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If your dog has damaged teeth or is just getting older, a soft-textured senior dog wet food could help. The options below are made with high-quality protein sources, veggies, and superfoods, so you can enjoy more happy and healthy years with your senior friend.
We’ll also discuss when an older dog may need a senior formula and explain what distinguishes a senior formula from adult dog food.
In this guide:
- Best wet dog food for senior dogs
- What to consider when buying wet food for older dogs
- FAQs about senior dog wet food
Best wet food for senior dogs
Our top pick
- Gently-cooked human-grade meat and veggies
- Great for senior dogs: soft and easily digestible with recipes formulated by board-certified veterinary nutritionists
- The Dog Tale readers get 60% off their first box
What we like
There’s a lot to like about The Farmer’s Dog’s four high-quality, human-grade recipes. In fact, our dog, Max, loves it every time we feed it to him.
Research has shown that human-grade dog food can benefit a dog’s bowel and coat health, energy levels, and general long-term wellness compared to a diet of animal-grade kibble. Each of The Farmer’s Dog recipes consists of USDA meat, veggies, and fish oil. Three of the four recipes contain liver for a boost of Vitamin B and other important minerals. Each recipe also includes an added nutrient mix for essential vitamins and minerals.
All of the recipes are formulated for all life stages from puppies to senior dogs. They also meet or exceed AAFCO standards. Many senior formulas contain too little protein, but protein is important and these recipes contain anywhere from 9% to 11% protein, which is good for wet food.
For convenience and to ensure freshness, The Farmer’s Dog cooks their meals in their U.S. kitchens and then ships the food directly to you. The food arrives frozen on a regular schedule. You can pause or cancel your subscription at any time. You can learn more and watch us unbox it in our The Farmer’s Dog review.
What we’d change
The Farmer’s Dog is a premium product made with human-grade ingredients, so it is priced higher than dog kibble brands. However, our experience is that The Farmer’s Dog is one of the most affordable fresh foods in the human-grade fresh dog food category. You can fill out the brief survey on their site to get a price quote, or learn more in our guide to The Farmer’s Dog prices.
>> Read more: Is There a The Farmer’s Dog Free Trial Deal?
- Real, human-grade meat and veggies that are gently cooked over low heat to preserve essential nutrients and provide a wet texture for easy eating
- Muscle meat as the first ingredient maintains a protein level of 8% to 11%
- All recipes meet AAFCO standards and are complete and balanced for all life stages, from puppies to senior dogs
What we like
Nom Nom’s whole-food meals consist of human-grade meats, vegetables, essential vitamins and minerals, and fish oil or another oil rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. What you won’t find is any gluten, corn, or soy. Most recipes are grain free, and if there is rice, it is whole-grain brown rice, not fractionated rice bran.
Nom Nom’s subscription service allows you to input your dog’s health needs, such as allergies, sensitive stomach, arthritis, or joint pain, so you find a meal plan that is beneficial to their health. For added convenience, meals are individually pre-portioned for most dogs.
Nom Nom also offers a unique set of gut health products. Their gut microbiome kit allows you to identify medical conditions in your pet’s GI tract that may be causing health issues like weight fluctuations, diarrhea, vomiting, constant itching, or behavior problems.
They also offer two probiotics. One holistically maintains your dog’s digestive and immune systems. The other supports dogs with chronic stomach issues like upset stomach or diarrhea. You can learn more about it in our Nom Nom Dog Food review.
>> Read more: Nom Nom vs The Farmer’s Dog: How Do They Compare?
What we’d change
I wish Nom Nom included organ meat as the second ingredient for a boost of energy-rich B vitamins instead of or in addition to the carbohydrate. I also would swap out the refined Sunflower oil for a less refined oil such, as coconut oil.
Also, Nom Nom meals contain premium natural ingredients, so it’s going to cost more. However, when compared to other human-grade fresh food, Nom Nom offers competitive pricing. Traditional pet food vs real food is similar to the price difference between buying a McDonald’s meal versus purchasing a steak and veggies at a good restaurant. You’re going to pay more upfront, but you also get health and vitality and hopefully dodge some hefty vet bills in the future.
