging Dog’s Diet

From digestive changes to shifts in body weight and condition, be sure to pay attention to signs your dog is aging so you can provide them with the nutrition they need to thrive. Here are some ways to know when it’s time to change your aging pup’s diet.

Decreased Activity Levels

One of the most apparent signs that it’s time to adjust your dog’s diet is a reduction in their activity levels. As dogs grow older, they may become less energetic and less interested in physical activities. This decrease in energy use means they require fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight.

To prevent weight gain and potential health issues, consider transitioning your dog to a lower-calorie diet or switching to a formula specifically designed for less active dogs. These options provide necessary nutrients without excess calories, supporting an old dog’s overall health and well-being.

Digestive Changes

As noted above, digestive changes are another common indicator that it’s time to switch your dog’s diet. Increased gas, diarrhea, or constipation may signal that their current diet isn’t suitable anymore.

Consider adjusting to a diet with different fiber content or one that incorporates more digestible ingredients. This can help alleviate some digestive issues and support gastrointestinal health. Additionally, consult with your vet for more customized insights.

Changes in Body Weight or Condition

Monitoring your dog’s body weight and condition is essential for assessing their overall health and determining if dietary adjustments are necessary. Unexplained weight gain or loss can indicate that their current diet is no longer meeting their nutritional needs.

Regular body condition scoring, which involves assessing your dog’s body condition using visual and tactile cues, can help you track changes over time.

Also, schedule regular check ups at the vet for early detection of any health issues. You can also discuss dietary modifications tailored to your dog’s individual needs.

What Are the Primary Nutritional Needs of Typical Older Dogs?

Older dogs have some specific nutritional needs that you’ll need to meet to support them during their golden years as happily and healthily as possible, starting with:

Enhanced Healthy Proteins

Maintaining muscle mass is crucial for older dogs, as it tends to decrease with age. To support your dog’s muscle health, try to provide them with high-quality, digestible protein sources in their diet, such as chicken, turkey, or fish.

These proteins not only help preserve muscle mass but also provide essential amino acids for overall health and vitality in senior dogs.

Lowered Fat Content

With their decreased activity levels and potential weight management concerns, older dogs may benefit from diets with lower fat content than they needed in their younger years.

Reducing fat content helps manage calorie intake and prevent obesity, which is common in older dogs. In fact, 59% of all dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

Opt for a diet that strikes a balance between adequate nutrition and moderate fat to support weight management and overall health.

Essential Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are so important when it comes to supporting joint health and cognitive function in older dogs. Just like humans, as dogs age, they may experience joint stiffness and cognitive decline.

Look for foods that include sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like fish oil and flaxseed. Chondroitin and glucosamine may also be helpful for joint issues. If you believe your dog is experiencing pain or confusion, be sure to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Common Health and Diet Concerns in Older Dogs

We’ve discussed some common health concerns among older dogs, like obesity and cognitive decline, but there are additional health conditions that older dogs are at risk for.

Issues like arthritis, kidney disease, reduced organ function, eye issues, dental disease, and more may improve with dietary changes. It’s essential to work closely with your vet to address any health concerns and make appropriate daily changes to support your dog’s comfort and longevity in their senior years.

The Honest Kitchen’s Recommendations for Older Dogs

Now, let’s dive into some food recommendations for older and aging dogs. To ensure your pup gets what they need nutritionally, consider food from The Honest Kitchen.

We offer human grade, nutritionally dense pet food made with high-quality, minimally processed ingredients. Our dog food includes dehydrated, wet, and dry recipes, plus toppers, supplements, broths, and treats that pets love!

The Honest Kitchen’s Dry Dog Food

Our Clusters Dry Dog Food comes in both whole-grain and grain-free recipes. It’s full of healthy ingredients like whole chicken and beef, lentils, and whole oats. It also features fresh carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, and apples, plus all sorts of added vitamins and nutrients like flaxseed, chia seed, salmon oil, and vitamins A, E, and D3.

For senior dogs with sensitive stomachs or allergies, The Honest Kitchen’s Dehydrated Limited Ingredient Dog Food includes tasty ingredients like cage-free turkey, parsnips, navy beans, pumpkin, parsley, and organic coconut. Every recipe is slowly and gently dehydrated to preserve taste and maximum nutritional value. Simply mix the dehydrated food with warm water or broth for a delicious, nutritionally dense meal that’s easy on sensitive teeth and gums.

Finally, if you’re a home cook, consider The Honest Kitchen’s base mixes—all you have to do is add protein to make a complete and balanced meal for your pup.

For example, the Whole Grain Base Mix includes dehydrated carrots, flaxseed, parsnips, peas, organic coconut, pumpkin, celery, kale, kelp, garlic, and tons of vitamins and minerals to boost antioxidant and amino acid intake.

The Honest Kitchen’s Wet Dog Food

If your senior dog has become pickier in old age or can’t tolerate crunchy foods anymore, consider wet dog food from The Honest Kitchen.

The first option is our Slow-Cooked One Pot Stews, which come in a variety of recipes like beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, and fish. All of these recipes feature high-quality protein as the first ingredient, followed by broth, veggies like green beans and sweet potatoes, and tons of nutrients.

The second option is our Butcher Block Pates, which also come in a variety of protein options to support your pup’s tastes and nutritional needs.

The chicken recipe includes cage free chicken, bone broth, chicken liver, broccoli, carrots, kale, and spinach, making it a great option for picky eaters—and dogs who just deserve a special treat!

The Honest Kitchen’s Pour-Overs and Toppers

Finally, The Honest Kitchen offers pour-overs and toppers that you can add to your senior dog’s diet for an extra boost of nutrition or functional support for specific health concerns. As a dog owner, it can be tricky to find supplements you can trust, but The Honest Kitchen has you covered.

Our line of functional pour-overs help support the nutritional requirements of geriatric dogs. Choose from Heart Health Turkey Broth and Salmon Stew, Immune Support Beef Stew, Hip & Joint Chicken Stew, and Revive & Restore Chicken and Pumpkin Stew —or rotate through all four!

Help Your Dog Enjoy Their Golden Years With The Honest Kitchen

Caring for an aging dog can be a balancing act that requires regular monitoring, careful diet adjustments, and deep care and compassion. It’s never easy navigating the complexities of an aging pet, but providing your pup with the holistic nutrition they need is a great place to start.

The Honest Kitchen’s human grade dog food line can help you ensure your older dog gets all of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they need to support their health and happiness.

Explore The Honest Kitchen’s complete like of  senior dog food  today and make your dog’s golden years their best yet! 

*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.

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