Feeding an Older Dog – Your Complete Guide

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Feeding an older dog requires special attention to meet their changing dietary needs. In this comprehensive guide, we will provide valuable tips and expert insights to ensure your senior dog receives the nourishment they need. From understanding their dietary requirements to addressing specific concerns.

Discover the best feeding practices for older dogs to ensure their health and well-being. Learn about appropriate diets, portion control, nutritional supplements, and specialized considerations for senior dogs.


Nutritional Needs of Older Dogs 1

Today, we’re going to talk about our furry friends and how they change as they grow older. Did you know that dogs start to show signs of aging when they’re around 7 to 12 years old? They go through changes in their bodies, how they use energy, and how they look. Let’s explore how we can help our furry friends by giving them the right kind of food! Even though some changes are beyond our control, there are still things we can do to make them feel better. Let’s find out how!

Smaller dogs live longer and don’t get old as fast as bigger dogs, so their food changes as they age. Here’s how size helps us decide when it’s time to give our dogs special food made for older dogs:

  1. Small breeds/dogs weighing less than 20 pounds—7 years of age
  2. Medium breeds/dogs weighing 21 to 50 pounds—7 years of age
  3. Large breeds/dogs weighing 51 to 90 pounds—6 years of age
  4. Giant breeds/dogs weighing 91 pounds or more—5 years of age

When feeding your older dog, it’s important to keep them healthy and at a good weight. This will help prevent them from getting sick and make them feel better if they already have an illness. These are the main goals of feeding an older dog.

As a dog ages, health issues may arise, including:

  • deterioration of skin and coat
  • loss of muscle mass
  • more frequent intestinal problems
  • arthritis
  • obesity
  • dental problems
  • decreased ability to fight off infection

Older dogs sometimes get fatter, even if they eat less. This happens because they slow down and their body changes. To help them stay healthy, it’s important to feed them food that has fewer calories but still has enough protein to keep their muscles strong. That way, they won’t gain too much weight.

When choosing food for your older dog, don’t pick a “senior” diet with less protein. Older dogs still need the same amount of protein as when they were younger. This helps keep their muscles strong. And having enough protein won’t make their kidneys worse. So make sure to give your older dog food that has just the right amount of protein that’s easy for them to digest.

Do you want to help keep your older dog’s skin and coat healthy? Ask your vet about adding more Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) to their diet! GLA is a special type of omega-6 fat that helps keep your dog looking great. Even though your dog’s body can make GLA on its own, older dogs sometimes need a little extra. Is GLA in your senior dog’s food?

Aging can affect a dog’s intestinal bacteria, which can result in symptoms of gastrointestinal disease.

To support the growth of beneficial bacteria, senior diets for dogs ought to incorporate fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

Vital in combating signs of aging, antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene aid in the elimination of harmful free radicals that can harm body tissues. Senior diets for dogs should contain higher levels of these antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants can also increase the effectiveness of the immune system in senior dogs.

15 Tips for Feeding Your Senior Dog:

Feeding your senior dog requires special attention and care to meet its changing nutritional needs. Here are some valuable tips to ensure their well-being:

