Embracing healthy ageing: how to choose the best senior dog food

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Sarah Pollard, Cindy Feng
What's the best senior dog food? | Lyka Journal

Our pups bring endless joy. To them, we are their whole lives — they rely on us to look after them, especially when they become golden oldies.

You can make a difference to your dog’s health at any point in their life — especially in their senior years — with the power of real ingredients. This is where preventative nutrition comes in.

How real food can improve common health issues in senior dogs

senior-golden-retriever-sitting-on-bed-with-teddy

You may notice your dog slowing down, dealing with stiffer joints, or having less enthusiasm for long walks. While some signs of ageing are natural, this doesn’t mean decline should be inevitable. 

By feeding your senior dog real food, you can take a proactive approach to their health and wellbeing — forget about waiting for issues to arise before changing things up. 

With time, a diet of quality protein, healthy fats, and nutrient-rich superfoods can become potent weapons against common senior dog ailments like heart disease, liver disease, pancreatitis and kidney failure.

Senior dog expert tip

Weight changes

Fluctuations in weight can point to underlying health issues:

Why is my older dog losing weight? 

As your dog grows older, their ability to absorb and digest nutrients declines. If your old dog’s spine is showing or they’re eating less, this could be a sign that their daily caloric requirements aren’t being met.  

By providing them with highly digestible protein, you can help them maintain muscle mass. Some dogs may need a food with better palatability or a higher calorie content (like quality lamb or beef dog food). More calorie dense options may not be suitable for senior pups with pancreatitis — speak with your vet before making any changes to their diet.

Dog weight loss advice

Weight gain

Like us, dogs are no stranger to a bit of middle-aged spread as they get older. Research shows that obese dogs are more at risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. 

A lighter diet with fewer calories, while jam-packed with nutrients is an excellent way to keep your pup in tip-top condition. Senior dogs aren’t as energetic or active as they used to be, which is why nutrition should play a key role in their health.

Try this: portion control and low GI foods

Portion control is one way to prevent obesity. By cutting down on your dog’s calorie intake you can match their energy input with their output. 

Choose a diet that promotes satiety without the need to add more to their plate. Look for real ingredients like chia and quinoa that are high in fibre, making your dog feel fuller for longer. Many dry dog foods use high levels of high-GI carbohydrates such as wheat, rice and potatoes to create a biscuit-like consistency. These carbs are converted to glucose, which causes blood sugar spikes that can lead to diabetes — as well as getting stored as fatty tissue.

Real food with a low GI index is best for an old dog with extra weight because it: 

  • Provides the right amount of energy without being stored as fatty tissue 

  • Gives your pup a slow burning source of energy without causing blood sugar spikes 

  • Decreases the risk of diabetes 

Low GI ingredients like carrot, broccoli, butternut squash, spinach and cauliflower are excellent sources of energy with anti-inflammatory properties. You’ll find butternut squash and cauliflower in our Kangaroo Bowl — the perfect choice for dogs who need to shed some weight. It’s ultra-low in fat and high in quality protein.

Jeffrey testimonial
Shannon Daps testimonial

Stiff joints and impaired mobility

Older dogs are more susceptible to arthritis which causes inflammation, stiffness and pain. Signs of joint-related pain and discomfort include: 

  • Moving slower on walks 

  • Struggling to get in and out of the car 

  • Licking their joints 

  • Weight gain 

  • Changes in their mood 

  • Muscle weakening

Try this: omega-3, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants

Omega-3 and fish oil are proven to ease signs of osteoarthritis and joint inflammation. A 2010 study showed dogs suffering from osteoarthritis and fed a diet higher in omega-3 had a significant improvement in their ability to stand up, walk and play than those on a lower omega-3 diet. Lyka’s Fish Bowl can reduce inflammation and boost mobility, being full of omega-3 sources — including blue grenadier, sardines, flaxseed oil, and fish oil

Lyka’s Lamb Bowl is full of antioxidants (from ingredients like hemp seeds, blueberries, and beetroot) and omega-3s (from safflower oil which promotes cell growth, and fish oil) to reduce inflammation while supporting mobility and healthy joint function.

