The Best Dog Food Picks for Your Senior Dog, According to a Veterinarian

These wet and dry dog foods for senior dogs help support joints, digestion, immunity, and more issues that align with aging in canines.


Jun. 13 2024, Published 11:27 a.m. ET

white senior dog holding dog food bowl in his mouth
Source: iStock Photo

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Your loyal fur friend may be getting up there in years, and they may not have a zeal for eating like they once did, but you still want to ensure they're getting ample nutrition.

As dogs age, their dietary needs change. Senior dogs need grub that's not only nutritious (and delicious) but also supportive for their joints, digestion, and immune system. Senior dog foods are specially formulated with balanced nutrients, antioxidants, and easily digestible ingredients to cater to those needs. Whether it's wet food designed for easy chewing and added hydration or kibble enriched with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support, the best dog food for senior dogs can make a world of difference in their quality of life.

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The 7 Best Dog Foods for Senior Dogs

What is the healthiest dog food for senior dogs?

Green Matters spoke with Dr. Andrew Findlaytor, Lead Veterinarian at Roo, to learn more about choosing the best dog food for senior dogs. "Many pet parents strive to feed their dog the 'best' food, filled with energy and vital nutrients. However, what many owners don't realize is that “best” actually changes as your dog gets older," said Dr. Findlaytor."Senior dog diets should focus on three core components, mainly: protein, fat, and overall calories." Here's more of what our expert had to say about healthy dog food for seniors:

Protein: "In young dogs, high protein diets are great for building muscles! In our older dogs, protein is still important, but we don't need quite as much as when we were younger. Additionally, some proteins are harder to digest (looking at you venison), so for some senior dogs, switching to an easier to digest protein can reduce gas and keep our dog happy."

Calories: "As our pets age, they tend to not have quite as much energy, and not need as many calories in their food. What a lot of owners don't realize is, extra calories that our pets' bodies don't use get converted to fat, ultimately leading to an overweight senior dog. Reducing calories is the best way to keep our furry friends at a healthy weight."

Fat: "Fatty foods are also harder to digest, and can lead to excess gas and even stomach cramps. I have seen owners buy high-fat dog foods trying to encourage their older dog to eat, [but] the food ultimately ends up giving their dog a grumbly tummy. Lower fat diets are easy to digest, and will keep your dogs stomach working as it should."

Lean proteins like chicken and fish are best, Dr. Findlaytor adds, as well as veggie ingredients like carrot, apple, and pumpkin.

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Senior dogs require soft dog food.

Parents of older pups with dental issues have to be mindful of what those dogs eat. According to one study, over 80 percent of dogs aged three and older experience dental disease — and that's even higher in senior dogs​!

Wet foods can also help keep older dogs hydrated, too, and they tend to be nutrient-dense and easier to digest. Pet parents of finicky dogs already know another big upside of wet foods: they tend to smell more aromatic and be tastier. Soft dog foods are often the way to go for senior dogs who have lost interest in meal time.

Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Small Paws Savory Stew Chicken & Vegetables Canned Dog Food, 3.5 oz., Case of 12

Hill's Science Diet is a beloved name in the dog food world, and this one is an excellent choice for senior dogs. The wet food comes in cups that ensure precise portion control for dogs to prevent and manage weight issues. It has easily digestible ingredients like high-quality chicken and vegetables, which support gentle digestion for older and sensitive tummies.

It also includes glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, antioxidants for immune support, and high-quality protein to maintain lean muscle mass. The soft, stew-like texture is ideal for senior dogs with dental issues. While this formulation might be for smaller dogs, Hill's Science Diet makes it for bigger dogs, too.

$34 at Petco
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Merrick Premium Grain Free Dry Senior Dog Food

This Merrick formula is tailored for senior dogs, offering high-quality protein from real deboned chicken to support lean muscle mass. The grain-free formula includes sweet potatoes and peas for easily digestible carbohydrates, while glucosamine and chondroitin are essential ingredients to protect your dog's joints. Omega fatty acids support skin and coat health, and antioxidants help bolster the immune system.

$69 at Amazon

Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food

Steel your dog's immune system with Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food's blend of high-quality proteins from chicken, lamb, and salmon. It includes an immune-boosting mix of 15 superfoods like chia seeds, kale, and blueberries. The formula contains glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health and mobility, as well as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to boost the immune system. This nutrient-rich food promotes vitality and well-being in senior dogs.

$53 at Chewy
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Wellness Complete Health Natural Wet Canned Dog Food

Wellness Complete makes this canned dog food in a soft pate texture that goes down easily for dogs with trouble chewing and swallowing. Wellness Complete offers high-quality protein from chicken, easily digestible carbohydrates, and essential nutrients. It includes glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support, making it ideal for senior dogs. This formula promotes overall health, boosts the immune system, and supports mobility and vitality in aging dogs.

$46.50 at Amazon

Halo Garden of Vegan Adult Wet Dog Food

Halo Natural Garden of Vegan Dog Food is a safe bet for senior dogs and those with sensitive stomachs. Made with plant-based ingredients, it provides easily digestible nutrition without common allergens. The formula includes high-quality proteins from peas and chickpeas, along with wholesome vegetables and fruits for essential vitamins and minerals. Got a senior dog with dental issues? Another reason to reach for this can of wet food.

$47.50 at Amazon
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Eukanuba Large Breed Senior Dry Dog Food

This Eukanuba kibble is formulated specifically for big guys and girls getting on in years, ensuring they get the nutrition they need to thrive. Rich in high-quality chicken protein, it supports lean muscle maintenance and joint health with added glucosamine and chondroitin. Optimal levels of fats and carbohydrates maintain energy levels and put a pep in their step, while antioxidants support a robust immune system. This formula specifically is a fiber blend tailored to promote healthy digestion and absorption.

$87 at PetSmart

Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Small Adult 8+ Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin's dry food, specifically designed for senior small breed dogs, offers a balanced blend of essential nutrients that support healthy aging, including antioxidants for immune support and a precise ratio of fats and carbohydrates for energy. The kibble size and shape are tailored for small mouths (how cute!), making it easier to chew and digest. Additionally, it contains nutrients like EPA and DHA to support joint health and maintain a healthy weight in their tiny aging bodies.

$24 at Chewy
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