Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
What Experts Say About Senior Dog Foods
Nowadays, there are many senior dog foods on the market, so things can get confusing at times. For instance, foods labeled specifically for a particular life stage in dogs make them seem better for our dogs, but how true is this?
If you ask AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, there are no specific guidelines for feeding senior dogs. Therefore, it appears as if there are no nutritional distinctions between the needs of adult dogs and senior dogs. So, why are these senior grain-free diets for dogs even on the market? Turns out, there is a belief that senior dogs, just as senior people, need to be fed differently.
This makes sense since senior dogs are more prone to certain medical conditions associated with aging. For instance, senior dogs are more likely to develop orthopedic problems and they may be prone to obesity (since they move around less and they have a lower metabolic rate), which may also lead to constipation. They are also prone to losing muscle mass and their cognitive function may decline.
Aging in dogs also brings a decreased ability to fight off infections, digestive problems, and possibly duller coats. On top of that, many senior dogs lose their appetite, as their teeth may hurt when they chew and they may no longer perceive taste or smell as well as they used to. Therefore, senior dog foods are often crafted to meet some of these needs. You may see senior dog foods with the the following additions.
Additions in Many Senior Dog Foods
- Reduced calories to prevent weight gain
- Increased fiber to prevent constipation
- Increased protein to prevent loss of muscle mass
- Added supplements for joint support
- Antioxidants as vitamin E and beta-carotene for brain health and immune system health
- Omega fatty acids for a healthy skin and coat
- Beneficial bacteria to promote healthy gut
With the nutritional needs in mind, we will be looking at some grain-free dog foods crafted with senior dogs in mind. A few words of caution though before proceeding: grain-free dog foods don't mean carb free! In order to shape kibble, even the highest quality dog foods needs some types of carbs to act as a binding agent. The only difference is that grain-free dog foods rely on potato, tapioca, or pea fiber to act as a binding agent instead of grains. Surprisingly, some of these grain-free dog foods have the same amount of carbs, if not, (drum roll please) even more compared to the versions containing grains, explains veterinarian Lorie Huston.
Another word of caution needs to be said over the issue of calories. Many people purchase senior dog food thinking it's automatically designed with lower calories. This is not necessarily true; indeed, when researchers took a look at some senior formulations, they found that the levels of calories varied widely from 246 to 408 calories per cup!
This is important to keep in consideration also because not all senior dogs necessarily tend to gain weight, some of them actually lose weight and may benefit from more calories. Also, owners of older dogs with heart problems will need to keep a watchful eye on those levels of sodium as sodium contents seem to also vary between a senior dog formulation and another! In the next paragraphs, we will seeing three reviews of different brands of senior dog foods, stay tuned for more!
1. Orijen Grain-Free Senior Dog Food
Thinking about feeding your senior dog food Orijen, grain-free? Let's take a look at some of the benefits and ingredients listed in this dog food. According to the Orijen website, this dog food is made in Canada and has received several Pet Food of the Year rewards.The company advertises using biologically appropriate ingredients fresh from regional, sustainably raised sources. They claim to avoid the use of high-glycemic carbohydrates and plant proteins and instead stick to biologically appropriate ingredients potentially seen in a natural diet. The locally raised fresh ingredients are claimed to be fit for human consumption and prepared in their kitchens, and they include cage-free poultry, nest-laid eggs, ranch-raised meats, wild-caught fish and sun-ripened fruits & vegetable
Ingredients in Orijen Grain-Free Senior Dog Food
Boneless chicken, chicken meal, chicken liver, whole herring, turkey meal, boneless turkey, turkey liver, whole eggs, boneless walleye, whole salmon, chicken heart, chicken cartilage, herring meal, salmon meal, pea fiber, chicken liver oil, red lentils, green peas, green lentils, sun-cured alfalfa, yams, chickpeas, pumpkin, butternut squash, spinach greens, carrots, Red Delicious apples, Bartlett pears, cranberries, blueberries, kelp, licorice root, angelica root, fenugreek, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, chamomile, dandelion, summer savory, rosemary, Enterococcus faecium,Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, folic acid, biotin, Vitamin B12, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, selenium yeast *
Info About Orijen Grain-Free Senior Dog Food
This dog food contains many sources of meat and fish. Indeed, according to the website, it's 80 percent made with nourishing meat and fish. The protein level is 38 percent. According to veterinary nutritionist Dottie P. Laflamme, a good senior dog diet should contain at least 25 percent protein deriving from a quality protein source. Good protein levels promote lean body mass and muscle strength in senior dogs. Additionally, the fresh meats and fish provide senior dogs with a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin to help those joints.
