As your dog’s muzzle begins to turn grey, you might find yourself asking… what’s the best dog food for a senior?
On this page… we’ll share The Dog Food Advisor’s top 10 best senior dog foods… and we’ll answer the 8 most frequently asked questions about feeding older dogs.
The exceptional senior recipes listed below were chosen by our editorial research team because they contain above-average protein, moderate fat, below-average calories… and no high-risk preservatives or generic meats… which makes them ideal for older dogs.
The Best Senior Dog Foods
for January 2020
Here are The Dog Food Advisor’s top 10 best senior dog food brands for January 2020.
If you’re searching for a low-calorie, balanced diet that’s ideal for an older dog, look no further than Wellness Core Senior. It’s one of 12 dry recipes included in our review of the Wellness Core product line.
- First 5 ingredients: Deboned turkey, chicken meal, dried ground potatoes, peas, turkey meal
- Type: Grain-free
- Calories: 359 kcal per cup
- Price: $$$
Wellness Core Senior derives the lion’s share of its meat protein from fresh turkey and chicken meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 36% protein, 13% fat and 43% estimated carbs… with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 38%.
Core Senior is a grain-free formula boasting lots of omega-rich salmon oil, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health… with optimal calories for weight control. A premium recipe for older dogs. Highly recommended.
Actual buyer review… “I have 3 senior dogs and recently saw the notification from the FDA and the veterinarians at UC Davis regarding grain free diets not having enough Taurine for dogs hearts. Knowing one of my senior dogs has an enlarged heart I was very concerned. I switched from another top rated food to this one because it has added Taurine. They love the taste and have not skipped a beat as far as their palates or stools so I am very happy.”
Looking for a grain-free formula that’s dominated with animal protein? Then, this dog food deserves serious attention. Orijen Senior is one of 8 dry recipes included in our review of the Orijen product line.
- First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, Atlantic ﬂounder, cage-free eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel
- Type: Grain-free
- Calories: 414 kcal per cup
- Price: $$$
Orijen Senior takes the greatest share of its meat protein from fresh chicken, turkey and fish. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 43% protein, 17% fat and 32% estimated carbs… with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 39%.
From its beginnings, Champion Petfoods, the legendary maker of Orijen, has always advocated for a meat-based, “biologically appropriate” diet… a proven design which makes this food a top choice for seniors. Highly recommended.
Actual buyer review… “I’ve been feeding Orijen to my senior Chihuahua (12+ years) for months now. I noticed recently this balding dog now has her hair back. Before I put her on Orijen I’d fed supplements and high quality food, but then just accepted her baldness. Is it a coincidence I started feeding Orijen and her hair grew back after years of loss? I don’t think so. I now have my second senior Chihuahua on Orijen. Yes it’s expensive, but worth it.”
Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), a disease similar to Alzheimer’s in humans, is becoming increasingly common in older dogs. For those concerned about this serious health issue, this one-of-a-kind senior formula stands head and shoulders above any other dog food we’ve come across.
Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ is one of 7 dry recipes included in our review of the Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind product line.
- First 5 ingredients: Chicken, poultry by-product meal, brewers rice, whole grain corn, whole grain wheat
- Type: Grain-inclusive (rice, whole grain corn, wheat)
- Calories: 420 kcal per cup
- Price: $
This Pro Plan senior recipe sources the bulk of its animal protein from fresh chicken and poultry meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 33% protein, 16% fat and 43% estimated carbs… with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 48%.
In addition, Bright Mind includes glucosamine and DHA for healthy joints and prebiotic fiber to support digestion.
But what really excites us about this recipe is the fact it contains MCT, a fatty-acid supplement derived from coconut oil. Studies have shown that MCT can improve cognitive function (thinking) in older dogs… which makes it a welcome ingredient in this… or any… senior recipe.1
The thoughtful, scientific design of Pro Plan Bright Mind makes it an ideal choice for many older dogs. Highly recommended.
Actual buyer review… “I was disturbed when my vet told me my baby girl is now elderly and needed to change food. Absolutely thrilled with the change to Bright Mind! Enough energy to keep with the puppy! I saw a change in the first week and almost young pup acting after 2 weeks!”
