Category : Dog Nutrition Center

6 Signs it’s Time to Change Your Dog’s Food

Choosing a dog food can be a painstaking process — so much so that some of us stick with buying the same pet food for our dog’s entire life. “The truth is,” says Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, “we now know our pet’s dietary needs can and do change over time due to factors like their life stage, their overall health, and their activity level.”

What Age Should I Change My Dog’s Food?

When it comes to nutrition, there are three life stages which experts believe are important times in your dog’s life to discuss with your veterinarian. The first is the puppy life stage. During this period a dog food rated for “growth” is needed because it is specifically designed for puppies and kittens according to the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials, which sets standards for pet foods in the United States). “Puppies and kittens that are growing require pet foods with a higher protein level and a higher calorie count…to meet their growth requirements,” says Dr. Lorie Huston. “If these nutritional demands are not met, your pet’s growth may be stunted and/or your pet may become ill.” Pet foods rated for “reproduction” or “gestation/lactation” are also a benefit for pregnant or lactating females.

The second life stage for which you should consult your veterinarian about dietary changes is the adult life stage. “Obesity is the most common nutritional disease seen in both dogs and cats today,” says Dr. Huston. “One reason for this is improper life stage feeding. For example, [an adult] dog or cat — especially one that leads a sedentary lifestyle — may become overweight or even obese if fed pet food meant for puppies or kittens.” Pet food labeled as “all life stage” can also deliver excessive fat and nutrients your adult pet does not require, as it is formulated for kittens and puppies. Instead you should be looking for dog food rated “adult maintenance” by the AAFCO.

The third life stage to be mindful of is the senior life stage. Senior pets often have medical issues that may benefit from dietary changes. For example, a veterinarian may recommend a pet food that contains glucosamine and/or fatty acids such as DHA and EPA for senior dogs with mobility issues. According to Dr. Huston, feeding the appropriate pet food can also sometimes be an effective method to manage diseases like chronic kidney disease and heart disease. The AAFCO does not have a senior life stage, so look for a pet food with an adult maintenance statement for your senior dog.

What are other Signs it’s Time to Change My Dog’s Food?

In addition to consulting with your veterinarian about nutrition as your dog undergoes changes in life stage and lifestyle, it’s vital to watch out for certain visible signs a change in diet is needed. Here are six common signs you’ll want to be wary of…

1. Dull, Flaky Coat

Diets rich in essential fatty acids are a key component in keeping a dog’s skin healthy, and therefore his or her coat, in tip-top shape. Many dog foods are designed with skin and coat improvement in mind. Look for a diet containing both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to make your dog’s coat shiny and bright in no time.

2. Lethargy/Weakness

If your dog had recently undergone a stressful event, illness, or surgery, he may understandably be a little worn out. Diets with high levels of antioxidants can help boost the immune response to accelerate your dog’s recovery and get them back on their feet in no time. Remember: a dog who is suddenly acting lethargic and weak should be evaluated by a veterinarian before making dietary changes.

3. ‘Senioritis’

Depending on the size of the animal, pets are considered middle-aged to senior around 5-7 years. And as our dogs age, their nutrient requirements change too. Senior diets, for example, are generally lower in calories but higher in fiber, and often have supplements specific to this life stage such as joint support and antioxidants. Forgo “all life stage” pet food for senior pets, says Dr. Vogelsang. It is formulated with kittens and puppies in mind and will deliver excessive “fat and nutrients your senior pet does not require”.


4. Hefty Midsection

It doesn’t take much for a pet to wind up with some extra weight on their frame — and this is particularly noticeable with small dogs. “If your pet needs to lose a few inches,” says Dr. Vogelsang, “a diet specifically designated for weight loss will ensure that they still have the proper amount of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals while ingesting fewer calories.” These diets take advantage of the latest research in pet weight management to ensure your dog is on their way to a healthier weight in no time! If your dog is extremely overweight or obese, however, it’s best that you consult with your veterinarian for a therapeutic nutritional solution.

5. GI Disturbances

“Chronic flatulence, loose stool, or rumbly stomachs can be the result of food intolerance or the low quality of food that you’re feeding your pet,” says Dr. Vogelsang. GI upset is an inconvenience to owners as well as being uncomfortable for your pet. Consult with your veterinarian as the solution may be as easy as switching to premium dog food or a sensitive stomach diet that’s right for your pet.

6. Itchy Dog

Allergies are common in pets, and food is just one of several possible causes. Regardless of the cause, though, allergic pets may benefit from a low-allergen diet that reduces the amount of potential allergens they are exposed to. Your veterinarian can recommend either a prescription diet or an over the counter sensitive skin diet, depending on your pet’s particular needs.