>> Read more: How Much Does Nom Nom Dog Food Cost?
Best wet dog food for overweight senior dogs
- Real USDA human-grade meats. No fillers, no preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors
- One of the most minimally processed pet foods—never cooked or heated, offering a diet the way dogs would eat in the wild
- Created by a PhD animal nutritionist and approved by a veterinarian with minimal carbohydrates to prevent weight gain. Exceeds AAFCO nutrition standards.
What we like
We Feed Raw’s six meals consist only of human-grade meat and added vitamins and minerals to ensure the meal is nutritionally complete and balanced. Their recipes skip the carbs, so they’re great for overweight senior dogs with a slower metabolism. Instead, We Feed Raw depends on muscle meat, organ meat, and bone minerals to provide the protein and nutritional content dogs need to maintain muscle mass.
Since there is almost no processing or additives to cause inflammation, your dog may experience significant health improvements, such as less joint pain, just a few weeks after transitioning to this food.
When the frozen patty thaws, the food resembles ground meat, so it’s easy to eat for dogs with damaged or missing teeth to consume. Additionally, raw meat contains natural live enzymes and beneficial bacteria that can prevent plaque and tartar buildup.
Strict food safety procedures are in place that use a cold-pressure process to eliminate any problematic pathogens in the meat. We Feed Raw is a convenient subscription program that cold-ships the frozen packs to your doorstep, so there’s no more hassle in picking up dog food or preparing a raw diet. You can learn more in our We Feed Raw Dog Food review.
What we’d change
As is the case with all premium dog foods, We Feed Raw costs more than low-quality dog food made with cheap ingredients. Additionally, picky dogs may take a while to adjust to a raw diet. Our dog, Hobbes, wasn’t interested in it until we heated it up in a skillet. However, the other dog we fed it to, Joules, gobbled it down right away.
>> Read more: Best Soft Dog Food for Senior Dogs
Best wet dog food for senior dogs with sensitive stomachs
- Formulas rich in Omega 3s, EPA, and DHA promote healthy skin, coat, joints, and proper cognitive support
- Made with a single novel protein to make it easily digestible and highly palatable for senior dogs
- Available as fresh food or as shelf-stable PantryFresh wet food
What we like
This is not your typical dog food. This human-grade dog food is an ideal maintenance diet for older dogs or dogs with smaller appetites. It contains a novel protein, USDA lamb, which can be gentler on sensitive senior stomachs and dogs intolerant to more common meats like beef or poultry. That’s why it’s our top pick for the best dog food for IBS & IBD.
Nutrient-rich foods complete the recipe: brown rice, cauliflower, carrots, lamb liver, spinach, blueberries, fish, and safflower oil. That’s it! These slowly cooked whole foods create a meal that is easily digestible and easy to chew. And unlike other fresh foods, Just Food For Dogs’ PantryFresh line comes in shelf-stable sealed boxes, so they don’t need to be refrigerated.
Try their Joint Care supplement for complementary joint and skin support. If you’re in need of wet food that provides an extra boost of joint and skin support, try their Join & Skin Support meal. It contains pork which can also be gentle on sensitive bellies and contains Type II collagen and Omega fatty acids. For fresh food variety, try Just Food For Dogs’ Lamb & Brown Rice Fresh Food.
If you want to learn more about the brand, check out our Just Food For Dogs review.
What we’d change
Just Food For Dogs is priced on the lower end of the spectrum for fresh dog food, but if you aren’t used to premium dog food prices, it can be a bit surprising. If you want to see more options made with a novel protein, check out our guide to dog food with venison.
>> Read more: The Farmer’s Dog vs Just Food For Dogs
Best canned dog food for seniors
- Made with simple ingredients to be easily digestible for dogs with sensitive digestive tracts
- Soft pâté texture to aid seniors with dental issues
- Absolutely no animal by-products, meat meals, GMOs, or grain
What we like
Halo makes some of the best canned dog food for senior dogs. The first three ingredients are chicken, chicken broth, and chicken liver. This trio provides senior dogs with a healthy level of protein that supports muscle maintenance and energy levels. The remaining produce is non-GMO and easy for dogs to digest, making this food a great choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
This formula features ingredients that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin, and added glucosamine for skin, hip, and joint health. L-carnitine is added for a healthy metabolism and energy. The formula is made without any corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, meat meals, or meat byproducts. It can work as a complete meal or be used as a topper on kibble.