With every one of its first 5 ingredients sourced from animal protein, Go! Senior makes a rare and extraordinary grain-free option for older pets. It’s one of 5 dry recipes included in our review of the Go! Solutions Carnivore product line.
- First 5 ingredients: Chicken meal, turkey meal, salmon meal, de-boned chicken, de-boned turkey
- Type: Grain-free
- Calories: 394 kcal per cup
- Price: $$
This Go! Carnivore formula gets the largest part of its meat protein from multiple poultry meals and salmon meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 36% protein, 16% fat and 41% estimated carbs… with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 44%.
With no wheat, corn or soy and the addition of glucosamine and chondroitin to support hip and joint health, this GMO-free brand is a solid choice for your senior dog. Enthusiastically recommended.
Actual buyer review… “Recently switched my senior dog, Kuma (17 years young), to this brand and product line. AMAZING RESULTS!!! She is old, and sleeps MOST OF THE DAY, but when she is up she has a new pep in her walk, wants to play again, and is at the door waiting for me when I come home from work (been a few years since that has happened). She has a new sunny disposition since I switched to this brand.”
Older dogs can benefit significantly from L-carnitine and the other special anti-aging ingredients found in Nulo Freestyle Senior. The product is one of 8 dry recipes included in our review of the Nulo Freestyle product line.
- First 5 ingredients: Deboned trout, turkey meal, salmon meal, yellow peas, sweet potato
- Type: Grain-free
- Calories: 396 kcal per cup
- Price: $$
Freestyle Senior sources the bulk of its animal protein from fresh trout as well as turkey and salmon meals. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 33% protein, 13% fat and 45% estimated carbs… with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 40%.
The formula also includes L-carnitine for improved weight control as well as glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints… making this recipe a great option for senior dogs. Highly recommended.
Actual buyer review… “My Newfie/Aussie senior lady is used to great-tasting food, and she absolutely adores this food! Initially, she liked the smaller kibbles dry; however, she has had a number of teeth pulled and decided she wanted it softer. Now, I add some warm water, and Moka cleans her bowl. I feel good about the ingredients and quality. I really like the bag it comes in, as it prevents a dog-food smell in Moka’s “dining room” and is sturdy (i.e., no tearing).”
For those who value a simple, grain-inclusive formula that contains no plant-based protein boosters, Iams ProActive Health Mature Adult makes an excellent choice for older dogs. This classic senior diet is one of 15 dry recipes included in our review of the Iams ProActive Health product line.
- First 5 ingredients: Chicken, chicken by-product meal, ground whole grain barley, ground whole grain corn, ground whole grain sorghum
- Type: Grain-inclusive (barley, whole grain corn, sorghum)
- Calories: 350 kcal per cup
- Price: $
Iams Mature Adult derives the bulk of its meat protein from fresh chicken. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 27% protein, 12% fat and 54% estimated carbs… with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 44%.
ProActive Health is a time-proven, grain-inclusive brand offering several different senior recipes. Each includes L-carnitine to help your pet burn fat… which makes it easier to keep your older dog at a healthy weight. Highly recommended.
Actual buyer review… “I have been very pleased with Iams Mature Adult dog food. I have a mini schnauzer that is 10 years old and displaying early blindness, nausea and nervousness. She seems to be feeling much better, nausea wise, after slowly switching her to this food. She has been eating this food for 6 months now and I see a huge improvement on her energy levels. I highly recommend this food.”
Fortified with multiple antioxidants and an effective fat-burning supplement, Victor Senior makes a great option for an older dog. It’s one of 6 dry recipes included in our review of the Victor Purpose product line.
- First 5 ingredients: Beef meal, whole grain brown rice, whole grain millet, grain sorghum, chicken fat
- Type: Grain-inclusive (brown rice, millet, sorghum)
- Calories: 370 kcal per cup
- Price: $
Victor Senior Healthy Weight derives the dominant portion of its animal protein from beef meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 30% protein, 13% fat and 50% estimated carbs… with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 43%.
This low-cost, reduced calorie formula is also enhanced with L-carnitine for effective weight control as well as glucosamine and chondroitin to support healthy joints. A balanced, budget-friendly option that’s ideal for your aging pet. Highly recommended.