Plan for Success

Choosing the proper diet is one of the most important ways to ensure your dog’s long-term health, but it’s no substitute for medical care. If you suspect your dog may benefit from a new diet, consult a veterinarian! Good food and good choices lead to a long, healthy, happy life.

Portions of this article were adapted from Six Signs it’s Time to Change Your Pet’s Food by Jessica Vogelsang, DVM.


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Jessica Vogelsang, DVM


Jessica Vogelsang, DVM, is a person who loves too many topics to be able to stick to one descriptor: writing, dogs, communication, cats,…

What Is Human-Grade Dog Food?

Many pet food brands label their products as being “human-grade,” but what does this really mean? Is human-grade dog food safer or healthier than traditional pet food?

Let’s take a look at the ingredients, manufacturing, and packaging requirements that pet foods claim to meet when they use the term “human-grade,” and whether or not they offer any real benefits to pets.

What Is Human-Grade Dog Food?

Until recently, the term “human-grade” has not been well-defined when it comes to pet food, but in 2018, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) tried to clear up the confusion. AAFCO is the advisory body that develops standards for pet food labels and ingredient definitions for the pet food industry.

According to AAFCO:

A claim that something is “human-grade” or “human-quality” implies that the article being referred to is “edible” for people in legally defined terms….  For a product to be human edible, all ingredients in the product must be human edible and the product must be manufactured, packed and held in accordance with federal regulations in 21 CFR 110, Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packing, or Holding Human Food. If these conditions exist, then human-grade claims may be made.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees 21 CFR 110 and is following a similar protocol for determining if pet foods can use the term “human-grade” on their labels.

Despite these clarifications, you might find dog food manufacturers who say that their products are made from “human-grade ingredients.” This implies that while some or all of their ingredients may have started out as being fit for human consumption, somewhere along the manufacturing, packing, and holding process, 21 CFR 110 standards were not adhered to, and the final product can’t be labeled as “human-grade dog food.”

Now that clear guidelines are available, the FDA may soon begin to take notice of these sorts of infractions, but pet parents must decide for themselves whether the distinction between human-grade dog foods and those made from human-grade ingredients is important to them. 

Benefits of Human-Grade Dog Food

The standards used to regulate human food production are more meticulous than those applied to pet food production. If a manufacturer’s goal is to stay just on the legal side of applicable regulations, foods that are edible for people will be made with higher-quality ingredients and have a lower risk of contamination than will those that are made for pets.

That said, pet food manufacturers can (and many do) choose to make their products using ingredients and processes that far exceed the minimums put forward by AAFCO and the FDA. This is true whether or not the pet food is labeled as human-grade.

What to Look for in Human-Grade Dog Food

The biggest problem with the term “human-grade” is that it says nothing with regards to whether the dog food in question is nutritionally complete and balanced. For example, you could feed your dog a diet made from human-grade (in comparison to feed-grade) potatoes, chicken, and supplements, but without more information, you can’t know that it will meet all of your dog’s nutritional needs.

At a minimum, make sure that any food you give to your dog—whether it is human-grade or not—has a statement somewhere on its label that says something along the lines of either of these AAFCO statements that mean that the food is complete and balanced:

Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Dog Food X provides complete and balanced nutrition.

Dog Food X is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.

Dog foods that have AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements like these on their labels will, at the very least, meet the minimum standards for a dog’s nutritional needs.

Human-Grade Dog Food Options

If you’ve decided that a human-grade food is the right choice for your dog, your next step is to select which type(s) will best meet his needs. The following brands offer human-grade dog food that is formulated to conform to AAFCO nutritional standards.

The Honest Kitchen and Spot Farms both produce several different varieties of dehydrated human-grade dog food, and The Honest Kitchen also offers dry and wet dog food options. Caru’s human-grade stews for dogs are also available in a variety of flavors.

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Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary…

Can Dogs Eat Watermelon?

NOTE: Always check with your veterinarian before giving your dog any new foods, especially “people foods.” What might be okay for one dog might not be good for your dog, depending on multiple factors, such as their age, health history, health conditions, and diet. Dogs on prescription diets should not be fed any food or treats outside the diet.

Watermelon is a healthy and refreshing treat for humans, but can dogs eat it, too?

If you’ve shared a piece of watermelon or your pup has snuck a piece, there’s no need to worry. As long as your dog does not have diabetes and is not sensitive to sugar, they should be completely fine.

Is Watermelon Good for Dogs?

