Dog looking for food.

We all know that puppy food is recommended for dogs that are not fully grown, but after that, things can become a little fuzzy. When it comes to dog diet recommendations, it is a little up in the air how and what to feed. The internet is full of information that may or may not be super accurate. Blue Valley Animal Hospital is here to help you better understand the answer to the question, “What should my dog be eating as it ages?”

Principles of a Good Dog Diet

The basic characteristics of a quality dog diet are the same no matter what age or breed you are feeding. When choosing a dog food, be sure to evaluate the following:

  • The AAFCO statement on the packaging identifying what life stage the food is approved for (food for all life stages tends to be too broad for many pets)
  • That the AAFCO statement classifies the food as a complete diet versus one for short-term, intermittent, or complementary feeding
  • That you can easily find contact information for customer service on the packaging
  • That you investigate what quality control measures the company has in place (voluntary recalls aren’t always a bad thing–vigilant companies hold their diets to high standards)
  • That the diet has been formulated by someone with a PhD in animal nutrition or an advanced veterinary degree in nutrition.

Also beware of getting caught up in the ingredient list. While this can be helpful information, labeling regulations allow this list to be fairly easily manipulated to achieve marketing goals. 

The Pet Nutrition Alliance has already done a lot of work for you about various popular diets and has much of the information compiled on their Dare to Ask platform. 

What Should My Dog Be Eating As It Ages?

Taking care of a senior pet comes with special responsibilities. It only makes sense that diet should be re-evaluated as your pet enters their golden years. 

Nutrition can be a helpful tool when it comes to keeping pets healthy as well as managing a preventing disease. Individual differences can make a big difference, though, as to when a pet is considered to be a senior. 

While much more research needs to be done to most accurately give you an answer to “what should my dog be eating as it ages,” we do know some things.

Aging in pets (and people) is associated with lower energy requirements, a propensity to gain fat, muscle loss, and, to some degree for most, decreased immune and kidney function. 

Many pets do not necessarily need to be changed to a senior diet just because they have reached a certain age, though. Keep in mind that there is no legal guideline for what is labeled a senior diet and that many of these choices may simply be marketing.

So what should you be feeding your dog? This is a question we are happy to discuss with you. Often, your pet’s wellness visits are a great time to bring it up, as individual needs can vary greatly. Recommendations for an aging pet may include things like:

  • Decreased calorie intake to prevent or address weight issues
  • The addition of glucosamine/chondroitin and other supplements for joint health (note that this is often in the form of supplements versus diet so that adequate dosing is achieved)
  • Decrease in phosphorus intake (especially when kidney disease is present)
  • Restriction of sodium in pets with heart disease, hypertension, or kidney impairment
  • Increase in fiber for digestive problems

In general, though, pets who are at a healthy body weight without known health conditions and are eating a quality and balanced diet may not need to change foods as they age. 

We are happy to work with you to find the best diet for your pet, no matter what their age. Our team cares about your four-legged family as much as you do, and we are happy to utilize our expertise to help in whatever way we can.