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The Best Senior Dog Food | Older Canine Nutrition

OUR #1 PICK

The best value for money

Wellness Complete Health Chicken & Barley

  • Deboned chicken is the number one ingredient
  • 800 mg/kg of Glucosamine
  • 700 mg/kg of Chondroitin Sulfate

  • As your dog ages, a dietary change may be in order to best meet their nutritional needs.

    Here at WileyPup, we want you to have the information you need to make informed decisions that are best for your loyal companion at all stages of their lives. If you want to find the best older dog food, we are here to help!

    Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa | Doctor Of Veterinary Medicine

    Sara is Wileypup’s Veterinarian Adviser and helped compose this article to ensure the information is up to date and accurate. For more information on Sara click here


    Our review starts with some important information to help you know what to look for in the best food for older dogs.

    Then we provide a comprehensive review of both dry and canned foods, and recommend some high-quality options to choose from.

    Read on to learn about some trusted sources for supplements that your vet may recommend to for your aging canine.

    Finally, we have some helpful tips on transitioning to their new food if you are ready to make the change.


    What Makes Senior Dog Food Special?

    Life stage and breed size can be important for striking the right balance of nutritional needs for your canine.

    It is a good idea to have a conversation with your vet once your four-legged friend is 7 years old to check in with what they think the priorities for their feed should be.

    Each individual dog ages differently and has unique nutritional needs.

    Smaller breeds tend to age a little bit slower, and because of their light weight, joint wear and tear can take longer to show up. Individual dogs also have different nutritional needs based on their unique physiology. Check out our small dog food guides below for more info:

    Not all senior formulas are the same. Some prioritize weight loss, others boosted joint support. Some have higher protein, some lower.

    Deciding what is best for your dog will depend on what their most urgent health needs are at this stage of their life.


    Higher or lower protein?

    This is a controversial question. For a long time, the knee-jerk answer was that senior dogs need less protein.

    A common cited concern was that too much protein would over tax kidney function. Even most vets were convinced that this was the case, based on research that was done on rodents, not dogs.

    In fact,recent research done on dogs is beginning to show the opposite. Older canines may benefit from more protein than once believed, perhaps even more than younger dogs.

    Decreasing protein may lower your dog’s overall condition since protein is critical to maintain healthy muscle mass.  

    Talk to your vet to see what is right for your aging buddy.

    For more information check out our article on best high protein dog food.


    Weight Control

    Many brands of feed marketed to older canines promise weight loss by being marketed as lower in calories or fat. 

    There are indeed some high-quality kibbles that use high quality fiber to reduce calories. Unfortunately, this can also translate into more fillers and cheap grains.

    Be wary of any fancy packaging that is trying to convince you that more corn and wheat means better nutrition.

    Weight control can be an issue for some older pets because they tend to be less active and have lower metabolism as a normal part of the aging process.

    In those cases, lower calories and higher fiber food, combined with exercise, may be what your dog needs most.

    However, many other pets tend to get thinner with age, as a result of loss of appetite. If the latter is the case, you won’t solve the problem by feeding less fat, the main ingredient that improves the palatability of shelf stable food.

    Again, each individual dog should be assessed relative to their specific needs.


    Joint Support

    Senior dog food with dded glucosamine, chondroitin, and/or omega fatty acids (3&6) to give increased support to aging joints and can reduce inflammation. If you have an older canine with arthritis or mobility issues, this can help give them higher quality of life.

    All of the feed on our list includes boosted levels of these joint supporting ingredients. We have also recommended a trusted supplement if joint support is a concern.


    Fiber

    Higher levels of fiber can be found in the senior dog food formulas of some pet feeds.

    The reason for this is that older canines can start to have problems with digestion, and fiber can help with that.

    In addition, fiber adds some bulk without adding calories, which translates to a weight control strategy in some recipes.

    Be careful transitioning food that has drastically different levels of fiber. It can create significant gastrointestinal distress when done too quickly.

    For more information, check out our article on high fiber dog food.


    Best Senior Dog Food | Qualities to Look Out For

    There are a few characteristics that can be indicators of high quality feed, regardless of which life stage you are shopping for.

