When to Switch to Senior Dog Food?

Senior Boxer Dog resting on end of bed with head tilted

Your dog is just like you. He’s getting older. As he gets older his dietary needs will change and you’ll need to switch to a senior dog food. But when? The general and accepted age is seven, however it also depends on size and breed. Basically, smaller dogs have longer life spans than their larger canine counterparts, so switching to a senior dog food may come later for the former and sooner for the later. Here is a chart provided by PetHealth that can help you to determine if your dog has reached his senior years, depending upon weight.

But how can we judge accurately when changing to a senior dog food is a good idea? Here are some signs your dog has reached his senior years which might answer the question of when you need to switch to a senior dog food?

  • lethargy
  • reduced mobility
  • decrease in muscle mass
  • increase in fat mass
  • slower metabolism
  • decreased appetite
  • growing mid-section
  • increased flatulence
  • constipation
  • confusion
  • less shiny coat
  • loss of hearing and vision

There are two more signs I would like to point out.

Graying Muzzle

Black dog with graying muzzle laying on dog bed

It’s the same concept with humans, as we age, our hair turns gray, and so it is with dogs around their noses. Some larger dogs may start graying around the muzzle as early as five years old. But as Hills Pet points out some dogs may start earlier due to stress or hypothyroidism, so please consult with your veterinarian before switching to a senior dog food, if your dog is young and active.

Dental Problems

persons hand pulling back dog lip to reveal dog teeth

As dogs age, they experience periodontal disease and may have trouble with large or hard kibble. If you notice your dog have trouble chewing kibble than it may be a good idea to add warm water to their kibble to soften it until you can find a good brand of senior dog food. 

What Makes Senior Dog Food Different?

overhead view of dog looking into dog bowl of food on wooden floor

Less Calories

Senior dog food has less calories than normal adult dog food which is great for keeping off the pounds. As you know, their joints weaken with age, so a reduction in fat will make their lives easier.

More High Quality Protein

Older dogs need more protean and less fat. An increase in the former and decline in the latter will make mobility much easier because older dogs need to replace wasting muscle mass as they age. Many foods for senior dogs include chicken, which is great for supporting muscle mass.

More Fiber

As dogs age, their digestive system becomes less effective. Less activity, an enlarged prostate gland or other health reasons can cause constipation, which is why senior dog foods have a higher fiber content then normal dog foods ones.

DHA, EPA and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These are great ingredients you should look for in any Senior Dog Food. According to PetMd these help with arthritis and possess anticancer elements which might keep you out of the veterinarian’s clinic and your dog healthier, for a longer period of time.

Joint Assisting Supplements

senior dog running and jumping in a grassy field

Glucosamine is a compound found naturally in the body that keeps canine joints stronger and more agile. According to Rohan the main function of it is to lubricate their joints and help to absorb the shock they have to handle. Chondroitin is naturally produced in joints and good for hydrating and maintaining joint health. Taking it prevents cartilage from breaking down and can help in stimulating its repair. According to DFW Dog Quest, as a dog grows older, production of these compounds slows down, which can wreak havoc on your dog’s joints. So, a good senior dog food with glucosamine and chondroitin is something you should consider if you feel your dog has reached his senior years.

Botanical Oils and Glucose

Around seven years old there are changes in a dog’s glucose metabolism rate in the brain. This can lessen their learning and memory capabilities and all-around thought process as they age. According to Purina, experts found that adding medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) and glucose can aid in promoting brain function with visible results in dogs in only 30 days.

Softer Kibble

As dogs age, their teeth don’t have that same ability to chew our shoes into pieces of wet, gooey unrecognizable material they did when they were younger. Hooray for us, but bad for the dog. According to Nomnomnow, chewing normal dog kibble can be hard for senior dogs. Senior dog food tends to be softer than normal dog food, which means your dog will be getting all the nutrition he needs if you choose the right senior dog food. Look for senior dog foods that have sodium hexametaphosphate which helps to prevent build up in dog’s teeth and probiotics which aid in oral health.

Senior Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs

chocolate Labrador retriever laying on pillow

Just like people, dogs can be born with sensitive stomachs or develop them with age. According to Wag, any breed of dog can be susceptible to a sensitive stomach condition, but smaller breeds are more likely to suffer as are older dogs because with age they may lose the ability to properly digest certain foods. Animal Planet says canines can be allergic to grains and certain proteins which are used in certain dog foods as well, so find out what exactly your dog is eating. Switching over to a senior dog food may help in alleviating the situation.

Symptoms of sensitive stomachs for dogs are as follows.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy after eating
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Abnormally soft or loose stools
  • Bloody stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas and Flatulence

I could go on and on promoting senior dog food benefits over normal adult dog food, but I think you get the point.  

The Bottom Line

overhead view of dog bowl with spilled kibble on wooden floor

It is important to find a healthy senior dog food with high protein, lower fat, a good amount of omega-3, chondroitin, glucosamine, calcium, and other vitamins when choosing a senior dog food. In addition, do not forget that older dogs require a lot less calories and much more protein than younger dogs do. Above all, please consult with your dog’s veterinarian first before making any changes to a senior dog food.  

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.