What we’d change
Despite being a canned food, Halo’s chicken recipe is not cheap. At this price point, fresh food such as The Farmer’s Dog offers better quality for a similar price. And because of the price, those with larger dogs will want to use it as a topper rather than a standalone meal.
Budget-friendly canned dog food for senior dogs
- The first three ingredients are real chicken, chicken broth, and chicken liver in a pâté texture that is easy for seniors to chew
- Formulated with ingredients crucial for seniors: Omega 3-rich flaxseed and glucosamine, plus chondroitin to reduce joint inflammation and help stabilize joints
- Get whole meat and non-GMO produce at a more affordable price than fresh food
What we like
If human-grade food is a strain on your budget, this widely-available canned dog food for senior dogs is an adequate substitute.
This wet senior formula combines chicken, veggies, grains, and fruit along with glucosamine and chondroitin, which are known to help aging hips and joints. The soft texture makes it easier to eat for a dog with missing or damaged teeth.
What we’d change
Although they probably help with the food’s texture, we don’t prefer the non-essential ingredients such as carrageenan, or cassia gum.
>> Read more: The Farmer’s Dog vs Ollie
What to consider when buying wet food for senior dogs
Wet, dry, fresh, or canned…there are a few things you’ll want to be aware of before choosing food for your senior dog. But first of all, it’s a good idea to speak with your veterinarian before choosing a senior diet if your dog is showing significant signs of aging, such as joint pain, decreased appetite, or weight gain.
What to know about senior formulas
To begin, there is no legal definition for “senior” or geriatric” pet food. These so-called senior formulas must follow the same legal standards as adult food formulas. Since there are no standards specifically for seniors, the nutrition levels can widely vary from one manufacturer to the next. Therefore, some formulas will be a more appropriate choice for your dog than other options.
In general, we recommend looking for a brand that does not skimp on protein, especially in exchange for excess carbs.
Does my dog need a senior formula?
Tufts University advises that not all older dogs need a senior diet. Every dog is different and has unique health needs. The aging process depends on a variety of factors, such as breed, genetics, lifestyle, and health.
Tufts says, “If your senior dog or cat is healthy, in good body condition, and eating a good quality nutritionally balanced diet, there is no reason to change foods.” We advise consulting with your veterinarian. Tufts adds, however, that if an older dog has one of the common diseases that come with aging, such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, dental issues, heart disease, or kidney disease, a diet change may promote healing or at least slow the disease’s progression.
Nutrients that may need to be adjusted for seniors
Below are a few nutrients that may need to be adjusted in your dog’s diet as he or she ages, according to Tufts veterinarians.
It’s a myth that reducing protein levels is healthy for senior dogs. Lowering protein content can have negative effects such as muscle loss. On the other hand, there’s no evidence to support high-protein diets, either. So, what’s the optimal protein level for older dogs? Well, that’s controversial and can vary by dog. When picking a wet senior dog food, choose one with adequate protein levels for your dog. Your vet can help you determine what those levels are.
If you’re searching for a wet dog food that’s high in protein, check out our A Pup Above dog food review.
When a dog has kidney issues, it can be beneficial to reduce the amount of dietary phosphorus. Ask your veterinarian to help you find a balanced senior formula as phosphorus levels fluctuate in commercial dog foods.
Sodium also widely varies in senior dog food. The standard AAFCO minimum amount is 20 milligrams per 100 kilocalories. Reducing sodium levels is not necessary for the majority of senior dogs unless they have heart disease, high blood pressure, or kidney disease.
It is common for older dogs to gain weight, and extra weight can cause health issues or exacerbate current ones. The number of calories per serving in senior dog foods varies widely, so it’s crucial to work with your veterinarian to choose a formula that is appropriate for your dog’s activity level, health, and body composition. Finally, speak with your vet if there is any unwanted weight gain or loss.
