The 12 Best Dog Foods for Senior Dogs

Best Dry Dog Food for Senior Dogs

best dog food for senior dogs solid gold young at heartOur Pick: Solid Gold Young at Heart

Out of the dozen dry dog foods on this list, Solid Gold’s Young at Heart is the best at keeping the widest array of senior pups active and healthy.

It has good ingredients, is easy to digest, low in allergens, and won’t drain your bank account!

However, your senior dog may have different dietary requirements than most, so keep reading to find a dog food that may be better for your dog.

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Senior Diet

Table of Contents

I know everyone talks about the puppy life stage being the most challenging, with the chewing and the housetraining.

But I would have to disagree: I think the senior life stage is by far the most difficult.

Three of our four dogs are chronological seniors, and keeping them happy and healthy can be quite a challenge.

As our dog ages, we’ve been faced with some of the common health issues associated with age, such as arthritis, dementia, loss of muscle mass, and loss of appetite.

One of the components we control to help promote good health in our dogs is their diet. Nutrition is one of the most significant factors in a dog’s overall health. The food we give them we can positively impact their immune system, increase their energy level, foster better cognitive function, and strengthen muscles and bones.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magical dog food for all seniors.

Some older dogs suffer from being overweight while others are underweight. Some have heart or kidney issues, arthritis, or show no signs of aging at all.

Saying age is just a number couldn’t be more accurate than when talking about dogs.

Sophie, my 13.5 y/o, maintains a perfect weight, is still high energy, doesn’t suffer from heart or kidney disease, and has no signs of arthritis. For her, we’ve made no changes from her hypoallergenic diet. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!

Calvin, 11 y/o, and Daisy, 15 y/o, both suffer from being underweight and have become extremely picky eaters. Also, Daisy suffers from arthritis, Calvin suffers from irritable bowel disease, and they both suffer from muscle loss.

So, what does this mean for us?

That we couldn’t be more thankful for the wide variety of senior dog foods out there.

Dozens of senior dog foods went through our tests to bring you the best senior dog foods we can find. What you’ll find below is the dozen best-of-the-best, and each one is best at something!

When to Switch to Senior Dog Food

There are several factors to consider before switching your dog to a senior diet, and their chronological age is one of the least important on the list.

Senior dog graying greying fur changes color old age what to feed

What it all really boils down to is the health of your dog.

Some of the signs it might be time to change your dog’s diet to a senior diet are:

  • The state of their coat and skin – Often times as a dog ages their coat and skin become drier, losing its luster and shine.
  • Their activity level decreases
  • Signs of stiffness or soreness when walking or standing
  • Changes in their weight – Either overweight or underweight
  • Changes in their eating habits
  • Cognitive changes

After discussing with your vet and ruling out any underlying health issues, they’ll likely suggest a senior diet.

Food specially formulated for seniors help ensure your dog is receiving the proper dietary requirements needed to live the healthiest life possible

Things to Take into Consideration When Choosing A Dog Food

Every dog is different and some have particular needs, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you hit the store.

Is your dog already on supplements?zesty paws multivitamin bites dog health supplement treat

If so, some foods already contain supplements.

Some supplements and vitamins are pretty benign at higher doses, whereas others can cause GI upset or, in cases like vitamin D, can be dangerous to your dog’s health.

So, it’s wise to double check doses before purchasing a supplement-rich food.

Does your dog have specific ailments or predispositions to certain diseases?

…such as heart disease. If so, you would likely want to consider a diet avoiding grain-free dog food.

Do you have a small or large breed dog?

Just like when they were puppies, there are unique formulas for dogs of different sizes.

There are even dog foods designed for specific dog breeds, such as German Shepherds.

Is your dog needing to gain weight?

If the answer is yes, you would want to look for a higher fat and protein diet.

Is your dog a picky eater?

Then you would want to talk to the folks at the store to find a food that is more robust in flavor or even make your own.

Want some handmade food for your picky dog but are too busy to make it yourself? NomNomNow has you covered!

How is Senior Dog Food Different?

As dogs age, their dietary needs changes as well.