    Here are some things to look for:

    • The number one ingredient should be real meat. The exception is canned food, which usually has water or broth first because of the high moisture content.
    • Fillers such as corn, wheat and soy are cheap and basically nutritionally empty. Try to avoid them as top ingredients.
    • With modern processing techniques, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives are unnecessary. Our list includes only feed that avoids these chemical additives.
    • U.S. manufacturing ensures a tighter level of quality control than feed manufactured elsewhere.
    • The AAFCO seal means that the kibble meets the minimum recommended guidelines for nutrition established by years of research by nutritional veterinarians. All of the foods on our list are AAFCO approved.
    • Poultry by-products are different than whole deboned chicken or chicken meal. These by-products are unfit for human consumption due to lower standards in terms of ingredient control and processing techniques. It is best to avoid them. Never buy food with “meat by-product” listed as an ingredient since this can include things you don’t even want to read about.
    • Feed manufacturers have become more sensitive to ingredient sourcing thanks to increased consumer awareness. Higher quality pet feed brands source domestically, or from trusted countries such as New Zealand for Lamb.
    • It's always a good idea to compare dog food brands ingredients


    Best Senior Dry Dog Food

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    Wellness Complete Health Chicken & Barley

    • Deboned chicken is the number one ingredient
    • 800 mg/kg of Glucosamine
    • 700 mg/kg of Chondroitin Sulfate

    NUTRO ULTRA for Seniors

    • Real chicken is the number one ingredient
    • Whole food nutrition from sweet potatoes, chickpeas, peas and alfalfa
    • Boosted Omega 3&6

    CANIDAE Grain Free PURE

    • Real chicken is the number one ingredient
    • Whole food nutrition from sweet potatoes, chickpeas, peas and alfalfa
    • Boosted Omega 3&6

    NUTRO MAX Natural

    • Chicken meal from responsibly sourced farm raised chicken
    • Whole food ingredients such as whole brown rice, oatmeal, flaxseed, and peas
    • Vitamin and mineral supplements formulated for optimal absorption

    Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed

    • Deboned turkey is the number one ingredient
    • Smaller bites just for tiny dogs
    • Whole food nutrition from blueberries, flaxseed and spinach, and peas

    Blue Buffalo Chicken & Brown Rice Large Breed

    • Deboned chicken is the number one ingredient
    • Whole food nutrition from peas, flaxseed, sweet potatoes, carrots and garlic
    • Chelated minerals for optimal nutrition

    Let’s get started with the best dry food for older dogs.

    Our list starts with two great all around selections, followed by the best in class for grain free, overall value, small and large breed formulas.


    Wellness Complete Health Chicken & Barley

    Wellness Complete Health is a pet feed brand that is still family owned and operated.

    They are committed to whole food nutrition, sourcing quality ingredients from vetted suppliers, and processing in the USA. 

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 22%
    • Crude Fat (min): 10%
    • Crude Fiber (max): 4.25%
    CONTAINS
    • Deboned chicken is the number one ingredient
    • 800 mg/kg of Glucosamine
    • 700 mg/kg of Chondroitin Sulfate
    • Boosted Omega 3&6
    • Whole food ingredients such as spinach, blueberries and flaxseed
    • Manufactured exclusively in the USA
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

    NUTRO ULTRA for Seniors

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 26%
    • Crude Fat (min): 11%
    • Crude Fiber (max): 4%
    CONTAINS
    • Real chicken is the number one ingredient, also contains lamb and salmon
    • Chock full of superfoods such as flaxseed, kale, apples, chia seeds, carrots, blueberries and pumpkin
    • 80 mg/kg of Glucosamine
    • 200 mg/kg of Chondroitin Sulfate
    • Boosted Omega 3&6
    • 100% satisfaction guarantee
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
    • GMO ingredients

    Best Grain Free Dog Food Pick!

    CANIDAE Grain Free PURE

    Some canines have sensitivities to grains in their food which can sometimes trigger digestion or recurring skin problems.

    If you are looking for a high-quality grain free food for senior dogs, this is an excellent choice.

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 28%
    • Crude Fat (min): 10%
    • Crude Fiber (max): 5%

    CANIDAE is serious about sensitive stomach formulas.

    They offer several limited ingredient formulas to choose from in addition to being grain free. They manufacture in the United States, and source many of their ingredients from their own farms.

    For more information on limited ingredient dog foods check out our guide here.

    Talk about responsible sourcing!