Both red and yellow watermelon are safe and healthy fruits for most puppies and adult dogs to eat. However, dogs that have diabetes or sugar sensitivities as well as dogs that are obese should not be given the fruit.

Watermelon is low in calories and contains no fat or cholesterol. And since 92% of a watermelon is actually water, it’s helpful for hydration—especially on hot summer days. 

Keep in mind though, that due to the small amount of watermelon your dog should eat as a snack, they cannot depend on watermelon alone for hydration. 

There are also several great vitamins and minerals in watermelons:

Vitamin A

Vitamin B-6

Vitamin C


Can Dogs Eat Watermelon Rinds?

Be sure that your dog does not eat watermelon rind. It’s not safe for them to consume, as it can become a serious choking hazard or create an intestinal blockage. If your dog has swallowed a watermelon rind, visit your veterinarian immediately.

Can Dogs Eat Watermelon Seeds?

Before feeding any watermelon to your dog, remove the rind and seeds. These black seeds contain cyanide, although it’s unlikely that a dog would be able to eat enough of them to be poisoned. The seeds can also be a potential choking hazard. 

Despite the name, seedless watermelons will sometimes still have thin, white seeds. And although those probably won’t pose choking hazards, they could upset your dog’s stomach. So it’s safest to remove those as well. 

If your dog has eaten some of the seeds, contact your veterinarian. 

How Much Watermelon Can a Dog Eat?

Even healthy treats should only make up 10% of your dog’s overall diet. And the other 90% should come from a well-balanced dog food diet. 

To help make the portions a little easier, below are some general guidelines for safe watermelon treat sizes based on your dog’s weight. Each “slice” should only be about 1 inch x 1 inch x ¼-inch thick:

Extra-small dog (2-20 lbs.) = 1-2 slices of watermelon

          Examples: Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Pugs

Small dog (21-30 lbs.) = 2-3 slices of watermelon

          Examples: Basenjis, Beagles, Miniature Australian Shepherds

Medium dog (31-50 lbs.) = 5-6 slices of watermelon

          Examples: Basset Hounds, Border Collies, Australian Cattle Dogs

Large dog (51-90 lbs.) = handful of watermelon slices

          Examples: Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Australian Shepherds

Extra-large dog (91+ lbs.) = large handful of watermelon slices

          Examples: Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs, St. Bernards, Great Pyrenees

If your dog ate some extra watermelon when you weren’t looking and you’re worried that they ate too much, keep an eye out for the following symptoms of an upset stomach:

Decreased appetite or loss of appetite


Acting depressed

Looking uncomfortable

Gulping or licking their lips, the air, or objects

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away. 

Worsening symptoms include: 


Excessive diarrhea

Blood in their vomit or stool



If you notice any of these more serious symptoms, call your vet and take your dog to the vet immediately. 

How to Safely Feed Your Dog Watermelon

When feeding watermelon to your pup, make sure to wash off the watermelon, remove the rind, and remove the seeds. Once you’ve prepared the watermelon, there are multiple fun ways to safely feed it to your dog.

Cut it into small pieces that are about 1 inch x 1 inch x ¼-inch thick to give to your dog as treats.

Remove the seeds, mash or blend a little watermelon, then pour it over your dog’s food, or put it in a KONG toy to freeze and serve later. 

Make your pup a fruit smoothie by blending up watermelon with some other dog-safe fruits like bananas, strawberries, and blueberries. Then combine that fruit mixture with plain, sugar-free, xylitol-free yogurt. Refrigerate the mixture so you can put a little on top of your dog’s food later. Or you can put it in their KONG toy to freeze for a very refreshing treat. 

Try these recipes for a dog-safe watermelon sorbet or a watermelon mocktail for dogs

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Victoria Lynn Arnold

Victoria is a freelance copywriter for the dog and pet industry, and has two big furbabies of her own. She’s always been passionate…

Caring for an Emaciated Dog

By T. J. Dunn, Jr., DVM

At times, animal shelters or rescue groups are presented with a markedly thin and undernourished homeless dog. (The significant loss of body fat and muscle mass is termed emaciation.) The following presentation relates to the care and recovery assistance provided to dogs that have been homeless for days to weeks.

Ideally, the dog should be thoroughly checked by a veterinarian and veterinary advice should be given regarding the dog’s nursing care. However, if veterinary assistance is not available, shelter personnel should, upon initial admission to the shelter, do the following:

1. Create an individual animal chart for the dog so that daily records and notes can be recorded.

2. Conduct a thorough inspection for any identification markers such as ear or inner thigh tattoos and/or microchips. These subcutaneous tiny microchip implants can migrate, so scan the entire dog for a microchip implant.