Omega 3 furry fact

Collagen-rich eggshell membrane is also clinically proven to reduce pain, loosen stiffness, and improve joint mobility in dogs. We’ve added this powerful ingredient to our Joint Supplements. 

Supporting your senior dog through behaviour changes 

The next time you can’t find your glasses, have a thought for your best bud who may also experience a bit of age-related cognitive impairment (and by the way, they’re on your head!). 

If your dog is behaving differently around you and their environment, seems a bit disorientated and has an irregular sleep pattern, they may be experiencing canine cognitive decline (CCD). CCD has been compared to dementia or Alzheimer’s in humans. 

Try this: omega-3, B Vitamins, and arginine

Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to healthy brain function for your dog, supporting the structure of brain cells and aiding in signal transmission between neurons. Look for foods high in B Vitamins, which support the health of brain cells and the production of neurotransmitters. All Lyka meals contain arginine, which crucial to the formation of memory. 

Anxiety

The carefree puppy days might seem like they’re long gone — especially if your dog has grown a little more anxious in old age, whether it’s increased restlessness at night or struggling with time alone. 

Senior dogs can experience anxiety for a range of reasons, including: 

  • Physical health issues 

  • Cognitive decline 

  • Changes to their environment or sleep patterns 

A dog behaviourist can help you in resolving these issues, supported by dietary adjustments to help them cope with any new stress. 

Our long-lasting Pig Twigs are a great option for dogs with a little more nervous energy, because biting and chewing releases endorphins leading to less stress. 

Try this: tryptophan and bioactives 

Promote a sense of calm in stressful situations for your dog with our barn-raised Turkey Bowl. It’s rich in amino acids like tryptophan, and bioactives to help manage inflammation. This can assist with the production and function of “good mood” neurotransmitters in anxious pups. 

Lyka customer anxiety testimonial

For any added natural boost of calm contentment, try our Calm Supplement — it reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) with L-theanine, targeted probiotics, and passionflower extract. Your senior pup’s sleep is also likely to benefit, with increased serotonin and dopamine levels.

Food temperature furry fact

Better digestion

The gut-brain axis is the connection between the digestive and nervous system — controlling almost all functions in the body, whether it’s hormones, cognitive function, or specific health conditions. 

As your older dog changes, so does their gut microbiome. A healthy microbiome is the key to preventative health and a strong immune system. 

Try this: probiotics, prebiotics and dietary fibre

Dysbiosis is an imbalance of the bacteria in the gut which can affect both the digestive and nervous systems. A high protein diet that contains prebiotics like inulin, boswellia serrata and mushrooms and soluble dietary fibre like psyllium seed husk help regulate the microbiome and keep movements regular and firm. 

Probiotics are also important to keep the good bacteria topped up. Lyka’s Digestion Supplements contain B. lactis BB.12 to improve bowel function and ward off bad bacteria, while fortifying a balanced and diverse microbiome. 

If you’re looking for a suitable food for gastrointestinal issues, our free-range Chicken Bowl is a great option for sensitive tummies. It’s low in fat and full of soluble fibre, along with anti-inflammatory ingredients to prevent constipation and irritation in the gut. Being grain-free, it’s even suited to senior dogs with intolerances. 

Gizzie testimonial

Liver support

A fully functioning liver is vital for good health. It detoxifies the blood, supports digestion and energy formation, and creates blood-clotting agents — but it can be vulnerable to disease, infection, and disorders. 

While advanced damage can’t be undone, there are many things you can do to support this organ — with the support of your vet. 

Try this: choose fresh food and healthy fats

The liver is a giant filter. Keep it in peak condition by avoiding very fatty foods and toxins. Processed food, like kibble, often contains artificial preservatives and chemical palatants that mimic the smell and taste of natural ingredients. Ingredients like acrylamide are created in the process and should be avoided. 

Instead, choose a nutritionally balanced diet for senior dogs that contains natural real food ingredients and the correct ratio of omega-3 and omega-6, which the liver can process easily with reduced inflammation. B Vitamins, like Vitamin B12, help in detoxifying the liver. 

Lyka meals all contain turmeric (which has a key bioactive substance called curcumin). This has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving qualities. 