    CONTAINS
    • Real chicken is the number one ingredient
    • 300 mg/kg of Glucosamine
    • 150 mg/kg of Chondroitin Sulfate
    • Whole food nutrition from sweet potatoes, chickpeas, peas and alfalfa
    • Boosted Omega 3&6
    • 9 key ingredients formula for sensitive stomachs
    • Probiotic and antioxidant supplements
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

    Best Value Pick!

    NUTRO MAX Natural

    NUTRO has several lines of dog food, but one thing they all share are quality ingredients that are responsibly sourced. Their recipes are simple and purposeful, and also contain no GMO ingredients!

    This made our list of the best older dog foods because in addition to being high quality, it is also very affordable! If you are looking for value, give this a try.

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 25%
    • Crude Fat (min): 12%
    •  Crude Fiber (max): 4%
    CONTAINS
    • Chicken meal from responsibly sourced farm raised chicken
    • 150 mg/kg of Glucosamine
    • 350 mg/kg of Chondroitin Sulfate
    • Whole food ingredients such as whole brown rice, oatmeal, flaxseed, and peas
    • Vitamin and mineral supplements formulated for optimal absorption
    • 100% satisfaction guarantee
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
    • GMO ingredients

    Best Small Breed Pick!

    Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed

    If you have an older small breed canine on your hands, this is a formula made with them in mind. 

    Just the right levels of protein from high quality sources and joint support supplements are the cornerstones of this formula from trusted manufacturer, Wellness Complete.

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 25%
    • Crude Fat (min): 12%
    • Crude Fiber (max): 5%
    CONTAINS
    • Deboned turkey is the number one ingredient
    • Smaller bites just for tiny dogs
    • Whole food nutrition from blueberries, flaxseed and spinach, and peas
    • 250 mg/kg of Glucosamine
    • 200 mg/kg of Chondroitin Sulfate
    • Omegas 3&6
    • Manufactured only in the USA
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

    Best Large Breed Pick!

    Blue Buffalo Chicken & Brown Rice Large Breed

    Blue Buffalo has long been a leader in the natural pet food movement. Committed to using responsibly sourced real meat ingredients, nutritious whole foods, and quality manufacturing, it is no wonder Blue is one of the leaders in high-end dog food. 

    This senior blend has one of the highest levels of glucosamine and chondroitin available in dry food for senior dogs.

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 22%
    • Crude Fat (min): 10%
    • Crude Fiber (max): 7%

    It is a great choice if you have a dog with mobility issues or arthritis.

    CONTAINS
    • Deboned chicken is the number one ingredient
    • 400 mg/kg of Glucosamine
    • 300 mg/kg of Chondroitin Sulfate
    • Whole food nutrition from peas, flaxseed, sweet potatoes, carrots and garlic
    • Chelated minerals for optimal nutrition
    • LifeSource® bits for added antioxidant support
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

    Best Senior Canned Dog Food

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    NUTRO ULTRA Wet Dog Food

    • Chicken, salmon, lamb and turkey for multiple sources of high quality protein
    • Superfood nutrition from cranberries, blueberries, pumpkin, carrots and more
    • 230 mg/kg of Glucosamine

    Wellness Complete Health Natural Wet Canned Dog Food

    • Great value
    • 100% leather construction
    • Soft and supple feel right out of the box

    BLUE Freedom Natural Grain Free Wet Dog Food

    • Chicken is the number one ingredient
    • Whole food nutrition from blueberries, cranberries, peas and carrots
    • Boosted amino acids

    NUTRO MAX Wet Dog Food

    • Chicken broth and chicken as the top two ingredients
    • Chicken and beef liver, rich in vitamins and extra tasty for picky eaters
    • Responsibly sourced ingredients from trusted suppliers

    NUTRO Hearty Stews

    • Lamb and Lamb liver as the top ingredients for nutrition and palatability
    • Natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin for optimal absorption
    • Whole food nutrition from ingredients like rice, peas and carrots

    Canned food for senior dogs can be good as the basis of a nutritionally balanced diet, or as the occasional special treat.

    Our list includes two all around top picks, followed by the best choices in grain free, best value and a special bonus just for picky eaters!


    NUTRO ULTRA Wet Dog Food

    Their commitment to the best ingredients from high quality protein sources, to whole grains, vegetables and fruits for whole food nutrition, makes NUTRO ULTRA show up again as one of the best canned food for senior dogs.

