old golden retriever

What's the Best Senior Dog Food?

Last updated 12 March 2024

This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever BVSc (Hons) and last updated by Dr Gillian Hill BVSc (Hons).

As dogs age, their nutritional needs change, requiring a diet that supports their health and vitality. With advances in veterinary care, our dogs are living for longer than ever before. Unfortunately along with old age comes conditions such as arthritis, muscle wastage, hearing and vision loss and cognitive decline. Traditionally most pet parents have taken for granted that all old dogs 'slow down' to some extent, but recent breakthroughs in canine nutrition have shown that this no longer has to be the case.

With the plethora of dietary options available, selecting the best senior dog food can be daunting. This article aims to simplify the process by exploring key factors to consider when choosing food for your senior canine companion. From understanding the unique nutritional requirements of older dogs to deciphering ingredients, we'll provide insights to help you make an informed decision. Whether your senior dog prefers wet, dry, or a combination of both, this guide will assist you in selecting the ideal diet to keep your furry friend healthy and happy in their golden years.

Effects of ageing on a dog's dietary needs

Caloric requirements

Senior dogs have different nutritional requirements compared to when they were a young, active puppy and adult. They are often less active and have a slower metabolism which means that they require fewer calories and less fat to prevent excessive weight gain, but an easily digestible, high quality diet to help them maintain good muscle condition.

Joint issues

Our senior dogs also tend to suffer more from joint issues, with 2 out of 3 dogs over the age of 7 having some degenerative joint disease, or arthritis. So, joint support utilising one or more ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin, green lipped mussel, green tea extract, vitamins with potent antioxidant effects and omega fatty acids become an important part of supporting dogs through the ageing process. Research has shown that joint support ingredients included within the diet actually have more benefit than those taken as supplements alongside the diet.

Cognitive decline

The brain cells of young adult dogs utilise glucose from the bloodstream in order to carry out their functions, such as memory, learning and decision making. Research has shown that over time as dogs age, their brains become less efficient at utilising glucose as an energy source which in turn causes signs of cognitive decline.

Signs of cognitive decline in dogs:

  • Sleeping more
  • Less interested in playing or other enjoyable activities
  • Appearing lost or disoriented in familiar places
  • Nighttime restlessness
  • Loss of toilet training

Best senior dog foods:

  1. Best for brain health support: Pro Plan Bright Minds
  2. Best for cognitive decline: Hills Prescription b/d
  3. Best for joint support: Royal Canin Ageing
  4. Best for sensitive stomachs: Hills Science Diet 7+ Perfect Digestion
  5. Best grain free: Open Farm
  6. Most Affordable Premium Range: Advance
  7. Best wet food: Advance Healthy Ageing Single Serve Trays

How We Review Our Products

Our Pet Circle Vet Squad comprises 30 vets with over 120 years of collective, independent veterinary expertise. Our Vet team use their health and husbandry knowledge, along with their own personal and clinical experiences to evaluate each product and provide detailed, informative reviews, free of any commercial bias. We then collate this information into our 'best of' recommendations.

Top foods for senior dogs in Australia

Best for Brain Health Support: Pro Plan Bright Minds


  • Made in Australia
  • Promotes alertness and mental sharpness in ageing dogs
  • Non-prescription diet - does not require your vets recommendation


  • Not available in specific small breed version - the medium and large breed version is suitable for small breeds also
  • Chicken is the number 1 ingredient, so these diets are not suitable for dogs with sensitivities to chicken
  • May not offer sufficient support for dogs diagnosed with dementia

Oxidative damage, reduced brain mass and blood flow, and the accumulation of toxic substances can all cause age-related changes to the brains of ageing dogs. The brain also becomes less able to metabolise glucose as an energy source, and all these factors together contribute to cognitive dysfunction - what we would call dementia in humans. Pro Plan have developed their Bright Minds senior dog food range to help combat these changes. The Pro Plan senior dog foods contain enhanced botanical oils (also known as medium chain triglycerides) to provide the brain with an alternate energy source to glucose, along with antioxidants and other brain supporting nutrients, to support the brain to function at it's best.

Along with these cognitive benefits, the Pro Plan Bright Minds dog foods contain omega 3-fatty acids and glucosamine to support joint health and mobility, as 2 out of 3 dogs over the age of 7 suffer from some form of arthritis.

