Like their human counterparts, all dogs have unique dietary needs. Especially as dogs age, their nutritional requirements become even more difficult to understand and cater towards. This frequently leaves pet owners wondering what should you feed older dogs? 

Due to natural aging, it is common for senior dogs to develop issues such as joint pain, increased susceptibility to illnesses, and dental disease. But just because your pooch isn’t quite as nimble or as quick as they used to be doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to help them feel like the puppy they once were.

What Age Are Dogs Considered Seniors?

There is no universally agreed-upon medical definition of what constitutes a senior dog. Although every dog is unique, the most important factors to take into consideration are your dog’s size and weight. 

In general, very large dogs (like Great Danes) live shorter lives and are considered senior at a younger age, around 5 or 6, whereas smaller breeds (like Beagles) tend to live longer and may not reach senior status until around age 8 or 9. But even into their senior years, many dogs continue to live healthy, active lives.

What Are the Signs of an Aging Dog?

Noticeable traits with an aging dog include things such as loss of vision, joint problems, skin problems, weight gain or loss, and bad breath due and dental issues. 

It is necessary to be able to distinguish the difference between "aging" and “geriatric'. When veterinarians refer to geriatric dogs, they typically mean those who are nearing the conclusion of the senior stage. Along with some of the aforementioned aging symptoms, geriatric dogs may exhibit more severe symptoms, such as:

  • Memory loss;
  • altered behaviour (such as agitation, confusion, or other personality changes);
  • trouble adhering to regular sleeping patterns;
  • muscular mass loss;
  • urinary incontinence or increased urination, which could be signs of renal disease;
  • Impaired mobility and osteoarthritis.  

Keep an eye out for these symptoms as your dog ages, and make sure to take them in for frequent examinations. For senior dogs, the majority of veterinarians advise twice-yearly consultations so they can undergo a complete physical examination and blood tests to help detect changes in organ function or other internal concerns. They can also assess which symptoms and indicators can benefit from a change in diet and offer recommendations regarding nutrition for elderly dogs.

Is There a Difference Between Senior Dog Food and Regular?

Is there a distinction between food designated for senior dogs, and regular dog food? Not necessarily. More often than not, many of these pet food products are very similar but are marketed differently to target specific audiences. As a result, there seems to be a lot of confusion about which dog foods are effective at catering specifically to the needs of senior dogs. 

However, there are undoubtedly some nutritional factors to consider, that can assist in managing the physical and physiological changes that dogs go through as they age. A senior dog diet may be different from a typical adult dog diet and may require the following additions or changes:

  • Nutritional changes;
  • Better digestibility and softer texture;
  • Foods and treats designed to combat dental diseases;
  • Adding supplements for joint health;
  • Supplementing their diet with more antioxidants, omega 3’s and MCT’s.

What Nutritional Adjustments Need to be Made For Senior Dogs?

One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to senior dogs and their diets, is how much protein does a senior dog need? This is a valid question, considering many older dogs need extra protein in their diet. 

Senior dogs' protein reserves are used up more quickly than those of younger dogs, and much like humans, dogs can begin to lose muscle mass as they get older. To make up for that loss, additional protein provides amino acids, which keep older dogs stronger and more mobile.

Some older dogs may have trouble maintaining their weight. A high-protein diet is essential if muscle mass is the issue, but if your dog is losing weight for other reasons, your veterinarian may advise a diet heavier in fat. On the contrary, an overweight senior dog may benefit from a diet with less fat.

How Many Calories Does a Senior Dog Need? 

The answer to that can be difficult to answer. Whether your dog needs to gain weight or reduce their weight is the biggest determining factor in how high its caloric intake should be. Some senior-friendly dog foods are designed to have fewer calories per serving, while others have more.

There are a couple of general principles you can adhere to when determining how many calories you should be feeding your senior dog. If your dog needs to gain weight, feed them a higher-fat diet with more than 50 grams of fat per 1,000 calories. As for overweight dogs that need to lose weight, give them less than 350 calories per cup of kibble or a diet with pre-measured servings.

Given that senior dogs tend to be less active than their younger counterparts, lower-calorie diets are frequently the best option. Dogs' activity levels tend to decrease by up to a third to a half as they get older, which means they don't need to consume as many calories. The key is portion control!

What Can I Do to Promote Healthy Bones For My Senior Dog?

The main component of bone structure that contributes to bone strength is collagen. A dog's bones weaken as they age and their ability to produce more collagen declines. Since they no longer have the collagen, their bones need to stay strong; they also lose bone mass.