  1. Establish a Consistent Mealtime and Feeding Schedule: Creating a routine around mealtime helps senior dogs feel secure and promotes better digestion. Aim to feed your dog at the same times each day, preferably in a calm and quiet environment.
  2. Choose Age-Appropriate Food: Senior dogs have different dietary requirements than their younger counterparts. Opt for high-quality senior dog food formulas that are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of older dogs. These formulas often contain joint-supporting ingredients, antioxidants, and controlled levels of fat and calories.
  3. Consider Wet or Moistened Food: As dog’s age, their sense of smell and taste can decline. Wet or moistened food tends to have a stronger aroma and flavor, making it more appealing to senior dogs. Adding warm water or low-sodium chicken broth to dry kibble can also enhance its palatability.
  4. Monitor Portion Sizes: Older dogs may have lower activity levels, which means they require fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. Be mindful of portion sizes and adjust them according to your dog’s activity level, body condition, and any weight management goals recommended by your veterinarian.
  5. Watch for Weight Gain: Obesity can have serious health consequences for senior dogs. Keep an eye on your dog’s weight and body condition, and consult with your veterinarian to determine the ideal weight range for your dog. If your senior dog starts to gain weight, consider switching to a weight management formula or reducing portion sizes.
  6. Provide Fresh Water: Ensure that your senior dog has access to fresh water at all times. Older dogs may be more prone to dehydration, so make sure their water bowl is clean and filled regularly.
  7. Incorporate Joint-Supporting Supplements: Many senior dogs develop joint issues such as arthritis. Talk to your veterinarian about incorporating joint-supporting supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin into your dog’s diet. These supplements can help alleviate joint discomfort and promote mobility.
  8. Dental Health is Key: Dental problems are common in senior dogs. To maintain good dental health, feed your senior dog dental-friendly treats or consider adding dental care products, such as dental chews or water additives, to their routine. Regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings are also important.
  9. Be Mindful of Food Allergies or Sensitivities: Some senior dogs may develop food allergies or sensitivities as they age. If you notice signs of gastrointestinal upset, skin issues, or allergic reactions, consult with your veterinarian to identify potential allergens and switch to a suitable hypoallergenic diet.
  10. Avoid Overfeeding Treats: While treats can be a delightful way to reward your senior dog, be cautious not to overdo it. Excessive treats can contribute to weight gain and nutritional imbalances. Choose healthy, senior-friendly treats and limit them to a moderate amount.
  11. Regular Vet Check-ups: Schedule regular veterinary check-ups for your senior dog to monitor their overall health, assess their nutritional needs, and address any specific concerns related to their diet or feeding habits.
  12. Exercise and Mental Stimulation: Alongside proper nutrition, regular exercise and mental stimulation are vital for senior dogs’ well-being. Engage your dog in age-appropriate activities to keep them physically and mentally active.
  13. Introduce Changes Gradually: If you decide to switch your senior dog’s diet, do it gradually over several days to avoid digestive upsets. Start by mixing a small amount of the new food with their current food and gradually increase the proportion of the new food.
  14. Keep an Eye on Food Storage: Proper food storage is essential to maintain its quality and prevent contamination. Seal-dry food bags, tightly, store them in a cool and dry place, and check the expiration dates. For wet food, refrigerate any unused portions promptly and discard them if they’ve been open for too long.
  15. Trust Your Dog’s Individual Needs: Every senior dog is unique, and their dietary needs may vary. Pay attention to your dog’s individual preferences, sensitivities, and health conditions. Trust your instincts and work closely with your veterinarian to create a feeding plan tailored to your senior dog’s specific requirements.

By following these tips, you can provide your senior dog with the nutrition they need to stay healthy, happy, and vibrant in their golden years. Remember, the key is to adapt their diet and feeding routine to accommodate their changing needs as they age.

Here’s what you can do to keep your old pet happy and healthy

Do you want to keep your old pet happy and healthy? Here’s what you can do:

  • Have a set daily routine and go to the vet regularly to check how they’re doing.
  • It’s important to avoid stressful situations and sudden changes.
  • If you need to make a big change, try to do it slowly so it’s not too scary for your pet.


Senior Dog Diet: Homemade Options

Preparing homemade meals for your senior dog can offer several advantages. It allows you to have control over the ingredients and customize the diet to meet your dog’s specific needs. However, it is important to ensure a proper nutrient balance in homemade meals. Consult with a veterinary nutritionist to create a well-rounded and complete homemade diet plan that meets all of your senior dog’s nutritional requirements.

Senior Dog Calories per Day

The calorie needs of senior dogs can vary based on factors such as size, activity level, metabolism, and overall health. Here are a few examples of senior dog calorie requirements per day:

  1. Small Senior Dog: A small senior dog, weighing around 10 pounds, may require approximately 300-400 calories per day. This estimate can vary depending on the dog’s activity level and individual metabolism.
  2. Medium Senior Dog: A medium-sized senior dog, weighing around 30-40 pounds, might need around 600-800 calories per day. Again, this can vary based on the dog’s activity level and health status.
  3. Large Senior Dog: Larger senior dogs, weighing around 60-70 pounds, may require approximately 1000-1200 calories per day. However, this can differ for each dog, and it’s important to monitor their weight and adjust their calorie intake accordingly.

It’s essential to note that these calorie ranges are approximate estimates and should serve as a general guideline. It’s crucial to consult with your veterinarian to determine the specific calorie requirements for your senior dog based on their unique needs and circumstances. Factors such as underlying health conditions, metabolism, and age can all influence the appropriate calorie intake for your furry companion.