What our customers say: "I have been feeding this to my now 16 year old dog for nearly a year now. It has made a huge improvement in her health as far as her alertness, movement and coat condition. Thankful to have found it."

Shop Pro Plan Bright Minds

Best for Cognitive Decline: Hills Prescription Brain Aging Care b/d


  • Contains multiple ingredients known to have a positive effect on cognitive function
  • Includes L-carnitine to help older dogs metabolise fat to maintain a healthy weight and lean muscle mass
  • Contains controlled levels of phosphorus and protein to support ageing kidneys
  • Clinically proven to improve memory and learning in older dogs


  • Not made in Australia
  • Available in only one bag size (7.98kg)

For dogs showing signs of cognitive dysfunction, including disorientation, confusion, pacing, loss of toilet training and excessive sleeping, it's important to have your best mate checked out by your vet. Your vet will ensure that there are no other causes to explain these symptoms, and may prescribe Hills Prescription Brain Aging Care Dry Food.

This is a specialised therapeutic diet with a combination of mitochondrial cofactors, antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids proven to help support cognitive function and reduce age related behavioural changes in older dogs. As it is a prescription diet, it needs to be recommended specifically by your treating veterinarian.

What our customers say: "My standard poodle of 12 years old was struck down with a neuromuscular disease last year and as a consequence ended up mostly blind and deaf with dementia. He was not sleeping, had no spark, spent the whole night pacing the house and panting. We put him on meds plus the brain diet... What a difference! He started playing with his sister, sleeping and basically having a lovely golden years life. I ran out of biscuits recently and he started to regress, the biscuits arrived and his spark returned. Amazing!"

Shop Hills Prescription Brain Aging Care Dry Food

Best for Joint Support: Royal Canin Senior Dog Foods


  • Available in specific products for breed size, as well as for dogs in their mature, as well as senior years, to suit your dog's specific age and breed size
  • All products in this range contain green tea polyphenols for joint support, along with glucosamine and chondrotin in the Maxi varieties for large breed dogs, and the Medium Breed over 10 years of age variety


  • Not made in Australia
  • Each variety is only available in one bag size
  • All varieties are poultry-based
  • May not contain enough joint support for dogs with diagnosed arthritis

Dominating the market for their range of senior dog foods, Royal Canin offer varieties for dogs of all breed sizes, in both mature and senior varieties. For small breed dogs under 10kg bodyweight, the Mini Adult 8+ and Ageing 12+ foods contain green tea polyphenols for joint support, along with antioxidants and enhanced palatability to satisfy the commonly fussy appetite of small breed dogs. The Ageing 12+ Mini variety also contains an adapted phosphorus content to support kidney function.

For medium sized dogs, the Medium 7+ contains green tea polyphenols for joint support, while the Ageing 10+ also includes glucosamine and chondroitin. Both the Maxi 5+ and Maxi 8+ contain green tea polyphenols and glucosamine and chondroitin, since large breed dogs are more prone to joint issues as they age.

Each of the Ageing varieties (Mini 12+, Medium 10+ and Maxi 8+) is also available in an equivalent wet food, ideal for mixed feeding. This is particularly helpful as dogs can become more fussy with food as they age, and wet food can help to increase palatability and overall acceptance of food.

All varieties contain antioxidants to help fight the ageing process. Unfortunately, all the varieties are poultry-based so they are not suitable for dogs with sensitivities to poultry proteins. Each variety also only comes in only one bag size option.

For dogs with diagnosed arthritis, prescription mobility diets offer a greater level of joint support, so we would recommend speaking with your vet about the best dietary options for your dog in these cases. Diets such as the Hills Joint Care Diets and Royal Canin Mobility Support contain therapeutic levels of joint support ingredients.