Some of the senior dog foods have:

Retired dogs need different food low calories less active sensitive stomachs

  • Lower calories due to the decrease in activity and obesity, one of the most significant contributors to poor health in seniors. Obesity increases risks for things like heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and high blood pressure.
  • An increase in protein to help maintain muscle. “Senior diets should have increased protein-to-calorie ratio, providing a minimum of 25 percent of calories from protein,” according to Caroline Coile, Ph.D.
  • An increase in fiber to help maintain a healthy GI system. Keep in mind that a diet too high in fiber can also cause issues. An excess can decrease “how much protein and other nutrients your pet can absorb from their food,” according to Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN.
  • An increase in much-needed antioxidants, DHA, & EPA, all of which can help boost the immune system, aid in mobility, and combat cognitive dysfunction.

What to Look for and What to Avoid in Senior Dog Foods

Although all dogs need different things, there are a few ingredients any quality senior dog food should have (or not!).

Proper Protein Quality and Quantity – Look For

The protein source, meaning chicken, beef, etc., isn’t as important as the quantity or the quality.

Also, look at the product name.

If the name contains the protein type (i.e. beef or chicken), then it has a higher content. If it lists it as a protein flavor (i.e. lamb flavor), the protein content will be much lower.

All Life Stages – Avoid

CANIDAE all life stages dry dog food for multi-dog families

“All life stages” really means “most life stages”

Steer clear of this one.

If the dog food label states “all life stages,” it indicates that the food was formulated or tested for growth and is more geared toward younger dogs.

Super Foods and Antioxidants – Look For

Super foods like blueberries, kale, kelp, cranberries, and spinach are ingredients rich in antioxidants.

These foods help boost immune systems and can fight the free radicals that contribute to cognitive decline.

Fiber – Look For

Good fibers can hep your pet maintain a healthy gut.

The best sources for fiber in dog food come from fruits and vegetables, flaxseed, psyllium husk, oats, and barley.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin – Look For

Many of the senior dog formulas have added glucosamine and chondroitin to the food to promote good joint health.

Some dog food companies are adding these to the “Crude Analysis” section, but if it isn’t there, you can check the ingredients list.

Omega-3 & 6 Fatty Acids – Look For

Fatty acids are essential to a dog’s overall health, so be sure that the food contains Fatty acids.

Low Glycemic Foods – Maybe Look For

Depending on your dogs needs, looking for foods that contain low glycemic ingredients, like sweet potatoes or brown rice, will aid in preventing blood sugar spikes and also provide a steadier source of energy.

Best Dry Dog Foods for Older Dogs

ProductFirst IngredientGrain Free?RatingPrice
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural SeniorChickenNo4.4$$

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Nutro Ultra SeniorChickenNo4.4$$$

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Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND Senior 7+ChickenNo4.4$$

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Orijen SeniorChickenYes4.3$$$$

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CANIDAE PURE SeniorChickenYes4.3$$$

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Royal Canin Small Indoor SeniorBrewers RiceNo4.6$$$$$

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Hill's Science Diet Healthy MobilityChicken MealNo4.3$$

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Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free SeniorChickenYes4.2$$$$

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Wellness Complete Health SeniorChickenNo3.8$$

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Diamond Naturals Senior FormulaBrown RiceNo4.1$

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Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free SeniorTroutYes4.4$$$

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Solid Gold Young at HeartChickenYes4.5$$$

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Best Dog Food for Overweight Senior Dogsblue buffalo life protection formula senior with lifesource bits chicken brown rice

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Senior

Specs

  • Chicken is the first ingredient
  • No wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors, or preservatives
  • Contains brown rice, barley, and oatmeal
  • Contains flaxseed which is an excellent source of Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids

See full ingredients

Overview

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Senior contains LifeSource Bits®, an exclusive blend of antioxidant and vitamin-rich foods that have had minimal exposure to heat, which ensures the best retention of nutrients.

The Omega-3 & 6 Fatty Acids will aid in good heart health, lower blood pressure, and reduce chances of blood clots.

What You’ll Like

It has a strong focus on boosting a dog’s immune system and protecting the vitamins and nutrients in the food during the cooking process.

What You Won’t

It doesn’t have a particularly high content of chondroitin or glucosamine. Also, this dog food is NOT grain free.

Recommendation

The lower protein level and higher fiber level in Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Senior is great for dogs looking to lose some weight.

Brown rice, barley, and oatmeal are excellent sources of energy and fiber.

