Best Dog Food for Small Senior Dogs

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
older dog looking up

This post may contain affiliate links for which I could earn a commision.

If you’re in a hurry, my top choice is the Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food.

It’s not nice to think that our best friends can get older and slow down. One benefit of a smaller breed dog is that they tend to have a longer lifespan than a large breed. Less stress on their small frames is a contributing factor. All the more reason for keeping an eye on their weight and to choose the best foods for the time of life they’re at.

A Guide to finding the best dog food for small senior dogs

As your small dog is getting older you may start to notice changes.  Usually you start to see them getting gray around the chops or slowing down a bit more than usual.

Sometimes it’s not something that you can see. You pick up subtle changes in the way your dog moves or does things over time. It might be more noticeable if you have a younger dog too, as you’ll see the comparison.

You might be feeding your dog a good food but is it the best senior dry dog food. Do you have a an older dog?

How do you know if your dog has become a senior dog?

Small dogs less than 20 lbs adult weight can live up to 16 years old. But how does that relate when converting dog years to human years.

I’ve always believed that 1 dog year is equal to 7 dog years. But pet experts think it is a bit different to that and not so linear.

This dog years chart for small and toy dogs is based on the information given by Purina. If you want to know about other dog sizes check here.

small dog years

As you can see over a small dogs lifespan they age more in the first 2 years. Then they only add 4 years to 1 human year from 3 years old.

Smaller dogs tend to live longer than a large or giant breed which might only be expected to live to 8 year old.

Keeping Your Senior Dog Healthy

Now your dog is getting older there is more chance that he will develop health issues common in senior dogs. The best way to keep on top of this is to book regular check ups with your vet so he can have blood and body checks.

Depending on your senior dog he might gain weight or even lose it as he gets older. Regular weight checks will help you keep on top of it.

Feeding the right type of food in the right quantity can help you manage weight gain. If your dog is losing weight and doesn’t eat much you may need to experiment.

Trying different foods to find something that will tempt his appetite. This is of course presuming there is no underlying cause for this which should expect your vet to find.

This could be a result of dental issues. It’s very easy for your dog to have painful gum disease or lost teeth as he gets older.

If you don’t brush his teeth you might be creating the right conditions for tartar and bad breath.

You may find your dog struggling a bit with vision problems. Like us, your dog’s eyesight can deteriorate. He can’t wear specs, but with their superior smell and hearing they can cope quite well.

Top Choice
NUTRO ULTRA Senior Small Breed High Protein...
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed...
Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 11+ for...
Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed...
Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free Small Breed Dry Dog...
NUTRO ULTRA Senior Small Breed High Protein...
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed...
Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 11+ for...
Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed...
Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free Small Breed Dry Dog...
27% Protein
23% Protein
18% Protein
25% Protein
32% Protein
Trio of Proteins
LifeSource Bits
Clinically Proven
Probiotics added
Helps Control Weight
Price not available
Price not available
Top Choice
NUTRO ULTRA Senior Small Breed High Protein...
NUTRO ULTRA Senior Small Breed High Protein...
27% Protein
Trio of Proteins
Price not available
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed...
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed...
23% Protein
LifeSource Bits
Price not available
Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 11+ for...
Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 11+ for...
18% Protein
Clinically Proven
Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed...
Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed...
25% Protein
Probiotics added
Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free Small Breed Dry Dog...
Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free Small Breed Dry Dog...
32% Protein
Helps Control Weight

Do senior dogs need specific nutrients?

Now you need to know the best thing to feed an old dog? The best dog food for small older dogs tends to be a bit lower in calorie. According to the American Kennel Club they need about 20% less energy as they get older to keep at a healthy weight.

They usually have a higher protein ratio as this is helpful to keep your dog’s muscle function as they get older.

It also means enough amino acids to renew cells. This keeps them strong and able to deal with any hurt or infections.

If your older dog has any type of digestive health problem you may need a food that includes probiotics. The benefit of this is to keep their gut bacteria balanced.