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 7%
    • Crude Fat (min): 5%
    • Crude Fiber (max): 1.5%
    CONTAINS
    • Chicken, salmon, lamb and turkey for multiple sources of high quality protein
    • Superfood nutrition from cranberries, blueberries, pumpkin, carrots and more
    • 230 mg/kg of Glucosamine
    • 180 mg/kg of Chondroitin Sulfate
    • 100% satisfaction guarantee
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
    • GMO ingredients

    Wellness Complete Health Natural Wet Canned Dog Food

    This is a good choice if your older dog also needs to drop a few pounds. It is a lower calorie formula with some added fiber to keep them feeling satisfied with less. 

    Be sure to keep your senior dog active if they are overweight. Extra pounds put extra wear and tear on tired and painful joints.  

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 7%
    • Crude Fat (min): 3%
    • Crude Fiber (max): 3%
    CONTAINS
    • Increased fiber for lower calories for overweight seniors
    • Chicken liver for added palatability and a natural source of vitamins A, Bs and D
    • Whole food ingredients like carrots and flaxseed
    • Boosted omega fatty acids
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

    Best Grain Free Pick!

    BLUE Freedom Natural Grain Free Wet Dog Food

    Blue shows up again in our best wet senior dog food list because they are a trustworthy brand that has been focusing on optimal pet nutrition from the beginning, and they are leaders in the natural pet food industry.

    They use only high-quality ingredients and always avoid common cheap fillers and meat by-products.

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 7%
    • Crude Fat (min): 5.5%
    • Crude Fiber (max): 2%
    CONTAINS
    • Chicken is the number one ingredient
    • Whole food nutrition from blueberries, cranberries, peas and carrots
    • 100 mg/kg of Glucosamine
    • 75 mg/kg of Chondroitin Sulfate
    • Boosted amino acids
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

    Best Value Pick!

    NUTRO MAX Wet Dog Food

    If you are looking for a canned food for your senior dog that won’t break the bank, but still puts nutrition first, this is a great pick.

    It gets high marks for palatability. Use it alone or mixed with dry kibble for a nutritious and tasty meal.

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 7%
    • Crude Fat (min): 5%
    • Crude Fiber (max): 2%
    CONTAINS
    • Chicken broth and chicken as the top two ingredients
    • Chicken and beef liver, rich in vitamins and extra tasty for picky eaters
    • Responsibly sourced ingredients from trusted suppliers
    • 100% satisfaction guarantee
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
    • GMO ingredients

    Best Picky Eater Pick!

    NUTRO Hearty Stews

    Do you have an older dog that turns their nose up at everything you offer them? Try this delicious recipe with real lamb cooked in a tasty stew. It is sure to get your canine excited about dinner.

    Or, use this mixed with some dry food so that your dog will be more interested in their regular kibble.

    Nutritional Analysis:

    • Crude Protein (min): 7%
    • Crude Fat (min): 4.5%
    • Crude Fiber (max): 1.5%
    CONTAINS
    • Lamb and Lamb liver as the top ingredients for nutrition and palatability
    • Natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin for optimal absorption
    • Whole food nutrition from ingredients like rice, peas and carrots
    • Responsibly sourced ingredients from trusted suppliers
    • 100% satisfaction guarantee
    DOESN'T CONTAIN
    • Wheat, Corn or Soy
    • Meat or poultry by-products
    • Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

    Supplements for Senior Dogs

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    Nutramax Cosequin DS Plus with MSM Chewable Tablet

    • Excellent value
    • Rivet and double stitching at the attachment point
    • Thick 100% US rawhide latigo leather

    Natural Immune Support for Dogs Plus Antioxidant

    • Great value
    • 100% leather construction
    • Soft and supple feel right out of the box

    Purina Fortiflora Canine Nutritional Supplement Box

    • 7/8” width of full grain leather
    • One-year warranty
    • Heavy duty design for powerful breeds

    Makondo Pets Skin & Coat Dog & Cat Supplement

    • Dual handle for fast control in an emergency
    • Padded handle
    • Beautiful detailing to earn our top choice for style

    You should always consult with your vet before adding supplements to your companion’s diet. A supplement that is beneficial for one dog may be dangerous to give to another.

    In addition, your vet can give you the best dosage information for your specific pet.

    In fact, some vets may recommend supplements instead of special senior dog food since that will allow them to target problem areas and customize dietary support to match your canine’s specific nutritional needs.

