Should I Feed my Senior Dog a Grain Free Food?

If your dog is nearing seven years of age, it’s time to start thinking about a food for senior dogs. Even though he might still seem as fit and active as ever, as he enters his senior years, internally his body starts to undergo changes. His metabolic rate starts to decrease, which over time can lead to a decrease in lean body mass and an increase in fat mass, as well as possible weight gain. To help your senior dog maintain a healthy body condition, a good senior food for all but the most highly active canine athletes should provide:
- Slightly less fat than adult dog food
- Higher protein content than regular adult dog food, to help senior dogs compensate for age-associated lean body mass loss and inefficient protein turnover rates
- Enhanced antioxidant levels for extra immune system support as a senior dog ages
- Adaptive calorie levels to support ideal body condition and joint health 
- Omega-3 fatty acids to help support healthy joint function
- Highly digestible ingredients that are easy for an aging digestive system to handle

What about grain free senior dog food?
If you’re interested in trying a grain free senior dog food, there are a number of grain free options in the grocery aisle today. Specialty stores may offer specific grain free solutions for dogs over 7 years of age. However, if your dog doesn’t have a food intolerance or allergy involving grains, remember that whole grains such as oats and brown rice are ingredients that help maintain the health of the digestive system.

Whole grains are also a good source of protein, and contain valuable antioxidants that fruits and vegetables can’t provide. Key nutrients that whole grains can provide for your dog include: B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, protein, iron, fiber and potassium.

Isn’t protein bad for senior dogs?
You might have heard that increased protein levels can contribute to kidney issues in senior dogs. This is a misconception, and a potentially dangerous one. According to the nutrition experts at Purina® healthy senior dogs require increased dietary protein in order to maintain lean body mass. So be sure to choose a senior dog food formulated with more dietary protein than adult maintenance formulas.

A visit to your veterinarian is a good place to start your search to find the right senior dog food. Your veterinarian knows both your dog and the nutrition options available, and can help guide you to a choice that will help keep your dog enjoying more healthy years.

1. Oats and Brown Rice: Healthy Whole Grains Your Dog Can Eat. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/oats-and-brown-rice-healthy-whole-grains-your-dog-can-eat-2/