Dog Food For Senior Dogs With Health Problems

Choosing dog food for senior dogs with health problems can be a challenge. 

Do you want low fat?  Low carb? Low calorie? Low sodium? High protein?

Or do you need supplements to help with heart health, joint problems or eye health?

Or perhaps you need a grain-free food, or one specifically formulated for older dogs with digestive issues?

Whatever it is you're looking for, this page has a variety of premium options to choose from.

Choosing the best food for senior dogs with health problems

There's bound to be one that will fit your dogs needs, and your pocket.

You can use these quick links to jump to food that's designed to meet the diet and health requirements of your golden oldie...

Best Food For Pancreatic Problems or Obesity

Low fat dog food is recommended for dogs with certain health conditions. These include:

  • Pancreatitis (can be caused by high-fat diet, diabetes, injury or illness) 
  • Some metabolic disorders
  • Irritable Bowel Disease
  • Fat-intolerance or mal-absorbtion (from liver or gall bladder disease, or infection)
  • Obesity

But how low is 'low fat' and what else do you need to look for? 

Here's a rough guide to fat content levels...

  • Low fat = less than 10%
  • Moderate fat = 10 - 15%
  • High fat = over 20% 

For dogs with Pancreas problems:

Research indicates that for a dog with pancreatitis, a formula containing 9% and 12% fat is reasonable, if necessary 7 - 10% can be found.

Less than that and your dog may be perpetually hungry, suffer from poor coat and skin condition, and be tired all the time.

Keep the protein content above-average, because low levels of protein can make pancreatitis worse.

For dogs who are overweight:

Again, 9% - 12% is recommended

Higher protein content is a good thing if you're trying to help your dog lose weight too because more protein helps to keep him full and satisfied for longer...  but won't pack on the pounds.

Look for lower calorie formulas. You'll see this as 'Kcal' (usually per cup) on dog food labels. Aim for 250 - 350 kcal, and with slightly higher fat levels - around 10% - 15%. 

Moderate levels of carbohydrates (some foods for weight loss have a high-carb content, avoid those) and fiber are recommended.

CLICK HERE to learn how to estimate the carbohydrate content of any dog food.

TIP: Many 'Senior' dog food formulas fall within, or close to, these criteria.

Canned food is usually significantly higher in protein and fat content than dry food, but you can't tell that from reading the label. In fact according to the label it looks the opposite!

This is because canned dog food is obviously much higher in water content than dry kibble, and so the percentage of nutrients isn't measured in quite the same way, so the figures on the label can be misleading.

In order to compare like-for-like you need to make some quick calculations!

Method: Subtract the % of moisture from 100%, then divide the percentage of individual nutrient (ie protein, fat, carbs etc.) by the result.

Example: A canned dog food contains 80% moisture, 8% protein and 5% fat....

So 100% - 80% (moisture) = 20%

Protein: 8% (0.08%) divided by 20% (0.20%) = 40% (0.40%)

Fat: 5% (0.05%) divided by 20% (0.20%) = 23% (0.25%)

* Bear in mind that dry kibble contains some moisture too, usually less than 10%, so you can fine-tune the figures given for these using the above formula if you want to. It doesn't change the bottom line a whole lot, but it does make a little difference.

For the canned foods on this page I've done the calculations for you!

Annamaet 23%
Adult Dog Food

Protein: min 23%

Fat: min 10%

Kcal: 365 per cup

Annamaet Grain Free
Lean Dog Food

Protein: min 30%

Fat: 7% - 9%

Kcal: 350 per cup

Precise Holistic Complete
Senior Dog Food

Protein: min 25%

Fat: min 10%

Kcal: 392.79 per cup

Castor & Pollux Ultramix
Weight Management

Protein: min 23.5%

Fat: min 9.5%

Kcal: 340 per cup

Wellness Complete Health
Natural Senior Health

Protein: min 21%

Fat: min 10%

Kcal: 340 per cup

Holistic Select Natural
Senior Recipe

Protein: min 26%

Fat: min 10%

Kcal: 368  per cup

Ultra Weight Management
Adult Canned Food

Protein: 35%

Fat: 12.5%

Kcal: 352 per can

Wellness Complete Health
Senior Recipe

Protein: 54%

Fat: 12.5%

Kcal: 379 per can

Natural Choice Lg. Breed, Weight Management

Protein: 54%

Fat: 13%

Kcal: 284 per can

Best Food For Senior Dogs With Diabetes

Diet plays a very important role in controlling diabetes.

Veterinarians believe that diabetic dogs suffer from Type 1 Diabetes (unlike cats and humans who can have either Type 1 or Type 2). Type 1 is a life-long condition.

Currently, general recommendations are that the best dog foods for dogs with diabetes are those with a low glycemic index, a low carbohydrate content, moderate-to-high fiber levels and moderate-to-low fat content.

BUT every dog is different, and some dogs have additional health problems.

I'd always strongly recommend that you check with your veterinarian for dietary advice if your dog suffers from this health issue before you decide on a food.

What does 'food with a low Glycemic Index' mean?