The fresh fish ingredients are excellent sources of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, which are known for their potent anti-inflammatory effects. These are effective to counteract the negative effects of obesity and being overweight.
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According to Orijen, this is a low-gylcemic formulation to keep stable blood sugars and maintain a healthy body weight. Their website claims it's potato free, which is good since potatoes tend to quickly elevate blood sugar levels. In this food, pea fiber is likely added instead of white potatoes to bind the kibble together. This food is claimed to contain less than half the amount of carbs found in other conventional foods.. This formulation is preservative free.
Cost: About $79.99 for a 28.5 big of dry dog food.
2. Nature's Variety Grain-Free Senior Dog Food
Thinking about feeding your dog Nature's Variety Senior Dog Food? Here are some facts. According to the Nature's Variety website, this is a US-based pet food company based in St. Louis, Missouri, with manufacturing plants based in Lincoln, Nebraska.The food produced by this company are claimed to be free of corn, wheat, and soy, and they are also free of artificial colors and flavors. They produce different lines of dry grain-free products including Instinct kibble made with grain-free and gluten-free kibble, Instinct Raw Boost made of high protein kibble with the addition of freeze dried raw, Instinct Ultimate Protein with grain-free protein packed kibble, and Instinct limited ingredient using only one animal protein. This company also produces a line of frozen raw meats for dogs. Apparently, the only kibble containing grains is Instinct Prairie. For senior dogs, Nature's Variety produces kibble for dogs over the age of seven available only in chicken. Here are the ingredients:
Ingredients in Nature's Variety Grain-Free Senior Dog Food
Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate), Tapioca, Peas, Chickpeas, Chicken, Salmon Meal, Chicken Eggs, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Freeze Dried Turkey, Natural Flavor, Suncured Alfalfa Meal, Dried Tomato Pomace, Freeze Dried Chicken (including Freeze Dried Ground Chicken Bone), Salmon Oil (source of DHA), Freeze Dried Turkey Liver, Pumpkinseeds, Carrots, Apples, Montmorillonite Clay, Potassium Chloride, Cranberries, Vitamins (Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Sodium Selenite), Butternut Squash, Choline Chloride, L-Carnitine, Salt, Ground Flaxseed, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Broccoli, Rosemary Extract, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Apple Cider Vinegar, Dried Chicory Root, Blueberries
Info About Nature's Variety Grain-Free Senior Dog Food
This dog food is made of high protein kibble that is mixed with the occasional piece of freeze-dried raw. Chicken meal is listed as the first ingredient. According to AAFCO, "this is the dry rendered product from a combination of clean flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails." Because it's in rendered form, it's concentrated and the water and fat have been removed. According to Nature's Variety, the chicken they use is free from added growth hormones.
The protein level in this dog food is 33.5 percent. Unlike what we were told in the past, high protein levels in senior dog foods aren't harmful as thought. According to veterinary nutritionist Joesph Wakshlag, studies have shown senior dogs need at least a 50 percent increase in their dietary protein requirement. This helps elderly dogs maintain lean body mass and prevents muscle-wasting.
