Senior dogs require a different diet than younger dogs, but do they need senior dog food? That’s a question that was asked over and over again when I worked at the vet. The thing to remember about diet for a senior dog is that it’s mostly about reduced calories. Therefore, strictly speaking, you don’t need a special senior dog food for your older dog.
Related: 7 Reasons to Adopt a Senior Dog
Senior Dogs and Diet
In general, a dog’s nutritional requirements don’t change as he ages. The only thing that changes is how many calories he needs. Whether your dog is 5 or 15, he still needs adequate amounts of protein, carbs, fat, and macronutrients. That doesn’t change. What does change is his activity level and how many calories he burned. Your ten-year-old dog is most likely not as active as he was when he was a couple of years old. Therefore, giving him the same amount of calories will lead to weight gain, and that’s never good.
So What is Senior Dog Food
Senior food is a label used to sell more dog food. In general, senior dog food will have fewer calories, which is good. Many varieties will also throw in omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and maybe a trendy supplement making the rounds. But that’s all they are.
Is Senior Food Worth It
The question becomes do senior dogs need a senior diet. Not really. Much like “small breed” and “X breed” dog foods, senior dog food is largely a marketing ploy. That’s because your dog should have been getting all the proper nutrition he needed throughout his life. All you need to do when he hits the golden years is reduce his calories. That being said, some senior foods do add in extra ingredients like omega fatty acids and glucosamine for joint health, but honestly, you can get that stuff in supplement form and still pay less in the long run than you would if you bought a senior food.
So the answer is no. Senior food isn’t worth it for senior dogs. You can achieve the same results by opting for a high quality, reduced calorie dog food and supplementing with a fish oil capsule and glucosamine tablet daily. And you’ll achieve those results with far less expense.
Don’t Fall for the Ploy
Senior dogs can get all the nutrition and reduced calorie intake they need without owners buying that marked up “senior” food. If you want to ensure your older dog’s health, talk to your vet for a recommendation on a high quality reduced calorie food and good fish oil and glucosamine supplements. That’s all senior dogs need to maintain their health and weight.
Editor’s Note: The question put before Ben was “do senior dogs NEED senior food?” As he explained, they do not need it. However, if you want to try a senior food (some of us have, actually, because we have picky dogs who won’t eat the darn supplements even when buried under a mountain of cheesy goodness), we encourage you as always to do your research and choose a high-quality brand. A senior dog food won’t harm your older dog as long as its meeting all the requirements. It’s just not medically necessary.