    Finding supplements that are made from high quality ingredients that can be relied on to provide the nutrition they say they will can take a lot of research.

    We have done that for you to save you some time!


    Nutramax Cosequin DS Plus with MSM Chewable Tablets

    This formula is specially formulated for dogs to support joint health, particularly important for seniors.

    If your dog has been a bit slower out of bed, seems to be showing signs of pain when on their daily walk, or seems sensitive around their hips, talk to your vet about a joint supplement.

    This is the #1 brand of joint supplement recommended by veterinarians, so you can count on the quality.

    The combination of MSM with Glucosamine and Chondroitin is a powerful combination to support the joint health of your loyal companion.

    Active Ingredients:

    • Glucosamine Hydrochoride: 500 mg
    • Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate: 300 mg
    • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): 250 mg
    • Manganese: 3 mg

    Natural Immune Support for Dogs Plus Antioxidant

    If your vet has recommended additional immune system support, this is a blend worth trying.

    It is made from 100% natural ingredients and it is manufactured in the USA for tight quality control.

    Packed full of pharmaceutical grade antioxidants, this immune support supplement is potent.


    Purina Fortiflora Canine Nutritional Supplement Box

    It is not unusual for dogs (or people for that matter) to struggle with maintaining gastrointestinal health with age.

    This supplement helps keep your aging canine’s gut in top shape with a guaranteed amount of live cultures to promote the “good” bacteria, critical for healthy digestion.

    In addition, it has high levels of antioxidants for strong immunity support. Vitamins A, E and C are also boosted in this formula as well.

    If your aging canine is experiencing digestive problems, talk to your vet about this supplement.


    Makondo Pets Skin & Coat Dog & Cat Supplement

    Amino acids serve several nutritional benefits to dogs including promoting healthy skin, coat and reducing inflammation.

    It is sometimes recommended by vets to decrease the inflammation in joints associated with arthritis in addition to those with skin problems from allergies.

    This formula is made in the USA, with tight quality controls. You can count on the levels of the many nutrients included in this fish oil based supplement.

    It is a good source of biotin, which helps the absorption of fatty acids, and EPA and DHA, Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil.

    Did someone say bacon?

    These bacon flavored chewable tablets are easy to administer too!


    How to Change Your Senior Dog’s Food

    Prescription Diets for Senior Dogs

    If your senior has been prescribed a special diet by your vet, then do not make any changes to their diet before consulting with your veterinarian.

    In some cases, special diets for older dogs with liver or kidney problems, diabetes, or heart conditions are vital to protect your companion’s health.


    Transition Gradually

    It is important that you do not change your buddy’s food all at once. This can create serious gastrointestinal distress.

    Instead, change their diet over the course of about a week, adding a little bit of new, and subtracting a little bit of old, each day.

    This means you will want to keep some of the old food on hand to get through the transition.

    In addition, in the event your dog has a reaction to the new feed, you will want some of the old on hand to get them back to a diet you know they can handle in a hurry.

    It makes sense to reserve a few pounds of the old food just in case. You can bag some up in a sealed freezer bag to keep it fresh longer.


    Symptoms to Watch Out For

    It is totally normal for your dog to have some symptoms of gastrointestinal distress when they switch over to a new food.

    If they have a little bit of gas, initially turn their nose up a new food, or have soft stools for a day or two, it is probably nothing to worry about.

    However, if any of the following occur, you should switch back to the old food and consult your vet:

    • Diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours
    • Vomiting that is severe or lasts more than a day
    • Refusing to eat for more than a day
    • Intense gas
    • Water drinking that seems excessive or significantly more than normal

    Less dramatic signs over the course of the next few weeks may indicate that your dog may have a food intolerance or allergy to one or more ingredients of the new food.

    Consult your vet if you notice any of the following in the weeks after a new food is started:

    • Itching, particularly ears, more than normal
    • Weight loss
    • Licking at paws excessively
    • Dry skin or the appearance of “hot spots” where they have licked fur away
    • Excessive shedding

    We hope this article has given you the information you need to learn more about the best senior dog food available on the market.

    If you have a senior dog of your own, please feel free to share about how awesome he is in the comment section below!

    Sharon Elber (M.S. in Science & Technology) - Professional Dog Trainer

    Sharon is a professional dog trainer with over 10 years experience. She is also a professional writer that received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech.

    For more info on Sharon click here

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