You might need the food to have added fiber too, but your vet should be able to tell you if you need that.

Any ingredients to avoid?

Try and keep away from artificial colors, they aren’t beneficial in any way to dogs or humans. Your dog isn’t going to care about the color of his food.

Keep an eye out for added sugars in your pet food, like corn syrup, molasses, fructose or glucose. If your dog is experiencing weight gain, this won’t help. It is adding extra calories without the benefit of nutrition.

Older dogs can suffer from allergies so it might be worth keeping grain-free dog food.

Quality proteins are more beneficial to your dog as they get older. Be aware of filler wheat glutens used as a protein source.

Is there a good time to switch to senior dog food?

Dogs are much like ourselves when it comes to ageing. Some manage it without issue and you can’t tell they are senior dogs. Others have more problems.

When your dog starts to show signs of mobility issues then it might be a good time to switch foods.

Your vet may recommend foods with added supplements. Glucosamine or fatty acids like DHA(Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA(Eicosapentaenoic acid).

The benefit of these are to ease joint pain and inflammation helping to keep your dog moving.

There might also be signs of itchy skin due to allergies.Other symptoms could be stomach issues with signs of flatulence and loose stools. This might be a sign of food intolerances.

Your dog might be lacking in energy and gaining weight.

All these signs you need to discuss with your vet. He might recommend senior dog food brands or a food for a specific issue like a sensitive stomach.

small senior dogs

Senior dog food vs. regular dog food

Regular dog food brands have more calories than most senior selections. Older dogs tend to slow down a bit and don’t need as much energy in their food as when they were younger.

If your dog is keeping in good health then you might want to leave them on their standard food. You can adjust the quantity if they start to get a little overweight.

If they begin to suffer from health issues, then that is the time to consider the best senior dog foods. Food formulated with supplements can benefit an older dog.

What are the main health problems that can affect what you feed an elderly dog


  • Arthritis – You will be able to tell when your dog has a few issues. These might include climbing up steps, not being able to jump into the car. They might have trouble getting onto the couch or not wanting to go out for walks as much as they used to. A veterinarian should be able to find out where the problem is and offer advice.
  • Digestion issues – Your dog could start to suffer from flatulence or not be able to go to the toilet without effort. A food change could make them more comfortable.
  • Gum disease – if you don’t clean your dog’s teeth on a regular basis they could suffer from gum disease. If they are in pain when eating you may need to consider foods that are easier to eat.
  • Diabetes – this doesn’t only affect humans. If you’re used to feeding your dog lots of snacks and food off your plate you could be contributing. Regular blood checks with your vet as your dog gets older will pick this up. Your vet might might prescribe a specific dog food.
  • Sight – You might find your dog’s sight deteriorating over time. There aren’t any specific types of food that will fix your dogs eye problems. This is a condition you will have to manage to make their life easier.

infogram of thehealth problems of senior dogs

What about supplements for senior dogs

We can help make our dogs feel more comfortable if we include some supplements as they get older. You won’t want to have your pet popping pills.

Most of the best senior dog food versions available have already added supplements. This is much easier for you and your dog.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are helpful if your dog has osteoarthritis. These benefit your dog by relieving pain and inflammation, allowing more mobility.

You can improve memory and cognitive function by adding antioxidants to the diet. Dogs can suffer from dementia too so this is worth adding.

Omega 3 fatty acids are good for us and our dogs. Foods that include DHA and EPA fatty acids can help to improve brain function. They also help with arthritis and improve inflammation.

Many foods also include high quality proteins to help with cell repair and vitamins. Probiotics and fiber can help with digestion.

You can give these supplements to your dog yourself. If you want to  check with your vet to make sure you give the right amounts to benefit your dog.

How to Choose the best Senior Dog Food for your small dog

It goes without saying that if your pet has any specific health issues that you discuss them with your vet. Do this before changing foods.

If you want to try the benefits of a senior food on your dog then here’s a few things that you might want to look for:

High quality protein.