What our customers say: "After trying ALL the other aged dog foods this one excelled. Dry food was gentler on his teeth and the wet food he loved. Pricey, but compared to all I have wasted over the years - I am now saving... anyone who is in the same boat and has tried everything including gourmet chicken and raw should try this. "

What our vets say: "I like to recommend the Royal Canin ageing dry food range for senior dogs for several reasons. Firstly, Royal canin is a premium brand of dog food which is highly nutritious and based on the individual dog’s life stage and suited to that. For example, our giant breed dogs age faster than our smaller breeds so there is a maxi adult 5yrs + and 9yrs+ option (for our large breed dogs) and small breed having an 8yrs+ and 12yrs+ option. All the senior diets are formulated to help prevent age related loss of muscle mass which all dogs will experience with ageing. They also contain omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and glucosamine to help your dog stay active by supporting their bones and joints. The kibble size is related to the breed size with the mini ageing 12 plus diet having a unique kibble which is rehydratable and has exclusive flavours to stimulate appetite in our ageing small breed dogs. All the senior dry food range contains nutrients to bind salivary calcium which helps to reduce dental tartar formation for good oral health." - Dr. Angie

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Best for Sensitive Stomachs: Hills Science Diet Perfect Digestion 7+


  • Infused with prebiotics to support the gastrointestinal microbiome
  • Also contains antioxidants to fight the ageing process, as well as controlled fat and calorie content to prevent excessive weight gain in older years
  • Available in small breed 7+, as well as standard 7+ varieties


  • Not made in Australia
  • Contains omega fatty acids, but not other specific joint support
  • May not be suitable for your dog's specific digestive issue
  • Available only in 1 bag size of 5.44kg

The only dry food formulated specifically for senior dogs with digestive sensitivities, the Hills Perfect Digestion 7+ goes one step further, offering a small bites variety for small breeds as well! The Perfect Digestion contains a specially developed blend of prebiotics, as well as whole grain oats and pumpkin to nourish the good bacteria in the gut and support the digestive process.

The Hills Perfect Digestion senior variety has controlled fat and calorie content to prevent excessive weight gain (and all the complications which go hand in hand) in the less active senior years. It also contains omega fatty acids, however does not offer any additional joint support, so for dogs with digestive sensitivities as well as deteriorating mobility, it would be ideal to use a joint supplement in addition, or speak to your vet about the most appropriate diet for your dog.

What our customers say: "My fussiest fussy Cavvie loves it - and this is a high claim. He is 14 yo and never really liked any dry food - I went though all of the top shelf brands before. So he was mostly on a human grade diet like meats with a bit of kibbles to snick through when you are lucky. Surprisingly for me he is willingly eating it. I like how kibbles are smaller and flat; it helps with older dog chewing difficulties."

What our vets say: "Senior dogs with digestive sensitivities would benefit from a diet specifically made to support their dietary needs at this advanced stage of life. The Hill's Science Diet Perfect Digestion 7+ recipes are complete and balanced diets that come in a regular kibble size and a Small Bites version that's perfect for small and toy breeds. They contain high quality lean protein to maintain healthy body condition, a special blend of prebiotics to nourish gut health, and clinically proven antioxidants to keep your older dogs feeling bright, healthy, and happy throughout their golden years." - Dr. Tony

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Best Grain-Free: Open Farm Senior Dry Food


  • Contains only humanely and sustainably sourced ingredients, with a focus on animal welfare in the production process
  • Every ingredient is traceable using the lot code on the packaging
  • No grain, corn, wheat or soy
  • Packaging can be recycled through the Open Farm Pet Food Bag Recycling Program
  • Contains glucosamine, chondroitin and New Zealand green lipped mussel for joint support
  • Available in 1.8kg and 10kg bags


  • Not made in Australia
  • On the more expensive side for dry dog foods

Every Open Farm product is proudly produced with a focus on transparent sourcing and traceability, humane production animal welfare standards, ethically sourced ingredients, and sustainable fishing practices in line with Ocean Wise Standards. For an environmentally friendly, grain-free senior dog food, you can't go past this one.

Alongside their environmentally friendly values, Open Farm foods are made with the most premium proteins and superfoods, providing the highest quality ingredients for your dog. Their recipes are free from grain, corn, wheat and soy.

Along with glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped mussel for joint support, the Open Farm Senior dog food also contains flaxseed, salmon and coconut oil for skin support, as well as ingredients for gut support.

On the down side, the Open Farm foods are expensive options, though you do 'get what you pay for' with the highest quality, premium ingredients. The Open Farm foods are also not made locally - they are imported from Canada.

