Nutritional Requirements in Elderly Dogs

Posted by Jesse Tilner on

Nutritional Requirements in Elderly Dogs

“What are the nutritional requirements for a dog” is a great question! Dog owners need to pay special attention to their canine’s dietary and nutritional needs. As your dog grows older, its dietary requirements also alter. The nutritional needs for elderly dogs vary, depending on your dog’s health and breed. Smaller dog breeds such as a terrier or chihuahua are considered senior dogs at an older age, like when they are 10 or 12 years old.

Larger dogs such as Great Danes are considered elderly much earlier, like when they turn 5 or 6 years old. As dogs age, their stamina and vitality levels slowly decline. Their bodies struggle to maintain normal bodily functions. Their body’s ability to repair itself also deteriorates. It also becomes harder for elderly dogs to adapt to stress and environmental changes.

A Well-Balanced Diet

Senior dogs require a well-balanced diet that is low in calories and high in fiber. It should also contain adequate amounts of proteins and fats. Senior dogs need higher levels of protein than younger dogs to make up for muscle loss. Muscle loss can become a major issue as dogs grow older. High fiber levels help regulate your dog’s gastrointestinal functions. As dogs grow older, their energy requirements also lower. This can lead to dogs becoming overweight and also obese.

There is no one diet for elderly dogs. Changes in diet depend on the dog’s individual needs. Some key points to keep in mind when feeding senior dogs are as follows:

  • Control their level of calories and avoid excess calories
  • Make sure your dog stays hydrated
  • Your dog’s diet should contain the right mix of proteins, fats, sodium, and phosphorus.

 If you feed your canine commercial dog food, there are many companies that create senior dog food formulations. Though, if you can’t find this option, you can also feed your senior dog puppy food. Puppy food has higher national levels that older dogs can benefit from. If you make dog food at home, you might have to provide your dog with additional vitamins or supplements.

If you want to give your senior dog any snacks, go for the low fat and low sodium treats. You can also create healthy treats at home for your senior dog, such as pieces of carrot or slices of apples.

How to Control Calories and Avoid Excess Nutrients

You can control calorie content in your senior dog’s diet by reducing calorie consumption by 20 to 30%.  You can do this through portion control. Reducing your dog’s meal size will ensure your dog does not become overweight. This can also reduce the chances of other diseases such as cancer or kidney diseases.

Although if your dog is very old, you might have to increase its caloric intake to maintain its physique. This is because as your dog grows older, its weight and body condition will naturally decline.


When people ask, “What are the nutritional requirements for a dog,” especially elderly dogs, the answer varies. Each dog’s nutritional requirements are different depending on how senior they are and how healthy they are. If you are still unsure how to adjust your senior dogs’ diet, make sure to consult a veterinarian for specific instructions.