Types of Dog Food for Different Life Stages

Not all dog foods are the same. Learn about the three main types of dog food for various life stages:

3 Types of Feed for Dogs

When it comes to feeding our beloved canine companions, there are several options to choose from. Understanding the different types of dog food available can help you make an informed decision about what’s best for your furry friend. Here are the three main types of feed for dogs:

  1. Dry Kibble: Convenient and Nutritious
    • Dry kibble is one of the most popular and widely available options for feeding dogs.
    • It is a convenient choice for pet owners as it has a long shelf life and doesn’t require refrigeration.
    • High-quality dry kibble is formulated to provide a balanced diet with essential nutrients.
    • The texture of dry kibble can also help promote dental health by reducing plaque buildup.
  2. Wet or Canned Dog Food: Palatable and Moist
    • Wet or canned dog food is known for its high moisture content, which helps keep dogs hydrated.
    • Many dogs find wet food more palatable due to its rich aroma and flavor.
    • It is a great option for dogs who may have difficulty chewing or swallowing dry kibble, such as seniors or those with dental issues.
    • Wet food can be beneficial for dogs with certain health conditions as it aids in hydration.
  3. Raw or Fresh Food Diets: Close to Nature
    • Raw or fresh food diets aim to mimic a dog’s ancestral diet, consisting of raw meats, bones, fruits, and vegetables.
    • Advocates claim that these diets can improve a dog’s coat, energy levels, and overall health.
    • However, it’s essential to ensure the diet is well-balanced and meets all of the dog’s nutritional needs.
    • Raw diets require careful handling to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses for both dogs and their owners.

Dog Feeding Schedule by Age

Feeding your dog at the right times and in appropriate amounts is crucial for their well-being. As dogs age, their nutritional needs change, and adjusting their feeding schedule accordingly can help maintain their health. Here’s a feeding schedule guide based on different age groups:

  1. Puppy (Up to 6 Months): Frequent Meals
    • Puppies have small stomachs and high energy levels, so they require more frequent meals.
    • Feed puppies three to four times a day to provide them with the necessary nutrients for growth and development.
    • Stick to a consistent schedule to help with housebreaking and digestion.
  2. Adult Dog (6 Months to 7 Years): Regular Mealtimes
    • Adult dogs can transition to two meals a day, one in the morning and one in the evening.
    • Some dogs may do well with a single daily meal, but dividing their food into two servings is a common practice.
    • Maintaining a regular feeding schedule can help with digestion and prevent overeating.
  3. Senior Dog (7 Years and Older): Adjusting Frequency
    • Senior dogs may have reduced activity levels and slower metabolism, making them prone to weight gain.
    • Consider feeding them two to three small meals throughout the day to prevent overeating and aid digestion.
    • If your senior dog has specific health concerns, consult your veterinarian for a tailored feeding plan.

Remember that individual dogs may have unique dietary requirements, so it’s essential to monitor their weight, energy levels, and overall health to determine the most suitable feeding schedule for them. Always consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s diet or feeding routine.

What to Feed an Old Dog that is Losing Weight

If your old dog is experiencing weight loss, it’s crucial to address their nutritional needs to prevent further health complications. Here are some options for feeding an older dog that is losing weight:

  1. High-quality, calorie-dense dog food: Switch to a senior dog food formula that is specially formulated for weight gain. Look for high-quality ingredients and a balanced nutrient profile.
  2. Feeding smaller, frequent meals: Instead of two large meals, divide their daily food intake into several smaller meals throughout the day. This approach can help stimulate their appetite and facilitate better digestion.
  3. Supplement with healthy fats: Adding healthy fats to their diet can help increase calorie intake. Consider incorporating small amounts of olive oil, coconut oil, or fish oil into their meals, following your veterinarian’s recommendations.
  4. Choose protein-rich options: Ensure their diet includes adequate protein to support muscle maintenance. Lean meats, such as chicken or turkey, can provide high-quality protein while being easily digestible.
  5. Consider wet or canned food: If your dog has difficulty chewing or has a decreased appetite, wet or canned dog food can be more palatable and easier to eat. The higher moisture content can also contribute to hydration.

Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of weight loss in your old dog. They can provide tailored advice and may recommend additional diagnostic tests to rule out any underlying health issues.

What Can I Feed My Elderly Dog with No Appetite?

Aging Dog Care

When an elderly dog loses their appetite, it’s essential to find ways to entice them to eat and ensure they receive adequate nutrition. Here are some options for feeding an elderly dog with no appetite:

  1. Warm up the food: Heating the food slightly can enhance its aroma and make it more appealing to your dog. Exercise caution to avoid overheating the food, as it has the potential to cause discomfort or burns to the mouth.
  2. Try different textures: Experiment with different textures to find what your dog prefers. Some elderly dogs may find softer or wet foods more enticing, while others may prefer crunchy kibble. Test various options to see what sparks their interest.
  3. Add flavor and aroma: Enhance the taste and smell of their food by adding low-sodium chicken or beef broth, bone broth, or a small amount of low-sodium gravy. These additions can make the food more enticing and flavorful.
  4. Consider hand-feeding or food puzzles: Hand-feeding your dog small amounts of food can create a positive feeding experience and encourage them to eat. Food puzzles or interactive feeders can also make mealtime more engaging and stimulate their appetite.
  5. Consult with your veterinarian: If your elderly dog consistently refuses to eat or experiences a prolonged loss of appetite, it’s crucial to seek veterinary advice. Underlying health issues could be causing the lack of appetite, and your veterinarian can provide guidance on how to address the problem.