What our customers say: "I am very happy to have found this dry food for my dog. The quality and the mix of ingredients are great. My dog has a sensitive stomach and after several tries, this food has not given him any reaction and he loves it! Open Farm will always be my first choice. "

Shop Open Farm Senior Dog Food

Most Affordable Premium: Advance Healthy Ageing Range


  • Australian-made, scientifically based premium food
  • Comes in 3 different breed size formulations - small, medium and large
  • Contains ingredients to support the brain, joints, immune system and digestive system of ageing dogs
  • Comes in a range of bag sizes depending on breed size


  • All diets contain chicken or chicken fat, so may not be suitable for pets with chicken allergies
  • Not all diets have bulk buy options
  • Larger bags (20kg) are not resealable

ADVANCE is a premium quality, Australian made product backed by over 45 years of experience and science to deliver the best nutrition to your dog. ADVANCE focuses on top of the range nutrition and providing for long term health with all of their diets using omega fatty acids and zinc for a healthy skin and coat, antioxidants for immune support, fermentable prebiotic fibres for healthy gut and a delicious, highly palatable formula to tempt even the fussiest eaters.

Whilst there are cheaper foods, we have chosen ADVANCE as the most affordable senior dog range, because we know that premium foods are the most beneficial to your dog's daily health. Supermarket foods, while they may look cheaper initially, often have batch inconsistencies that can lead to frequent tummy upsets and subsequent further expense. They use lower quality ingredients and poorly digestible nutrients that lead to you feeding more food to meet your dog's daily requirements, which makes them more expensive in the long run. The use of lower quality ingredients can also mean more wastage, with larger, smellier poops! Supermarket diets also often lack added supplements for health support such as joints, skin and coat, and dental as well. So, while you are looking to cut costs wherever you can, it is still important to ensure that your dog is receiving a nutritionally balanced and complete diet that is going to nourish them and keep them looking and feeling their best.

The ADVANCE range of senior foods contains ingredients to support many aspects of the ageing process, including DHA and antioxidants to support brain function, green lipped mussel powder to help maintain healthy joints, antioxidants to support a strong immune system and prebiotics to support healthy digestion for smaller, firmer stools.

What our customers say: "My 11 yo dog was struggling with jumping onto the couch and general mobility. Changed his diet to Advance and he's a puppy again."

What our vets say: "I love that Advance is Australian made, so you can support the local industry whilst feeding your dog a premium, nutrient-dense diet backed by science. Advance has a wide range of diets available so you can ensure you are choosing the best tailored diet for your dog's life stage, breed or health concern. Advance is a great option if you're looking for value for money, as it compares to the quality of other premium brands but often at a reduced price." - Dr Jacqui

Shop ADVANCE Healthy Ageing Range

Best Wet Food: Advance Healthy Ageing Single Serve Trays


  • Formulated specifically for senior dogs with a tailored fat content to reduce excessive weight gain, and enriched with antioxidants
  • Increases a dog's water intake, which is beneficial for kidney function and overall vitality
  • Made locally in Australia


  • Available only in single serve trays
  • Not specifically formulated for breed sizes
  • More expensive, and more packaging used, than other senior dog foods

Advance Healthy Ageing Single Serve trays are a great way to add variety to your senior dog's diet. They contain a tailored fat content, to help prevent excessive weight gain as dog's age, as activity levels do tend to drop with increasing age. The Advance Healthy Ageing wet food also contains antioxidants to help reduce the effects of ageing on the body.

I personally feed my senior dog the Advance Healthy Ageing Single Serve trays as her nightly meal, and it's safe to say, dinner time is her favourite time of the day. As taste and smell can reduce with age, offering food that is at it's freshest is ideal, and as this Advance food comes in single serves, it's easy to ensure that what you're offering is the freshest it can be.

On the downside, as it comes in single serve trays, the Advance Healthy Ageing wet food is more expensive than other premium senior wet foods that are available in cans per 100g, and also uses more packaging. The number of trays which would need to be fed to larger breed dogs may make this food uneconomical.

What our customers say: "Small but good for pill pockets or a lickymat - I have a senior greyhound who loves this product and it seems to agree with her stomach too."

