Some dog food is made specifically for senior dogs, but each pet at this age may have very different needs. “A balanced and thoughtful approach to senior dog nutrition is essential,” Honnas said. “It’s not always just about following a fixed guideline; it’s about recognizing the individuality of each pet and responding accordingly.”
Generally, the key is providing the right mix of fat, protein, phosphorus, and sodium, the experts at VCA Animal Hospitals explain. Excessive fat could lead to weight gain; high-quality protein is key (a minimum of 25%, according to AKC’s Canine Health Foundation); excessive phosphorus could lead to kidney disease (which is common in older dogs); and too much sodium can contribute to kidney as well as heart disease.
Some professionals recommend adding supplements to your dog’s diet, like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids for various age-related conditions or nutrients like glucosamine for dogs with arthritis. But it’s best to speak to your provider about your dog’s specific needs.
“There are special diets for seniors to support joint health and manage chronic conditions,” Thompson said, but others may not need to make any switch. “Just because a dog becomes ‘senior,’ it doesn’t mean they must change their diet. Some dogs can stay on standard adult food all their life,” Crow said.
Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn. Photo selection by Lacy Kerrick.
This story originally appeared on Ollie and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.