Remember, it’s essential to address the underlying cause of your dog’s loss of appetite. Work closely with your veterinarian to determine the best approach and ensure your elderly dog receives the necessary nutrition for their well-being.

Human Food for Senior Dogs: What to Include and Avoid

Including small amounts of human food in your senior dog’s diet can be a treat and provide additional nutrients. However, it’s important to know which foods are safe and which should be avoided. Here’s a list of human foods to include and avoid when feeding your senior dog:


  1. Lean meats: Small amounts of cooked lean meats, such as chicken, turkey, or beef, can be a good source of protein. Remove any skin, bones, or excessive fat before feeding.
  2. Cooked eggs: Eggs are an excellent source of protein and can be fed to your dog either scrambled or boiled. Avoid seasoning or adding oil or butter.
  3. Plain-cooked vegetables: Cooked vegetables like carrots, green beans, and sweet potatoes can provide vitamins and fiber. Avoid using any seasonings or additives.
  4. Fruits: Some fruits like apples, bananas, and berries can be given as treats. Remove any seeds or pits, and feed in moderation due to their sugar content.


  1. Chocolate: Chocolate is toxic to dogs and should never be given to them. It contains theobromine, which can be harmful and even fatal.
  2. Grapes and raisins: Grapes and raisins can cause kidney damage in dogs, so it’s important to avoid feeding them.
  3. Onions and garlic: Onions and garlic contain compounds that can damage a dog’s red blood cells. Avoid feeding foods seasoned with onions or garlic.
  4. Xylitol: Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in many human products, including gum, candy, and baked goods. It is toxic to dogs and can lead to a rapid drop in blood sugar levels.

Always feed human food to your senior dog in moderation and as an occasional treat. If you have any doubts or concerns about a specific food item, consult with your veterinarian before including it in their diet.

Remember, a balanced and complete dog food formulated for senior dogs should be the primary source of nutrition for your furry friend. Human food should only complement their diet and not replace it.


By following these principles, understanding the different types of dog food, addressing specific feeding concerns for older dogs, and recognizing their feeding habits, you can ensure that your senior dog receives the nutrition they need to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Remember to consult with your veterinarian for personalized recommendations and guidance on meeting your senior dog’s changing dietary requirements.


How often should I feed my senior dog?

It is generally recommended to feed senior dogs twice a day, dividing their daily portion into two meals. However, the specific feeding frequency may vary depending on your dog’s individual needs and any underlying health conditions. Consult with your veterinarian for personalized feeding recommendations.

What are some signs of nutritional deficiencies in older dogs?

Signs of nutritional deficiencies in older dogs may include dull coat, weight loss, decreased energy levels, poor appetite, and muscle loss. If you notice any of these signs, consult with your veterinarian to evaluate your dog’s diet and overall health.

Can I mix homemade and commercial dog food for my senior dog?

Yes, you can mix homemade and commercial dog food for your senior dog. It can offer variety and help ensure a balanced diet. However, it is important to maintain a proper nutrient balance and consult with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure that all of your dog’s nutritional needs are met.

Are there supplements recommended for senior dogs?

Certain supplements, such as joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin, may be beneficial for senior dogs with joint issues. However, it is important to consult with your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your senior dog’s diet to ensure they are safe and appropriate for their specific needs.

What should I do if my senior dog has difficulty chewing dry kibble?

If your senior dog has difficulty chewing dry kibble, you can try moistening it with warm water or switching to wet or canned dog food, which has a higher moisture content and is easier to chew. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best option for your dog.

Can I feed my senior dog the same food as my adult dog?

While senior dogs and adult dogs have similar nutritional needs, senior dogs may benefit from specific formulas designed to support their aging bodies. These formulas often contain ingredients that promote joint health, support cognitive function, and maintain a healthy weight. It is recommended to transition to senior-specific dog food as your dog reaches their senior years.

Should I be concerned if my senior dog has a decreased appetite?

A decreased appetite in senior dogs can be a cause for concern, as it may indicate an underlying health issue. It is important to monitor your dog’s eating habits and consult with your veterinarian if you notice a significant decrease in appetite or any other concerning symptoms.

Can I feed my senior dog a raw food diet?

Raw food diets can be an option for senior dogs; however, they require careful handling to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination. It is important to consult with your veterinarian to ensure that a raw food diet is suitable for your senior dog and to receive guidance on proper food handling and preparation techniques.

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