What our vets say: "For our older dogs, I recommend Advance Healthy Ageing wet food trays to support their changing needs. It contains antioxidants to improve their brain health and nutrients for healthy digestion and strong immune system. Wet foods help to increase hydration which is beneficial for our golden oldies to support their kidney and urinary health." - Dr. Michelle

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What to look for in senior dog food

Breed size specific food

Small breed senior dogs have different requirements to large breed senior dogs, just as they do as puppies and throughout their adult years. Smaller breed dogs tend to live longer, and therefore can benefit from more antioxidants in their foods, to help reduce the oxidant effects leading to the signs of ageing over time. In contrast, as large breed dogs are more prone to joint issues in their senior years, they benefit more from joint support ingredients, and controlled calories, to reduce strain on their joints. Look for senior foods formulated specifically for your dog's size, to really target their nutrition to their needs.

For our top recommendations for small, medium and large breed senior dogs, take a look at our article on Senior Dog Care.

Joint Support

Particularly for medium to large breed senior dogs, look for senior foods which include a high level of joint support ingredients, such as green lipped mussel, green tea polyphenols, glucosamine and chondroitin.

For more information regarding joint support for senior dogs, read all about Arthritis in Dogs.

High-quality protein

Senior dogs require a diet rich in high-quality protein to maintain lean muscle mass. Look for dog foods that list meat or meat meals (dehydrated, ground meat) as the primary ingredients.

Lower calories and fat content

Older dogs tend to be less active and may have slower metabolisms, making them more prone to weight gain. Opt for senior dog foods that are formulated with reduced calories and lower fat content to help manage weight.

Antioxidants and vitamins

Older dogs can benefit from a diet rich in antioxidants and essential vitamins, which help support their immune system and overall vitality. Look for dog foods that contain antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene.

Add in a wet food

Adding wet food to your senior dog's diet can help tempt fussy eaters and also keeps their water intake on track to support optimal hydration, which in turn helps to reduce the risk of urinary stones and kidney issues. Water intake in dogs can be lowered if their mobility is reduced due to arthritis or other health conditions, as they are less inclined to make their way to the water bowl for a drink. You can help by making sure that your senior dog has multiple bowls of fresh water around your home which are easy to access.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between senior dog food and regular dog food?

Specially designed senior dog foods are fortified with key ingredients to support ageing joints, maintain heart and kidney health, boost the immune system and stimulate appetite.

These diets can help alleviate the signs and symptoms of ageing, with controlled sodium levels to maintain heart and kidney health, added omega fatty acids and vitamins to boost the immune system and support the joints, and higher quality ingredients to help with digestibility.

How can food help to support your dog's brain function?

Enhanced Botanical Oils

After spending over a decade researching how nutrition could be used to positively impact on the cognitive function of senior dogs, the team at Purina PRO PLAN discovered that certain enhanced botanical oils (also known as medium chain triglycerides) can be utilised by the senior brain as an extra energy source. By providing the brain with an alternative source of energy to glucose, senior dogs become able to think like they are young again. This nutritional breakthrough was incorporated into the innovative PRO PLAN Bright Mind food and the results speak for themselves!

Alongside these breakthrough enhanced botanical oils, diets enriched with other protective ingredients such as omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants may also help to reduce the effect of ageing on the canine brain.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are a class of essential fatty acids, meaning they can not be synthesised by the body and must be consumed in the diet. A certain omega 3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), has a protective effect on brain cells and studies in humans suggest it may help to improve cognitive function and memory as well as preventing the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Although the exact effect of DHA on the canine brain is as yet unknown, a study where senior dogs were fed a diet enriched with DHA, combined with mitochondrial cofactors and antioxidants found there was significant impact on age related behavioural changes and improved a number of behavioural attributes such as agility and recognition of family members.


Free radicals are a byproduct of normal metabolic processes and are highly reactive, causing damage to cells throughout the body. It is assumed that over time this damage of cells in the brain contributes to signs of ageing and cognitive decline. Antioxidants help to minimise this damage by disabling free radicals, thus helping to protect body's cells, including those in the brain.

Studies have demonstrated that feeding dogs a diet enriched with antioxidants can help facilitate more successful learning of complex tasks and also reduce the signs of cognitive decline in senior dogs.

Antioxidants include nutrients such as selenium, caretenoids and vitamins A, C and E and can come from a number of ingredients including fruits and vegetables, as well as high quality, antioxidant enriched commercial dog foods.

Further Reading

How To Spot A Good Pet Food

Australian-made Pet Products

What are the Best Pet Treats?

How Much Should You Feed Your Pet?