Do senior dogs need more or less protein? Let’s Explore

When is a dog considered to be mature or senior?

Dogs are mature when they reach half of their anticipated life expectancy and senior when they are in the last 25% of their expected lifespan. Small breed dogs tend to live longer than large and giant breeds, so large and giant breed dogs are considered to be senior between 5 and 8 years of age while small breed dogs are considered to be senior at 8-10 years of age. The term geriatric is used when a dog has lived beyond the average lifespan for their breed and size.

At these approximate mid-life points, it is common for dogs to gain some weight and exhibit age-related physical and behavior changes. But before you consider switching to a senior dog food formula, it is important to first consult with your dogs veterinarian for a thorough physical and metabolic evaluation. Since many of the diseases commonly found in older dogs can be detected early on, your dogs veterinarian may recommend a nutrient profile to deal specifically with any current medical concerns.

A nutrient profile is a specific and unique combination of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, and minerals. The nutrient profile of a senior dog will differ from that of a puppy. It will also differ based on your dogs size and health – the nutrient profile of a healthy senior dog will be quite different than the nutrient profile for a senior dog with kidney disease.

How Much Protein Do Senior Dogs Need?

Dogs are omnivorous, meaning that protein (meat) accounts for a large portion of their diet, along with fruits and vegetables. As such, they have evolved to rely on protein across all stages of their lives.

There is a myth that protein is bad for senior dogs.

Apparently, too much protein can overtax an older dog’s kidneys due to the high phosphorus levels that come with it. However, the study responsible for that myth used rats, not dogs. Therefore, while too much protein can be hazardous for a senior rat, the same does not apply to dogs.

Differences Between Senior Dog Food vs. Regular?

Is there a difference between senior dog food, regular adult dog food, and food labeled “all life stages” or “multi-stage”? Not necessarily. In fact, some food products might be identical and only market differently; that is, only the packaging changes. According to our experts, theres no regulation of dog foods claiming to cater to seniors, which is why theres so much confusion on the topic.

There certainly are, however, some dietary factors that can help manage the physical and medical changes dogs experience as they age. Here are some of the ways a senior dog diet might differ from a regular adult dog diet:

  • Nutrient adjustments
  • Higher digestibility
  • Softer texture and/or formulated to fight dental diseases
  • Added joint supplements
  • Added MCTs, omega-3s, and antioxidants
  • Does my dog need a senior food?

    Every dog has different nutritional needs, and senior dogs are no exception. Once your beloved pup reaches his golden years, it can be even tougher to understand his shifting dietary requirements. This can often leave pet parents with a lot of questions: Is “senior dog food” necessary? What is the best senior dog food on the market? What do you do if your senior dog refuses to eat? While youre here, check out our success story on how our fresh dog food helped to improve Bailey, a 13-year-old lab mixs life.

    Check out the answers from our pet nutrition experts to some of the most common questions we receive about senior dogs below.