As in Orijen, Nature's Variety's meat contains important glucosamine and chondroitin that helps support the vulnerable joints of senior dogs. Additionally, this food contains natural docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) derived from salmon oil for eye and brain health, powerful antioxidents to fight free radicals and support a healthy immune system, probiotics for digestion and Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids for a healthy coat. The apple cider vinegar may seem like an odd addition, but it/s meant to maintain a good acid/alkaline balance while the alpha alpha sprouts provide fiber and several vitamins and minerals. Montmorillonite clay is a natural anti-caking ingredients derived from southern Utah and approved by AAFCO.
Cost: About $75.00 for a 25.3 pound bag
3. Evo Grain Free Senior Dog Food
Thinking about feeding your senior dog Evo grain-free dog food? Evo is a US-based pet food company produced by Natura Pet Products focusing on providing dog foods rich with proteins. According to the Evo website, this company was the first to launch grain-free dog food on the market. The first ingredients on their labels are always high-quality meats or fish. Evo prides themselves for not using grains, potatoes, or gluten. The foods produced are rich in protein and low in carbs for lean, fit bodies. The kibble is cooked in such a way as to preserve nutrients and it doesn't contain chemical additives or harmful preservatives such as ethoxyquin or BHA/BHT. Evo produces a grain-free senior dog formula with turkey and chicken as the first ingredients.
Ingredients in Evo Grain-Free Senior Dog Food
Turkey, Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Menhaden Meal, Tapioca Starch, Pea Fiber, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols a Source of Vitamin E), Salmon Meal, Menhaden Oil, Natural Flavors, Apples, Carrots, Potassium Chloride, Eggs, Pumpkin, Tomatoes, Cottage Cheese, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate), Alfalfa Sprouts, Dried Chicory Root Extract, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, VItamin E Supplement, Chondroitin Sulfate, L-Carnitine, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamins (Betaine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Beta Carotene, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Biotin, Folic Acid), Direct Fed Microbials (Dried Enterococcus faecium, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus, Dried Lactobacilus casei), Rosemary Extract
Info About Evo Grain-Free Senior Dog Food
Turkey and chicken are the first two ingredients followed by chicken meal. This food contains 72 percent animal ingredients and 28 percent fruit and vegetables. Protein content of this food is 43 percent. This senior formula contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for joint health. The L-carnitine is added to prevent weight gain and to help burn fat. With added beneficial bacteria, this food is claimed to be highly digestible.
To keep a low glycemic index, this food contains no grains, gluten, or potatoes. This low-carb approach is meant to maintain a healthy body weight and a dog's muscles lean. As advertised, this food doesn't contain harmful preservatives. More and more pet foods are realizing the harmful effects of artificial preservatives and investing more in natural antioxidants. The most common ones used are Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), vitamin C, citric acid, and rosemary, explains veterinarian Katharine Hillestad.
This food is easily digestible and contains probiotics. Menhanden fish oil is a good source of omega 3’s which work great for decreasing inflammation. A more in depth evaluation of the ingredients and nutrient analysis can be found here. Evo Senior dog food.
Cost: about $69.99 for a 28.6 pound bag.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2015 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 03, 2015:
Thanks Mary, I have been interested in feeding homemade as well but have been discouraged by an article I read on a great percentage of them being nutritionally inadequate. Wrote a recent hub on these studies. I might take the plunge thought one day after taking a course on nutrition or getting a recipe made by a nutritionist. Being that my dogs are now officially seniors makes the idea a bit more daunting.
Mary Hyatt from Florida on August 03, 2015:
It just blows my mind to see the list of ingredients these dog foods have! I don't have a senior dog, but I have a "food sensitive" dog, so I cook her food myself.
This is certainly an informative and helpful article.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 05, 2015:
I feel the same way, there are too many on the market. It's hard to sort through all the information, especially in such a biased market where profits are the main interest and many companies are willing to make statements to draw more people to their foods. I was planning to add some more grain-free foods, but my head was spinning after I wrote only 3! May be another day.
Chantelle Porter from Ann Arbor on July 05, 2015:
Thank you for sharing this. There are so many choices it can be hard to cedice what to do.