Protein is tasty, satisfying and full of the amino acids required for growth and repair. You want a high protein percentage coming from meat as that is the natural food for a canine.

Required because cells are being replaced by new ones continuously even in a senior dog.


If your dog is getting a little podgy then you might be looking for a lower fat food. That will keep the calorie count lower than regular adult food for smaller dogs.

If you have a problem of keeping your dogs weight up then fat is the easiest way to add more calories.


Our bodies don’t work as well as they should with age and an older dog has the same problem. If your pet suffers with constipation he’ll enjoy a higher fiber food. You’re looking for a range of 3-5 percent.


Most senior pet foods add chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine for joint pain. DHA and EPA to also help with joints and brain function.

Probiotics can be added to help with gut health.

With supplements in the food it’s much easier to administer. Some  dogs won’t take a tablet, and you won’t forget to give it either.

Best Dog Food For Small Senior Dogs

Small dogs are bundles of energy, always on the move and as fast as they come.

They have a higher metabolism than large dogs so actually need more calorie dense food.

The food you choose needs higher levels of protein and fat as small dogs can’t take in large quantities.

A level of around 30 percent being protein and 15 percent fat will keep them full. Extra fiber will help to keep them regular while balancing their blood sugars.

When choosing the best food brands for small dogs the kibble size will be smaller.  If you’re looking at all generic senior foods then check the food size suitable for your dog.

Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food

NUTRO ULTRA Senior Small Breed High Protein...
  • Contains One (1) 4 Lb. Bag Of Nutro Ultra Small Breed Senior Dry Dog Food With A Trio Of Proteins From Chicken, Lamb And Salmon (New Look, Same...
  • Features Trio Of Protein From Chicken, Lamb, And Salmon—Chicken Is The #1 Ingredient—Specially Formulated For Small Breed Senior Dogs

Nutro is a brand that aims to make their dog food with quality ingredients. They have a “Feed Clean” philosophy which means using natural foods.

They don’t add any artificial preservatives or colors. Or use GMO products or meat by-products in their foods and offer wheat, corn and soy free choices.

There is a wide range of options depending on size and age, whether you have a puppy through to a senior.

In this senior dog food the protein is 27 percent which is a good level for a small dog. The fat is 13 percent and fiber 4 percent. There is 301 calories per cup in this pet food.

They’ve added a good range of supplements for joint health.  Based on customer reviews, older dogs not only love this food but are thriving on it.

First 5 ingredients

  • Real Chicken
  • chicken meal
  • whole brown rice
  • brewers rice
  • rice bran


Trio of proteins

3 different proteins, chicken, lamb and salmon giving 27% protein. The no1 ingredient being chicken. All sourced from trusted farmers and suppliers.

Includes a blend of fruits

Blueberries, cranberries, and pomegranates blended to help support your small dogs immune system

Small kibble

The small kibble makes it much easier to eat for a small dog, especially if they have dental issues.



As dog food prices go this is not the cheapest. You pay more for the holistic ingredients.


It seems that the latest change in formula doesn’t suit some dogs that loved it before. It’s worth trying a small bag first to see if it suits your pet.

No Probiotics

Probiotics are useful to keep the gut bacteria balanced in your dog. It’s a shame that it’s not included is this holistic dog food.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed...
  • HIGH QUALITY DOG FOOD: Blue Buffalo always features real meat as the 1st ingredient. BLUE Senior dog food features high-quality, natural protein from...
  • SMALL BREED SENIOR DOG FOOD: BLUE Life Protection Formula for small breed senior dogs contains Glucosamine and Chondroitin to help support joint, hip...

Blue Buffalo is another company that offers a high quality food option.  It is specifically formulated for small senior dogs.

They also concentrate on natural ingredients. The first ingredient, deboned chicken, gives a good protein source. There is 23 percent protein, 13 percent fat and 6 percent fiber in this food. There is 371 calories per cup which is a little higher than the previous brand.