The glycemic index is what measures how quickly food is converted into sugar.

Foods with high on this scale are converted to sugar quickly, and can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. This is NOT good for a dog with diabetes.

Foods on the low end of the scale convert more slowly and help your dog's blood sugars stay level, which aids in controlling the diabetes.

Although research is still very much ongoing in terms of learning more about how diet affects diabetes, and which foods work best, it's believed that fiber helps to slow down the rate at which glucose (sugar broken down by the body) is absorbed into the bloodstream.

This also helps to keep blood sugars stable.

Carbohydrates that are considered to have a low glycemic index (defined as a GI of 55 or lower) include fruits, vegetables, beans pulses (such as lentils or chickpeas) and nuts.

As a rule of thumb, low-carb dog food has a low glycemic index. Look for dog food labeled as 'low glycemic index carbohydrates' or 'low carb formula'.

Your diabetic dog may do just fine on a high quality adult maintenance food, or need a food that is targeted specifically towards another/additional health problem (such as obesity, pancreatic problems or cancer). Every dog is different!

Dry dog food (kibble) is naturally higher in carbohydrates than canned food.

Here are some premium dog foods that might be a good choice for your dog. They all contain low glycemic index carbohydrates.....

Holistic Select Natural Grain Free Adult Food

Protein: 32%

Fat:  14%

Fiber:  5.5%

Kcal: 376 per cup

Orijen Grain-Free Adult Formula

Protein: 38%

Fat: 18%

Fiber: 5%

Kcal: 478 per cup

Wysong Optimal Senior Canine Dry Diet

Protein: 40%

Fat: 14%

Fiber: 5%

Kcal: approx. 400 per cup

Livefree Dog
Lamb Stew

Protein: 44%

Fat: 22%

Fiber: 5%

Kcal: 375 per cup

Dogswell LiveFree Senior Chicken Recipe

Protein: 35%

Fat: 15%

Fiber: 4%

Kcal: 394 per cup

Wellness Complete Health Natural Senior Recipe

Protein: 31%

Fat: 13%

Fiber: 13%

Kcal: 379 per can (12.5oz)

Best Food For Dogs With Liver Problems

Not all experts agree on what type of food is best for dogs suffering from liver problems.

In fact, for mildly elevated liver enzymes, no dietary change seems to be recommended at all.

But for more severe liver disease, where liver function is impaired enough to the point that dangerous levels of substances (such as copper or ammonia) are building up in your dog's body, then your veterinarian may recommend a diet change in addition to veterinary treatment.

For dogs with significant liver disease, a prescription-based diet is likely to be advised, or at least one that has very specific veterinary guidelines to follow.

But for the prevention, or treatment of mildly elevated liver enzymes, recent research seems to show that it's not necessary to choose dog food that's really low in protein or fat. 

Not enough of either of these nutrients can make the situation worse. Overall the QUALITY of the protein and fat sources are more important than the quantity. 

Choose dog food with moderate to low levels of both protein and fat.

The key is to choose high-quality protein sources and fats that are easy to digest.

The most digestible sources of protein are eggs (especially egg whites), muscle meat and organ meat.

Look for fats that are specifically 'named'... eg. chicken  fat or sunflower oil, not generic fats.

AvoDerm Natural Adult Dog Food

Protein: 20%

Fat: 10%

Fiber: 6%

Kcal: 340 per cup

Natural Balance Liver & Rice Recipe

Protein: 40%

Fat: 22%

Fiber: 6%

Kcal: 400 per can (13oz)

Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Adult

Protein: 30%

Fat: 12%

Fiber: 3.5%

Kcal: 395 per cup

Best Food For Dogs With Heart Disease

Canine heart disease in older dogs can come in a variety of different forms including a heart murmur, heart valve problems and congestive heart failure.

Recent research seems to show that it's not necessary (or even beneficial) to feed a dog with heart problems a diet that is low in protein.

In fact higher protein levels are now recommended.

For dogs with early stage heart disease, little restriction on sodium is needed.

If your dog has moderate to severe heart failure then keeping sodium levels between 50mg/Kcal and 80mg/Kcal is recommended.

It's also important to keep sodium levels consistent from meal to meal and day to day to prevent spikes.

Avoid commercial dog treats which are often high in sodium, try veggies or tiny pieces of lean meat.

Freeze-dried liver treats (high in vitamins, minerals and protein) are adored by dogs everywhere and are perfect for special occasions.

The most important thing to look for is high-quality natural, preferably organic, ingredients.  

Look for formulas that contain:

  • Premium meat-based protein sources (minimum 25%, max 40% protein)
  • Moderate sodium content (between 80mg per 100 Kcal and 50mg per 100 Kcal) 
  • Added Taurine, L-Carnitine, Omega-3 fatty acids, COQ10, Magnesium and B vitamins are recommended (these can be in the food, or added as supplements).

Here are some commercial dog foods that are a good choice for senior dogs with heart problems...