Best Dog Food for Active Small Breed Old Dogsnutro ultra senior superfood plate chicken lamb salmon for old dogs

Nutro Ultra Senior

Specs

  • Contains 3 different protein sources (Chicken, Lamb, and Salmon)
  • Includes 15 different superfoods
  • High protein content
  • No wheat, corn, soy, artificial flavors, or preservatives
  • Made with non-GMO ingredients
  • The same great recipe is available for small breed dogs

See full ingredients

Overview

Nutro Ultra Senior food has the perfect balance of protein, fiber, and fat content, which makes it ideal for most senior dogs. The added chondroitin and glucosamine promote good joint and cartilage health.

What You’ll Like

The three proteins help provide a well-balanced protein profile with white meat (excellent lean protein), red meat (high in iron), and fish (great source of fatty acids).

What You Won’t

If you are looking for a grain-free food, this one won’t be the best match. And since you’re buying a premium product made with premium ingredients from a premium brand, you’re going to be paying a premium.

Recommendation

Nutro Ultra Senior is an excellent choice for a senior canine with an average or above average activity level. This food will also help to maintain a healthy weight and aid in the retention of muscle mass.

Best Dog Food for Cognitive Healthpurina pro plan bright mind adult old dog cognitive smarts intelligence formula

Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND Senior 7+

Specs

  • Formulated to promote mental clarity and cognitive health
  • Available in multiple formulas
  • Contains a significant amount of glucosamine
  • Provides a higher than average protein content

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Overview

Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND Senior 7+ has two different recipes: chicken and brown rice, and turkey and brown rice. The turkey recipe is corn, soy, and wheat-free, providing an excellent alternative for dogs with food sensitivities. Also, the chicken formula comes in small and large breed varieties. You can get it as wet food, too.

What You’ll Like

The ingredients are focused on senior wellness to help maintain proper mental awareness, joint mobility, and help to maintain muscle mass.

What You Won’t

The low fiber content isn’t the best choice for overweight seniors. Also, while many owners see a marked improvement in their dog’s cognitive functioning, some dogs may see no noticeable difference.

Recommendation

Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND Senior 7+ is a great choice for seniors that may be showing signs of cognitive issues. However, even if your dog isn’t experiencing cognitive issues, it is still an excellent choice for most seniors.

Best Dog Food for Underweight Older Dogsorijen senior biologically appropriate dry dog food

Orijen Senior

Specs

  • Multiple protein sources (chicken, turkey, flounder, herring, mackerel, and eggs)
  • High content of glucosamine and chondroitin
  • Variety of superfoods like kelp, kale, spinach, and greens
  • Grain-free

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Overview

It’s rich in nutrient-dense foods and contains freeze-dried ingredients. It’s a high protein diet yet still maintains the right amount of fiber.

What You’ll Like

It’s packed with superior-quality ingredients full of vitamins and nutrients including 38% protein. Also, the high glucosamine and chondroitin content is perfect for seniors with arthritis.

What You Won’t

The price is a bit higher than the average senior dog food, though you are paying for a very high-quality product that is made in the USA.

Recommendation

This is a fantastic choice for active seniors especially those transitioning from high-performance foods, active seniors, or for seniors in need of gaining a few more pounds.

Best Dog Food for Arthritic Aged Dogscanidae pure senior chicken sweet potato garbanzo bean recipe simple ingredients

CANIDAE PURE Senior

Specs

  • Grain-free
  • Contains sweet potatoes
  • Contains probiotics
  • High levels of glucosamine and chondroitin

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Overview

CANIDAE PURE Senior is a fantastic grain-free option. It includes sweet potatoes, which have a low glycemic index, providing a steady source of energy. It also has probiotics to promote a healthy GI system. Also, this is a limited ingredient recipe, so it works well for dogs with food sensitivities.

What You Will Like

The special attention made to ensure the food is easily digestible, it is grain free and limited ingredient.

What You Won’t

The price. It is a bit more expensive than the average senior food, but it definitely won’t break the bank.

Recommendation

CANIDAE PURE Senior is an excellent choice for seniors who benefit from a limited ingredient diet. Even if your senior doesn’t have food sensitivities, it’s a terrific food to maintain proper digestion and it has chondroitin and glucosamine to aid in keeping joints healthy.

