Diet and older dogs

‘Age,’ according to the actress Helen Heyes (and she should know, because she was still working at 90!), ‘is not important unless you are a cheese.’ Happily, as dogs become older, they generally seem to actively resist the aging process or, in the words of Dylan Thomas, to ‘rage against the dying of the light’.
Still, there is no doubt that the passing of the years can bring physical and mental changes to our four-legged family members. Diet has a huge role to play here. It can help prevent and alleviate illness and all the other symptoms of aging.

(As an aside, there is quite a bit of evidence that food can actually reverse aging in humans. For example, a Yale study proved that biological age can be reduced by more than three years in only eight weeks by a combination of diet and lifestyle changes – something to do with balancing DNA methylation… who knew? Obviously, dogs aren’t humans but still there can be no doubt that diet can make a huge difference.)

With this in mind, we generally suggest that as dogs move out of middle age to what is euphemistically called their ‘golden years’, we review their overall diet and, in so far as it is possible without a physical examination, their health. If you would like such a review all you have to do is call or email.,

When can a dog be considered ‘older’

At what point ought a dog be considered older aka senior? There is no easy answer to this. Broadly speaking, smaller breeds live longer than larger breeds. For a Great Dane it could be seven or eight, for a Jack Russell Terrier it could be as late as fourteen or fifteen. Every dog is different. The questions to ask oneself include:

– Are they still healthy, active and free of disease?

– Have they slowed down, perhaps getting a little stiff and arthritic?

– Has he or she put on a bit of weight for no apparent reason?

– Are they drinking more water than usual?

A healthy and active senior will still need a reasonable calorie intake, whereas a more inactive older dog may benefit from a lower fat, reduced calorie diet.

Some general tips

– Fat is a very good source of calories and easily digested by a younger dog. However, once they become a little older, dogs can be more susceptible to weight gain (as exercise reduces), as well as health issues such as pancreatitis, and liver problems. It can therefore be worth reducing the amount of very high fat recipes in the diet for a senior dog, replacing them with leaner options, to help support their aging organs and maintain a healthy weight.

– There are arguments both for and against limiting protein content in an older dog. Protein helps to maintain muscle mass, so it is important to continue to include it as dogs get older. However, in some older dogs, aging organs, such as the kidneys and liver, can start to become less efficient. If this is the case, it may be necessary to avoid higher protein meats such as our Wild recipes.

– Obesity in older pets is a very real concern. As dogs start to become less active in their daily lives they will use less calories and, if the food is not adjusted to account for this, they will gain weight. It is sometimes hard to notice that they may walk a little more than they run, when walks are still the same length. Being slightly overweight puts more strain on older joints that may already be starting to suffer from arthritis. Maintaining an optimum weight will keep your senior dog active for longer, with better muscle tone to support the joints.

Your vet’s involvement

Prevention is better than cure! Even if your dog is bursting with health and energy we would always suggest regular veterinary health checks (including blood screening) once they reach the senior years.

Let’s talk!

The Honey’s Healthcare Team are happy to discuss the most appropriate diet for each older dog, taking into account the breed, age, and health of the dog. If you would like to discuss your senior dog with us, or would like to review the recipes on your current order, just give the Healthcare team a call on 01672 620260 and select option 2, or drop us an email ( We are always very happy to help.