Fortunately, though, the bone mass in your pet's skeleton can be supported by taking a collagen supplement. Studies have indicated that daily collagen supplements can increase bone density, halt the aging process that makes bones brittle, and stimulate the growth of new bone.

A great way to supplement collagen into your dog's diet is to give your dog Bell & Bone’s Collagen Sticks. They are grain-free and developed by a vet scientist to ensure that the right level of collagen is included in each bite to give your dog optimal health benefits.

Collagen is Great for Mobility

In dogs with arthritis, collagen can increase movement and mobility. It is a natural supplement that aids in protecting and lubricating connective tissues that promote the health of the hips and joints. It can be used prophylactically on dogs that are getting close to old age or even on breeds that are predisposed to joint health problems.

For Joint Health: Collagen keeps the cartilage in your pet's joints healthy. It also supports appropriate inflammatory responses that can lessen sporadic joint pain. Even if your pet doesn't regularly experience joint pain, collagen nevertheless benefits healthy pets when it comes to muscle repair following activity.

For Muscle Health: When your dog exercises, its tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and muscles are all put under stress. After exercise, consuming collagen aids in their recovery.

Additionally, in many cases, collagen can aid in injury prevention. Ligament and tendon health is particularly crucial for dogs that are very active and partake in rigorous activities. Those connective tissues remain flexible thanks to collagen.

Collagen Promotes Healthy Bones

The main component of bone structure that contributes to bone strength is collagen. A dog's bones weaken as they age, and their ability to produce more collagen declines. Since they no longer have the collagen, their bones need to stay strong; they also lose bone mass.

Fortunately, though, the bone mass in your pet's skeleton can be supported by taking a collagen supplement. Studies have indicated that daily collagen supplements can increase bone density, halt the aging process that makes bones brittle, and stimulate the growth of new bone.

Collagen Supports a Healthy Coat and Skin

Collagen is a fantastic way to improve your dog's coat and skin quality if they are collagen or biotin deficient. Collagen is what gives your dog's skin its healthy suppleness. Healthy collagen levels in dogs are associated with reduced shedding, reduced itching, and softer, glossier fur. It also helps them maintain healthy nails and prevents a number of skin diseases.

For Skin Health: Collagen helps to strengthen your dog’s skin. It promotes suppleness, and because it hydrates their skin from the inside, it is very advantageous for them. Having more hydrated skin will calm them, whether they have hot patches, seasonal allergies, or other skin conditions.

For Coat Health: A healthy coat is essential to your dog's well-being for reasons other than just looking cuddlesome. Their coat shields them from outside elements, while their undercoat insulates them and controls their body temperature. Not only does collagen do a great job of maintaining a healthy coat for dogs, but additionally it has been shown that dogs who supplement collagen in their diet shed less. 

Collagen is Great for Dog Digestion

Collagen is also helpful for dogs with digestive problems. Since collagen is needed to create the lining of your dog's stomach and intestines, it supports a healthy digestive system. It prevents them from developing conditions such as leaky gut syndrome by keeping food and stomach acid inside the walls of their GI tract.

Additionally, it aids in the breakdown of proteins, a crucial step in your pet's metabolic process. Their body can't properly convert food into fuel without collagen!

What Works Best to Fight Dental Disease for Senior Dogs?

For senior dogs, who are more likely to have loose or infected teeth, breaking through kibble can be challenging. The easiest change you can make to help your senior dog would be to switch to softer foods (e.g. canned, raw, or fresh).

Many dog food items on the market today that are promoted or labelled specifically for dental problems are simply conventional feeds with additional moisture. Of course, some do contain compounds designed to treat oral issues, such as Bell & Bone’s Dental Sticks.

Bell & Bone’s Chicken, Mint and Seaweed Dental Sticks are the most quality, highly effective dental sticks on the market. Their ingredients help to combat your canine's oral problems.

By paying attention to the changes in your dog as they age and taking a few simple steps to supplement their dietary needs, you can better ensure that they will be by your side for many more years to come. Additionally, if you have any concerns about your pooch’s health due to factors related to aging, be sure to seek veterinarian care as soon as possible; it could be the decision that keeps them barking with puppy youth well into their senior years!



Being a dedicated dog owner often involves asking the right questions, seeking the right advice and, most importantly, checking in with your pup to make sure that it's healthy and happy. When in doubt, or in the event of health concerns, always consult a professional. Head to our FAQs page for more answers to dog treat-related questions. If you have any other questions, please feel free to get in touch with me and I'll make it a priority to keep you informed and empowered.


January 31, 2023 — Arianne Sackville