Most Easily Digested Dog Food for Senior Dogs with Poop Problemsroyal canin small indoor senior dry dog food small kibble for healthy poops

Royal Canin Small Indoor Senior

Specs

  • Easily digestible
  • Small kibble size
  • Balanced protein content

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Overview

Royal Canin Small Indoor Senior is right choice for dogs in need of easily digestible food. It contains higher levels of EPA and DHA which supports healthy heart function and aids in keeping their coat and skin in good condition.

What You’ll Like

It’s formulated explicitly for small, older (8 years old and up), indoor dogs. Not to mention my favorite benefit; their recipe is designed to reduce how bad your dog’s poop smells!

What You Won’t

Being that it’s a uniquely formulated food it is a bit higher in cost than the average dog food.

Recommendation

Royal Canin Small Indoor Senior is a perfect choice for small, less active dogs who are looking to maintain a fit weight and who need easily-digested food.

Best Dog Food for Retired Large Breedshill's science diet specialty healthy mobility large breed adult food

Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Mobility, Large Breed Adult

Specs

  • No Artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Made specifically for dogs over 55 pounds
  • High levels of Omega-3 fatty acids
  • A Specific blend of ingredients to boost the immune system

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Overview

Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Mobility, Large Breed Adult has extra attention to joint health and mobility, which can be seen in the high levels of chondroitin and glucosamine. Also, it’s the perfect balance between the protein, and fat content is ideal for helping seniors maintain a proper body weight.

What You’ll Like

Glucosamine, chondroitin, and fatty acids are derived from natural sources.

What You Won’t

It has lower fiber content and may not ideal for seniors who suffer from chronic constipation.

Recommendation

Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Mobility is the best formula for large dogs with joint and mobility issues.

Best Dog Food for Small Breeds with Health Problemsmerrick lil' plates for small breed dogs grain free senior sweet potato

Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Senior

Specs

  • Grain-free and gluten-free
  • Designed to help maintain an ideal body weight
  • Made in the USA
  • Same great recipe available for small dog breeds

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Overview

Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Senior is a great grain-free option. It contains sweet potatoes, which have a low glycemic index, and also has salmon, rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Also, they enhanced the formula with probiotics to aid in better GI health.

What You’ll Like

High levels of glucosamine & chondroitin.

What You Won’t

If you are looking for a food with grains, this one won’t be a match. Also, it is definitely not the cheapest senior dog food out there.

Recommendation

For most seniors, Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Senior is a perfect dog food choice. Its high protein content aids in muscle retention, the added probiotics aid in digestive health, and the high levels of glucosamine and chondroitin aid in joint health and mobility.

Best Dog Food for Older Dogs Lacking Energywellness complete health senior natural dog food digestive health

Wellness Complete Health Senior

Specs

  • Wheat, corn and soy-free
  • Contains superfoods like blueberries, spinach, and sweet potatoes
  • Helps to maintain an ideal body weight
  • Enhanced with Omega fatty acids

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Overview

Wellness Complete Health Senior is a highly digestible food. It has a right amount of protein to maintain muscle mass, it’s full of antioxidants to boost the immune system, and the barley and brown rice provide a great source of energy.

What You’ll Like

It’s a very well-balanced food that would work for almost any older dog.

What You Won’t

It contains grains, so if your dog requires a grain-free diet, this wouldn’t be the best choice.

Recommendation

Wellness Complete Health Senior would be a fantastic food for most senior dogs. It has the added glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health and mobility, added antioxidants to boost the immune system, and probiotics for a healthy GI system.

Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs with Owners on a Budgetdiamond naturals senior dog egg oatmeal cage free chicken

Diamond Naturals Senior Formula

Specs

  • Cage-free chicken
  • Added chondroitin and glucosamine
  • No wheat, soy, or corn
  • Enriched with probiotics

See full ingredients

Overview

Diamond Naturals Senior Formula is an easily digestible food. It’s full of brown rice and oatmeal, both of which are good sources of fiber and energy. The food has been enhanced with probiotics, chondroitin, and glucosamine to meet the needs of aging dogs.

What You’ll Like

The price: It’s a bit less expensive than the average dog food but it’s still a high quality choice.

What You Won’t

The first ingredient is brown rice, not meat.

Recommendation

Diamond Naturals Senior Formula would be good for seniors who need an easily digestible diet, especially if you are on a limited budget.

Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs with Allergiesnulo freestyle grain free senior trout sweet potato dog food probiotics

Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free Senior

Specs

  • Grain-free and gluten-free
  • Trout is the first ingredient
  • High protein content
  • Contains trout, salmon, turkey, and chicken

See full ingredients

Overview

The proteins in Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free Senior are all very heart-healthy proteins and provide an excellent source of fatty acids, which is great for overall health.

What You’ll Like

Slightly different formula from the standard senior dog food so it would be a good one to try with dogs who are a bit finicky or who have allergies. Has Glucosamine and Chondroitin for joint health.

What You Won’t

It’s grain-free, which may not work for some dogs. You probably won’t like it as much when it comes time to reorder either.

Recommendation

Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free Senior is a protein rich food which aids in retaining muscle mass, also the added chondroitin and glucosamine are excellent supplements to promote good joint health and mobility.

Best Dog Food for Aging Dogs with Sensitive Stomachssolid gold young at heart holistic food for senior dogs all sizes breeds

Solid Gold Young at Heart

Specs

  • Grain-Free and Gluten-Free
  • Contains 20 Super Foods like Blueberries, Sweet Potatoes and Spinach
  • Lower fat content
  • Formulated to be easily digestible

See full ingredients

Overview

Solid Gold Young at Heart has a powerhouse of superfoods to help boost the immune system. It’s also been enhanced with probiotics to aid in digestion. Plus, being grain-free and gluten-free, it would work great for dogs with certain food allergies.

What You’ll Like

The lower fat content, but still maintaining a high protein level.

What You Won’t

While Solid Gold (despite its name) is an excellent value, it’s not the cheapest senior dog food on the market. But based on our research, it’s worth every penny.

Recommendation

Solid Gold Young at Heart is the perfect food seniors who have sensitive digestive systems, are looking to lose some weight, or are looking to boost their immune system.

Our Picks and Best Brands for Specific Needs

Best for Small Dog Breeds

It’s a tie between Royal Canin Small Indoor Senior and Nutro Ultra Senior.

You wouldn’t go wrong with either brand, but if you have a more active small senior dog, then the Nutro brand might be the better pick.

Best for Large Breed Dogs

IAMS Proactive Health Mature Adult best dry dog food for farting seniors

Bonus Pick: IAMS Proactive Health Mature Adult didn’t make our list, but many pet parents have reported that this food relieves flatulence in old, gassy dogs!

Obviously I’m going with Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Mobility, Large Breed Adult since it’s the only formula for large senior dogs. But, even if it weren’t this one would be hard to compete with.

The nutritionists working on this formula really put a lot of effort into ensuring a strong focus on joint and mobility health, both of which can be issues for large breeds, especially as they age.

Best for Arthritic Dogs

This one was a more difficult pick.

I am a believer in grains in dog food, especially since Daisy has heart disease, but I still choose CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Senior. It has the highest levels of chondroitin and glucosamine.

Also, it has good levels of fatty acids, which also aid in joint health and mobility.

Best for Underweight Dogs

Because of the high protein content and vitamin and nutrient dense ingredients, I would say the Orijen Senior dry dog food.

It’s packed with healthy proteins and fatty acids, both of which are great for dogs needing to put on a few extra pounds.

Best for Overweight Dogs

This one was also a tie, between Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Senior and Solid Gold Young at Heart.

Blue Buffalo has a lower fat content but still maintains a higher fiber content, which can help shed the pounds.

Solid Gold has a high protein level, lower fat content, and a higher fiber content, all of which are needed when trying to drop some weight.

Conclusion

I know there’s a ton of different dog food options and some may even seem very similar.

However, speaking from experience a dog’s sense of taste can be very particular and though they may not like one chicken recipe that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t like another variety.

All of our seniors are special and unique in their own way, and each of them deserves the perfect quality food that will aid in keeping them healthy happy dogs because really that’s all any of us really wants.

About the author

Jessica Mabie

Jessica and her husband share their lives with four amazing high energy Brittanys and one very awesome cat. You’ll rarely see her without her 4 pack, they go everywhere with her, including most vacations. So, if you see her out and about with her family don’t hesitate to say “Hi!”, (You’ll know it’s her since few are so daring as to have 4 Britts).