Castor & Pollux Organix Adult Formula

Protein: 26%

Fat: 14%

Omega-3 & Omega-6 

B Vitamins

Orijen Adult Dog Food

Protein: 38%

Fat: 18%

Omega-3 & Omega-6

B Vitamins

AvoDerm Natural Triple Protein Meal

Protein: 26%

Fat: 13%

Omega-3 & Omega-6

B Vitamins


NATURAL CHOICE Adult High Endurance Formula

Protein: 30%

Fat: 20%

B Vitamins

Taurine & L-Carnitine

Natural Balance Alpha Grain-Free Formula

Protein: 26%

Fat: 11.5%

Omega-3 & Omega-6

B Vitamins


Merrick Classic Chicken, Brown Rice & Peas

Protein: 30%

Fat: 15%

Omega-3 & Omega-6

B Vitamins

Best Dog Food Choices For Dogs With Cancer

If your senior dog (or a dog of any age for that matter) has cancer, the type of nutrition he gets can help, or hinder, the growth of the tumor/s.

A tumor needs energy to grow, and it gets that energy from the food your dog eats.

If the diet isn't formulated to thwart the tumor's needs, it can use up more of the energy and nutrients than your dog's body does, and lead to weakness, loss of muscle, loss of weight and more.

'Cancer Cachexia' is very common... and this is the name given to the type of consistent weight loss you often see in canine cancer patients. If it becomes severe it can be almost as dangerous as the tumor!

So, how do you help your dog's body fight the cancer, while  maintaining the level of nutrition he needs to stay strong and at a healthy weight?

The answer is in the type and balance of nutrients in his food.

Research and studies show that these are what you should look for in a food for dogs with cancer:

  • Low levels of carbohydrates (less than 25%). They NEED to be complex-carbohydrates which include whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans & legumes. Simple carbs such as those from processed grains or corn syrup are going to help the tumor, not your dog!

  • Above-average levels of high-quality protein (aim for 30% - 45%)

  • Moderate to high levels of healthy fats, aim for at least 25%.  These might include Omega-3 fatty acids, coconut oil, fish oils).  

  • Calorie-dense formulas because a dog with cancer is likely to have less appetite than normal and you want him to get the maximum nutrition from whatever he eats.

Calorie content often isn't given on a dog food bag/can, unless it's being advertised as a 'low calorie' or 'lite' formula.

To figure out how calorie-dense a food is you need to look at the ME (metabolised energy) part of the label, basically the Kcal figure as given in many of the dog foods on this page.

Measuring Kcal per cup isn't always entirely accurate in comparisons, the figure per kg or lb is more accurate, but not always available on the packaging.

The higher the Kcal figure the more calories (and therefore energy) is in the food.

To work out the carbohydrate content:

You won't see the carbohydrate figures on the bag/can either. But this is fairly easy to work out. 

The majority of any dog food is made up of protein, fat, carbohydrates, moisture and ash. 

(Ash is the mineral content of the food, and although you won't see it listed for all foods, it's there and generally accounts for between 5% and 8% of the food. Use 8% for these purposes.)

So, to find out what percentage of carbs are in any dog food, simply add up the figures for protein, fat, moisture and ash and subtract it from 100 (as in 100%).

The number you're left with is the approx. carbohydrate content of the food.

*For the foods listed below I've done the calculations for you :)

SOLID GOLD Barking at the Moon Adult Dog Food

Protein: 41%

Fat: 20.5%

Carbs: approx. 21%

Kcal: 3855/Kg or 425/cup

Orijen Freeze-Dried Regional Red Formula

Protein: 36%

Fat: 35%

Carbs: approx. 17%

Kcal: 75 per medallion

Dr. Tim's Premium Natural Active Dog Food

Protein: 30%

Fat: 20%

Carbs: 32%

Kcal: 3945/kg or 450/cup

Instinct Grain-Free Chicken Meal Formula

Protein: 38%

Fat: 20%

Carbs: 24%

Kcal: 3931/kg or 462/cup

Grandma Lucy's Freeze-Dried

Protein: 39%

Fat: 15%

Carbs: 38%

Kcal: 4249/Kg or 604/cup

ZiwiPeak Grain-Free Air-Dried Formula

Protein: 35%

Fat: 34%

Carbs: 10%

Kcal: 4680/Kg

The Importance Of Veterinary  Advice

If your dog has a serious health problem I'd always recommend discussing diet with your veterinarian before choosing a dog food.

Although all the foods on this page fit the general guidelines (and the most recent research) for dogs with certain health issues, every single dog is a unique individual.

With our senior dogs there may well be more than one health problem in play, and that can complicate matters. 

Your vet knows your dog best, and is in the best position to give you advice and recommendations for a dog food that will fit him/her best... and not interact, or worsen, any other health problem that may exist.

Would you prefer to avoid commercial dog foods but aren't sure how to make healthy, nutritious home-made meals that will meet YOUR seniors' needs?

Need help and advice on ingredients and recipes for specific health issues?

If so, then this book has might just be exactly what you've been looking for......

Home Cooking For Sick Dogs: 5 Ingredient Recipes For The Crock Pot

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