Kidney support

Did you know that dental disease is a leading cause of chronic kidney failure in older dogs? Brushing your dog’s teeth daily is crucial for this reason — as well as maintaining the optimal balance of bacteria in their gastrointestinal (GI) tract. 

Try this: keep the kelp but sack the salt 

Superfoods like kelp defend against tartar formation and plaque by altering the natural antibacterial properties of your dog’s saliva. Lyka’s Dental Supplements includes kelp to promote nice gnashers and healthy gums, and encourage fresher breath. 

Although some salt is good, too much can lead to kidney disease. Our vet-formulated meals contain careful amounts of Celtic Sea Salt which offer the benefit of trace minerals like calcium and magnesium without the high levels of sodium chloride associated with table salt.

Healthy hearts

Heart disease is difficult to prevent as it can be congenital. However, studies have established a link between ‘grain-free’ kibble and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). This is because ‘grain-free’ kibble still relies on high amounts of carbohydrates like legumes that deplete the taurine levels in your pup’s body, which is subsequently linked to DCM. 

But there are steps you can take to help your senior dog maintain a strong and healthy heart. Start by choosing an unprocessed diet that contains low GI carbohydrates in the right amounts for nutrition, rather than foods where high GI carbohydrates are added as an inexpensive way to add bulk. 

Try this: carrots, hemp seeds and beef liver 

High cholesterol can put older dogs at risk of heart disease. Include carrots in your dog's diet to help them benefit from soluble fibre, which can help to regulate blood cholesterol levels. 

Senior dogs often need more protein to support body function and repair. Hemp seeds and beef liver are full of protein, containing amino acids that contribute to excellent heart health. You’ll find both of these powerhouse ingredients in our meals. Our grass-fed Beef Bowl is full of heart-friendly amino acids and low in sodium, and our Sardine Snaps make the perfect treats — being high in coenzyme Q10. 

Incontinence help

With age, dogs lose muscle strength and tone — this includes the muscles that control urination. If your senior pup is experiencing this, check out our guide to incontinence in dogs.  

Here are some things to keep in mind when considering an incontinent dog’s diet: 

  • High moisture diets are more suitable for dogs with urinary issues because they increase hydration. 

  • Lean proteins (like chicken) are preferable, as are foods with turmeric to reduce inflammation. 

  • Spinach can give your pup’s immunity a boost, helping to fight bad bacteria. 

  • Avoid citrus as this can cause pH imbalances in the bladder. 

Eyesight 

As our furry friends age, their eyesight can decline, just like ours. Conditions like cataracts and glaucoma can become more common, affecting their ability to navigate their surroundings and play their favourite games.  

Adding foods rich in antioxidants (like blueberries, carrots, and kale), or our Fish Bowl — which is high in EPA and DHA: two omega-3 fatty acids that play a key role in cellular health. DHA makes up 30% of the fatty acids in the retinas of your dog’s eyes.

What should I feed an old dog losing hair? 

Hair loss and balding can happen around joints as your dog gets older, and golden oldies tend to shed more. With a preventative approach to their diet, you can make sure they bring their shiny coat into their senior years with the optimal mix of essential fatty acids, high quality proteins (like fish and beef), as well as vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants. 

Don’t forget about dehydration

Older dogs tend to drink less water as they age, so they’re more likely to suffer from dehydration. It can also be harder to spot dehydration symptoms in senior dogs, as some symptoms like loss of skin elasticity and lowered activity levels can be easily mistaken as signs of ageing. If left untreated for too long, dehydration can cause serious illness, organ failure or damage to the microbiome. 

Sometimes, leaving out water for your pup is not enough, especially in the heat of summer. One easy way to make sure your pup is getting enough water is by feeding them a real food diet.  

In colder climates, your dog may require food with higher caloric density in order to stay warm: older dogs tend to lose body heat more easily. 

Promote a long and healthy life with Lyka

Time waits for no human (or dog). Although we all grow old, this doesn’t mean our quality of life needs to change.  

A real food diet with natural, easy-to-digest nutrients is the best thing to feed your senior dog. Their internal organs can make better use of these ingredients (compared to those used in commercial foods), leading to better overall health and well-being. 

Ditch the “slow down” narrative and invest in your dog’s golden years today. 

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

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