One of the differences with this food is it’s LifeSource bits. These are vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, cold pressed into pieces of kibble.  All mixed in with the protein mix to give all the nutrients needed to keep your dog happy and healthy.

First 5 ingredients

  • Deboned Chicken
  • Chicken meal
  • Brown Rice
  • Barley
  • Oatmeal


LifeSource Bits

Vitamins and minerals can degrade after cooking so you only get minimal goodness. The LifeSource bits are cold- formed into pieces so your dog can get the most nutrients out of his food.

Protein from animal sources

Protein from meat sources has a complete range of amino acids. Your dog uses them for bone and tissue growth as well as repair.

Protein can come from other vegetable sources. These need mixing  with other proteins to get the complete amino profile.

Glucosamine added

If your dog suffers from joint stiffness then he could improve with glucosamine. This food for senior dogs has it added to the formula.


Hard bits

Some pet parents have found that their dogs have had a few issues with the LifeSource Bits.  They can be a bit hard to chew and the dogs have eaten the main food and spit out these darker bits .

Has caused weight gain

Some pet owners have found that it caused their dogs to gain weight. There are brands with less calories if this happens with your dog.

Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 11+ For Senior Dogs

Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult 11+ for...
  • Supports an older little dog's joints and mobility using omega 3s from fish oil
  • Provides your small breed dog with balanced minerals that support heart, kidney and bladder health

Hills Science dog food is the main food recommended by vets.

This version is a special blend for older small dogs.

The mix of foods that they offer are created by vets, nutritionists and scientists. The foods follow the biological needs of your pet.

This company has many formulas to cover a lot of health conditions, sizes and age ranges. They do include meat as the first ingredient in the form of chicken meal which can be quite high in protein.

The protein content of this food is around 18 percent, fat 15 percent and fiber 2 percent.

First 5 ingredients

  • Chicken Meal
  • Brewers Rice
  • Whole Grain Wheat
  • Whole Grain Sorghum
  • Cracked Pearled Barley


Small kibble

Very small kibble which is good for a small dog as they are easy to eat. These are also easy to swallow whole if your dog is a quick eater.

Clinically Proven

These foods are not only clinically proven but tested on dogs. The dogs live at Hills global Pet centre where they home 450 dogs and 450 cats who eat their foods.

Well balanced

The foods made, balanced to suit each specific pet and condition. All tested to make sure that they match up to the required nutritional levels.


Includes Wheat

If you have a pet that has any allergies then you might not want to give them a food containing wheat. That said many pet owners are seeing good results on this food.


Even though they don’t use meat off the bone and have a higher carb content the cost of the food is quite high.

Only average protein

Although this offers balanced nutrition it only has an average protein content. The American Kennel Club Canine Health foundation guide is 25 percent protein. This is for a senior dog, to keep muscle mass and provide satiety.

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Dog Food Small Breed Senior 

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed...
  • Complete Health: Complete And Balanced Everyday Nutrition For Your Senior Small Breed Dog
  • Small Breed Senior Formula: Smaller Kibble Size Made With Delicious Deboned Turkey And Added Glucosamine And Chondroitin For Healthy Hips And Joints

Wellness as a company pride themselves on using natural foods for your pets. Ingredients chosen to give all the nutrients your dog requires from natural sources.

The senior food for smaller dogs has the right mix of energy and supplements. It gives a tasty food in small kibble pieces.

Supplements added are glucosamine, essential fatty acids, probiotics and antioxidants. These give support for the continued health and immune systems of older dogs.

The protein content is around 25 percent, fat 12 percent and fiber 5 percent.

First 5 ingredients

  • Deboned turkey
  • Chicken meal
  • Ground brown rice
  • Peas
  • Rice



Proteins coming from whole meats and meat meals which are much easier for a dog to digest.

Added Glucosamine

As your dog gets older they can get joint pain even if they don’t often show they have discomfort. Adding glucosamine to their diet can make a difference. You will find it being added to senior dog food brands for this reason.