For senior dogs dealing with gastrointestinal issues, such as dog IBD, increasing their fiber intake is generally a good idea. However, it may not be ideal for all dogs, particularly dogs that have trouble maintaining a healthy weight.
Supplemental vitamins and minerals
For certain health issues or diseases, supplementation can be helpful. But if your pet is healthy and they are eating a high-quality diet, supplementation is unnecessary, says Tufts University. Only use supplements with your vet’s guidance as all supplements have the potential to cause side effects or interact negatively with medications. Additionally, supplements are not under the same regulation as medication, so their safety, efficacy, and quality control can be concerning.
Types of food
Senior formulas often come in the form of wet food since many older dogs have dental issues. However, just as with other dog food, senior dog food can be wet, dry, fresh, canned, and more. Dry kibble pieces are often too hard and difficult to eat with damaged or missing teeth, and they tend to be more processed, as well. So, consider your pet’s dental health when choosing a new diet.
Ingredients to avoid
I selected the senior dog food recommendations above with a bent toward the quality of the ingredients over any other feature. I purposefully choose foods that consist of real, whole-food ingredients because real food is more digestible and will promote optimal health. I try to avoid the following, which are frequently used in kibble:
- Meat meals
- Animal by-products
- Artificial ingredients
- Chemical preservatives
- Fillers (e.g. cornmeal), especially in the first few ingredients
- Overly genetically modified ingredients like wheat, corn, or soy
- “Natural flavors”
- Anything I cannot pronounce
Ingredients to include
Look for dog food that has whole meat as the first ingredient (such as chicken, not chicken meal) and hopefully includes some kind of organ meat later in the list. Ideally, the ingredients will only include whole foods that supply all the necessary nutrients and do not need supplemental vitamins and minerals, but this is rare. We’ve only found two dog foods that are complete and balanced by only using whole food: Raised Right Dog Food and Sundays dog food.
There are a few natural ingredients that are helpful to older dogs and you may want to find a food that contains them:
Omega-3 fatty acids (often incorporated in the form of fish, fish oil, flaxseed oil, or chia seed) are beneficial as these help many health processes, including but not limited to brain, coat, skin, and joint health. It can also ease inflammation.
Turmeric, Ginger, and Astaxanthin are known to reduce inflammation in the body, such as achy joints and swelling.
Glucosamine has the potential to delay the breakdown of cartilage and repair prior damage.
Chondroitin supports the elasticity of cartilage and may help slow or prevent joint cartilage degeneration. Plus, it may ease joint pain and swelling as it is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
FAQs about senior dog wet food
How often should I feed my senior dog?
How often you feed your dog may depend on their size, their activity level, and their specific health needs. Discuss this with your veterinarian. Adult dogs typically eat twice a day, but that may need to be modified, particularly for tiny dogs that struggle with hypoglycemia.
What is the best wet food for senior dogs?
The best wet food for your senior dog is the one that suits your dog’s personal needs, which may or may not be a senior dog formula. One of our favorite options is The Farmer’s Dog.
Generally speaking, dogs do well on diets with nutrient-dense whole foods formulated for their specific needs. Older dogs need adequate protein levels, but too much will most likely not be beneficial, either. Consult your veterinarian to determine what type of diet is best for your unique dog.
What is the best wet dog food for small senior dogs?
In our search, we could not locate a dog food specifically marketed for small-breed senior dogs. However, this may not be an issue. Typically, small-breed dog food comes in smaller pieces and is higher in calories than other dog food. So, your small breed senior dog may benefit from a high-calorie fresh food formula like Just Food For Dogs Lamb & Brown Rice. This particular recipe is higher in calories, yet it contains moderate protein levels. And since it’s fresh food rather than kibble, your small dog won’t have a hard time chewing it.
Another higher-calorie option is Nom Nom’s Turkey Fare. It is a bit higher in crude protein (10%) than some other recipes, which maintain about 7% to 8% crude protein. Ollie dog food also creates two higher-calorie fresh dog food recipes (Lamb and Beef) that also maintain higher crude protein levels. The Lamb might have a combination of the highest calorie count per kg, along with the highest protein level, and a higher fat content.
>> Read more: Best Dog Food for Tear Stains