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Senior dogs are matured dogs that have reached half of their anticipated life expectancy. Dogs are considered senior when they are in the last 25% of their expected lifespan.

While old age is not a disease in itself, the body changes associated with aging make older dogs more vulnerable to medical problems and disease.

Small breed dogs tend to live longer than large and giant breeds. Large and giant breed dogs are considered to be senior between 5 and 8 years of age while small breed dogs are considered to be senior at 8-10 years of age. The term geriatric is used when a dog has lived beyond the average lifespan for their breed and size.

If your pet has one of the diseases often seen with aging such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, dental problems, heart disease, or kidney disease, dietary adjustments may help improve symptoms or even slow progression of the disease. Dietary modification can help to optimize health in the dog and to manage any diseases that might arise as they age.

Nutritional Needs of Senior Dogs


Changes in metabolic rate cause fewer calories to be burned and more to be stored as fat. A recent study showed that mature dogs require 20 percent fewer calories in order to maintain the same weight as younger ones. Dogs entering old age may benefit from eating a food with less fat and fewer calories.


Protein is important for older dogs. Even with exercise, older dogs tend to lose muscle mass, which means losses in protein reserves. Losses in muscle tissue and protein reserves may impair the immune system and decrease the body’s ability to respond to physical trauma, infectious agents, or stress.

Loss of protein reserves also means the body may not have enough amino acids for tissue repair and energy metabolism. Senior diets should have increased protein-to-calorie ratio, providing a minimum of 25 percent of calories from protein.


Dogs may also need more water as they age. The body’s ability to maintain water balance is decreased as they get older.

Senior dogs are more prone to dehydration. This is because of health problems such as kidney disease that cause them to urinate more frequently.

It’s important to make sure that senior dogs have plenty of water.


Fiber has its uses, however. It can help alleviate constipation, which can be a problem in older dogs. It can also provide glucose regulation, which may be altered in older dogs. Although cellulose-based fibers are traditionally used in dog foods, recent findings suggest that moderately fermentable fiber blends, such as beet pulp, may provide better glucose regulation and nutrient digestion.


Decreasing, not eliminating, sodium is usually a good idea for any senior, as long as the dog will still eat the diet.

Lowering dietary phosphorus has been shown to be beneficial in pets with kidney disease. Though is not known whether low dietary phosphorus can reduce the risk of development of kidney disease.

Switching To a Senior Dog Food

Your veterinarian will help guide you to making the decision to switch dog foods as there are valid medical reasons that occur. We can do best for our senior dogs by being mindful of our dog’s weight and keeping up with regular vet visits.

Many dog food companies create dog foods with “senior” in the name, or labeled for the “senior” lifestage. Senior dog foods do have some differences from those labeled as Adult and Puppy formulas when it comes to nutrition composition. On average, senior dog foods have less protein, less fats, and higher carbohydrates than adult and puppy diets.

Treats and Snacks

It is best to choose commercial treats that reflect the nutrient balance of the chosen senior ration. Snacks from the table are not balanced at all and may contain high levels of fat and sodium. Water-based vegetables, like fresh or frozen green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce make good guilt-free snacks for senior dogs.

Dietary Supplements

Senior dogs have special nutritional needs and so some will benefit from supplements. For instance, a large percentage of older dogs suffer from arthritis and can benefit from vitamins and supplements. Supplements like chondriotin and glucosamine for their joints, if combined with weight control and the proper exercise plan


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