Includes prebiotic and probiotics for digestive health.  Probiotics are gut bacteria required to keep the stomach working right. Prebiotic are the food for the bacteria to thrive.


Bag size

Only comes in 4lb bag size and most customers would like it to be available in a larger size.


Some people found it was quite pricey. They did manage to save a bit of money by having a regular subscription.

Lack of choice

There is only one flavour choice for senior small dogs. If you like to rotate flavours for your pet you might need to check other brands.

Merrick Lil’ Plates Small Breed Grain Free Senior Dry Dog Food

Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free Small Breed Dry Dog...
  • One (1) 12.0 lb Bag - Merrick Lil' Plates Grain Free Small Breed Dry Dog Food Senior Real Chicken + Sweet Potato Recipe
  • Real deboned chicken is always the first ingredient in this grain free dry dog food

Merrick is a Texas based company creating its food from fresh quality ingredients. They don’t use any fillers, additives or anything artificial in their foods.

The main ingredient is meat off the bone. The carbohydrates provided by the addition of fresh vegetables.

The protein content is around 32 percent, fat 12 percent and fiber 3.5 percent. It’s also 348 cals /cup.

Included in the mix are Omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. Glucosamine and chondroitin added to keep the joints moving.

Finally, whole foods used to give a healthy food which can aid digestion.

First 5 ingredients

  • Deboned Chicken
  • Chicken meal
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Peas
  • Potatoes


Small Kibble

Small round pieces of kibble which seems to suit smaller dogs. Making it easier for dogs with dental problems to manage eating.

Helps Control Weight

Pet owners have found that this food has helped their dogs lose weight. That’s only if they needed to while still giving lots of energy.

No recalls since 2012

Merrick have had no product recalls since 2012. This gives a feeling of trust in the product and the process of making it.


Includes potatoes

Although these are gluten free they don’t offer much in nutritional content for dogs.


Some people feel that the price is quite high. It’s not the highest priced product but not the cheapest either.

High protein

The high protein content doesn’t suit all dogs and can be a bit rich for some.

What if your senior dog doesn’t want to eat?

It can be quite upsetting when dog food for senior dogs doesn’t tempt your pet to eat . You can feel guilty because you are the one supplying the food.

First of all you need to get your pet checked by his veterinarian. It’s best to make sure that there isn’t anything physical causing your dog not to eat. He might also be able to give you some advice to help find some foods to try.

You could try mixing some canned dog food with dry kibble to see if that will help. It might have more smell to it to tempt their appetite and it’s also a different texture in canned dog recipes.

Try different flavours of foods to rotate around so your dog doesn’t get bored with the same foods.

You can try and make the food yourself. There are lots of guidelines online to get the right mix of ingredients. The smell of you preparing food might be all your dog needs to improve his appetite.

You can make up some gravies and toppings for the dry food, there are some recipes here.


All the best dog foods above are good choices for your small dog. Our top choice is the Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food.

The reason we like this the best is the trio of proteins giving a good protein level. Also the range of natural proteins in the meats and fish.

There are choices with more protein, although some dogs can’t deal with too much protein. Some have less but older dogs need to keep their protein up. The benefit of that is for keeping good size muscle and supporting cell repair.

There is a good level of fat to keep up the energy levels and the fiber isn’t too high for giving your dog discomfort.

In this Ultra senior dog food the calories are not too high which helps to keep your dogs weight in the right healthy range.

All the foods reviewed have had dogs that don’t like them or don’t do well on it. So it’s worth buying a small bag while you try it out.You can try a sample or find a friend to share a bag with you. This would give you a chance to let your pet try it without a large cash outlay.

It’s not always easy to find a food that your dog will eat when they get older as they can be picky. Why not try one of these and see how your dog likes it.

Last update on 2020-06-25 at 08:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Linda Stubbs

Linda Stubbs

Hi my name is Linda Stubbs and a few years ago I decided to take early retirement and enjoy doing my own thing. That included getting a dog, but they need a buddy too, right? So now I have two.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.