Actual buyer review… “I have a Lab/golden mix and she was pushing obesity. No matter what I tried, i couldn’t get the weight off of her. This food has been excellent for her! Shes lost weight and it’s a bonus for her joints. Shes 7 years old now. I’m so glad we switched!”
Missing teeth and other dental problems can make chewing painful for older dogs. The moisture-rich, stew consistency of Halo Senior can bring nutritious, welcome relief to an aging pet. It’s one of 8 wet recipes included in our review of the Halo Canned Dog Food product line.
- First 5 ingredients: Chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, oat bran, pea flour
- Type: Grain-inclusive (oat bran)
- Calories: 411 kcal per cup
- Price: $$$
This Halo Senior canned formula receives most of its meat protein from fresh chicken. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 39% protein, 21% fat and 33% estimated carbs… with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 53%.
With plenty of salmon oil for better joint health and costly chelated minerals for superior nutrition, this Halo recipe offers an easy-to-chew, easy-to-digest option for your senior dog… especially those with a history of tooth loss or chewing problems. Highly recommended.
Actual buyer review… “He loves it! His coat is not only softer and shinier, he has a more youthful look on his face and in his walk. He doesn’t seem to be struggling nearly as much with his arthritis and overall he has more energy and spunk.”
Boasting an optimal balance of protein, fat and micro-nutrients, Diamond Senior makes an exceptional, low-cost option for older dogs. It’s one of 13 dry recipes included in our review of the Diamond Naturals product line.
- First 5 ingredients: Whole grain brown rice, chicken, chicken meal, peas, egg
- Type: Grain-inclusive (brown rice, oatmeal, rice bran)
- Calories: 318 kcal per cup
- Price: $
This Diamond Senior formula sources the major portion of its meat protein from fresh chicken and chicken meal. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 28% protein, 12% fat and 52% estimated carbs… with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 44%.
With glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints as well as L-carnitine for weight control, this makes an affordable option from a safety-conscious company.
Actual buyer review… “My almost 13 year old Aussie was really slowing down, not really interested in playing anymore, etc.. I’ve been mixing her old food with the Diamond Naturals for a couple of weeks to slowly change over and can tell a difference already! Now she wants to play in the mornings and afternoons when I get home – not for long, but c’mon, she’s 13! I will be ordering this for her from now on.”
It’s not uncommon for an older dog to suffer from a sensitive stomach. So, for some, a limited ingredient diet like Canidae Grain-Free Pure, can offer a great solution. It’s one of 11 dry recipes included in our review of the Canidae Grain-Free Pure product line.
- First 5 ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans
- Type: Grain-free
- Calories: 409 kcal per cup
- Price: $$
Canidae Pure Senior acquires the dominant share of its animal protein from fresh chicken as well as poultry meals. Our dry matter label analysis reveals the recipe contains 31% protein, 11% fat and 50% estimated carbs… with a fat-to-protein ratio of about 36%.
Although suitable for all seniors, Canidae Grain-Free Pure was specially formulated for dogs with food sensitivities. Because of it’s a limited ingredient design, this particular diet is free of many common canine allergens… like corn, wheat, soy or grains. Highly recommended.
Actual buyer review… “It is very difficult to find a healthy senior dog food with High protein, lower fat, a good amount of omega 3/6, chrondroitin, glucosamine, calcium, and other vitamins. This is it! I fed my dog Precise Naturals and when the company owner passed away, so did the product. I had to find another good for my 12 y/o large mix breed. I’ve found it. She loves it; she’s a healthy weight, shiny soft coat, and energetic. If your hesitant, I was too, but so glad this was what I went chose for her.”
The 8 Most Frequently Asked Questions
About Feeding Senior Dogs
- When is a dog considered a senior?
- How old is my dog in human years?
- Do older dogs need more protein… or less?
- Should all older dogs eat senior food?
- What’s the #1 cause of food-related illness in seniors?
- How much food should I feed my senior dog?
- How do I determine my dog’s ideal weight?
- What can I do to satisfy my picky eater?
When is a dog considered a senior?
Not all dogs get grey hair around their muzzles. In fact, many are as playful as a puppy for their entire lives.
You may have noticed that small dogs seem to age more slowly than large dogs. It’s true. A small dog can live to be as old as 20 years. But a large dog can reach maturity much sooner.
So, how do you know when your dog has entered her golden years?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association…2
“…small dogs are generally considered senior at 7 years of age. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans… and are often considered senior when they are 5 to 6 years of age.”
Of course, all dogs are different. A healthy diet, regular exercise and good dental care can help extend your dog’s middle age phase.
How old is my dog in human years?
Larger dogs age at a faster rate than smaller dogs. So, use the American Kennel Club chart below to discover your dog’s age in human years.
Do older dogs need more protein… or less?
Despite what you may have heard…
An older dog needs more protein in her diet than a younger dog. That’s because (like humans), seniors need to replace wasting muscle mass as they age.
A dog food rich in meat-based protein will not strain a healthy, older dog’s kidneys. However, if your dog has already been diagnosed with kidney disease, be sure to ask your vet about prescribing an appropriate diet.
Although adult dog foods can legally contain as little as 18%, all our recommended senior brands above contain at least 27% protein.
Should all older dogs eat senior food?
No. In most cases, that’s not necessary. In fact, if your older dog is healthy and eating a quality, balanced diet, there’s no reason to switch to a senior dog food.
Just be sure the food you’re currently feeding contains an above-average amount of meat-based protein and moderate calories.
What’s the #1 cause of food-related illness in seniors?
Although obesity contributes to health issues in dogs of all ages, it can lead to chronic disease and premature death in seniors.
Extra weight means your dog’s joints have to work harder… and they may already be inflamed from arthritis, hip dysplasia or a luxated knee cap.
Unfortunately, dogs are naturally more prone to obesity as they age. According to the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science…3
“Because of decreased physical activity and slowed metabolism, older dogs need 20% fewer total calories than do middle-aged adult dogs.”
So, a low calorie food can help your dog lose or maintain her weight without feeling hungry all the time.
How much food should I feed my senior dog?
Since every animal is unique…
It’s impossible to predict the exact serving size that’s “perfect” for each dog… and each brand.
So, start with the package’s feeding instructions… or the amount suggested by our dog food calculator. If you use the calculator, be sure to use the “senior” setting to estimate an appropriate serving size for your older dog.
Either method will work because you’re using it only as a starting point.
Then, over time…
Adjust that serving size up or down to reach and maintain your dog’s ideal weight.
How do I determine my dog’s ideal weight?
Keeping your senior at ideal weight can help you significantly extend your pet’s life.
A 14-year landmark study found that…
Dogs fed to ideal body condition lived 1.8 years longer than their overweight litter mates.
That’s nearly 2 extra years of life…
Just for keeping your dog close to her ideal weight based on her Body Condition Score. This process is explained in the following short video.
Remember, every dog is different. If you’re feeding the recommended amount, but your dog is not losing weight (or if she’s always hungry), you may need to make some adjustments.
Talk to your vet if you’re unsure of your dog’s ideal weight and body condition.
What can I do to satisfy my picky eater?
One way to enhance your dog’s appetite is to add tasty “toppers” to her food. Mixing a few tablespoons of a quality canned food to your dog’s kibble can help.
Fresh, raw or cooked chicken or beef can also get your dog to drool over their meals again. Eggs are another popular appetizer… scrambled or boiled with no salt, oil or seasonings, of course.
Toppers can safely make up about 10-20% of your dog’s diet. You’ll need to be mindful of added calories and nutrients.
A Final Word
The Dog Food Advisor is privately owned and is not affiliated (in any way) with pet food manufacturers. We do not accept money, gifts, samples or other incentives in exchange for special consideration in preparing our reviews.
However, we do receive a referral fee from online retailers (like Chewy or Amazon) when readers click over to their website from ours. This policy helps support the operation of our blog and keeps access to all our content free to the public.
For more information, please visit our Disclaimer and Disclosure page.
Important FDA Alert
The FDA is investigating a potential link between diet and heart disease in dogs. Click here for details.
- Pan Y et al, “Efficacy of a Therapeutic Diet on Dogs With Signs of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS): A Prospective Double Blinded Placebo Controlled Clinical Study, Front Nutr. 2018 Dec 12;5:127. ↩
- Senior Pets, American Veterinary Medical Association ↩
- Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs, The National Research Council of the National Academy of Science (2006), page 5. ↩