3. Record the dog’s temperature, weight and also note an estimated normal weight on the chart.

4. Conduct a thorough physical exam. Don’t neglect to inspect the oral cavity for fractured teeth, bone fragments lodged between teeth, and lacerations to or under the tongue. Check for eye and ear infections; check under the tail for evidence of anal sores, tapeworm segments, or maggot infested moist infections. Check the paws for abraded pads or interdigital infections or foreign matter.

5. Gently probe with your fingertips all areas of the abdomen. This is most easily done having an assistant restrain the dog’s head while the dog is in a standing position. Stand/kneel at the dog’s hip and facing forward places the left hand fingers along the left side of the dog’s abdomen and passing the right hand under the belly and placing the right hand fingers opposite to the left. Gently bringing the hands together, and probing and pushing various areas along the abdomen will reveal important information.

Does the dog display pain? Does the dog “cramp up” and grunt when abdominal pressure is applied? If so, the dog may need veterinary care. If no pain is noted and the dog tolerates the abdominal palpation, the odds are good that there are no significant or life abdominal threatening problems.

6. Check the gums and tongue for color. A pale or grayish color may indicate anemia from blood loss or rodent poison ingestion. Likewise, if there are areas on the gums or whites of the eyes where blotches of hemorrhage are noted, veterinary care is needed right away. The gums and tongue should be pink to reddish.

7. Offer the dog a small amount of water and observe the dog’s interest and ability to drink.

8. Determine if the dog is dehydrated. The best way to do this is to gently grasp a fold of skin at the base of the neck and pull the skin upward, away from the dog. In a normal state of hydration when you let go of the stretched fold of skin, it readily snaps back into place. If, however, the skin fold does not snap back, but seems to dissipate in slow motion, that display of poor elasticity will only occur if the dog is dehydrated.


Non-veterinary care can be successful as long as the rescued dog does not have a serious medical disorder such as kidney failure, anemia, pancreatitis or bowel obstruction due to garbage or foreign body ingestion.

Since many dogs admitted to an animal shelter have been injured while homeless, they need careful evaluation for broken bones, burns or gunshot injuries. Garbage ingestion can cause bacterial enteritis and bloody diarrhea, severe pancreatitis, and intestinal blockage due to the consumption of bones.

What Happens During Starvation?

Researchers have studied how a dog’s body organs and biochemistry are disrupted by various lengths of time of starvation. If the dog is healthy to begin with, and no medical problems exist that, of course, would compound the starving dog’s medical status, a predictable sequence of adaptations take place.

The dog’s biochemical functions shift into survival mode within twenty-four hours with no nutritional intake. The highest priority of the dog’s metabolic processes becomes the necessity to keep the blood glucose concentration at a normal level. If the blood glucose (“blood sugar”) level drops too low for any reason, the brain, heart, muscles and kidney function shuts down rapidly and death comes quickly. So, when the dog has no opportunity to eat, the survival mode’s first concern is to mobilize stored glucose from liver and muscle reserves by changing the biochemical processes to different chemical pathways that make glucose readily available.

After about two days without food the liver reserves of glycogen (glucose) are depleted. So in order to keep the blood level of glucose in the normal range, new chemical pathways open, called gluconeogenesis, where the liver and kidneys create molecules from complicated biochemical reactions so that fats and proteins are extracted from adipose tissue and muscle. As the glucose reserves are tapped and diminished, chemical reactions kick in to create glucose internally from those protein and fat reserves. Energy to run the body’s machinery (muscle, brain, kidney, heart and other organ functions require energy to fuel their activities) is now fueled less by glucose and more by fatty acid extracted from fat reserves.


On the third day of food deprivation the dog’s metabolism slows down. This lower, or slowed, metabolic rate continues as long as no food is consumed. The lowered metabolism is a survival mechanism to decrease the utilization of body fat and muscle for energy. Lowered blood sugar levels changes insulin secretion by the pancreas, which in turn lowers thyroid hormone levels; and it’s the thyroid gland function that ultimately dictates the metabolic rate.

During starvation the liver releases chemicals called ketones into the blood stream; ketones are then used as a source of energy for the dog’s body cells. By creating ketones and fatty acids to be used as energy sources, the dog’s body conserves what little glucose is circulating so that glucose-dependent red blood cells and important kidney tissues can continue to access glucose. Interestingly, red blood cells and kidney tubule cells cannot utilize anything other than glucose for cell energy needs.

After five days of starvation fat becomes the main source of energy.

Feeding the Starved Dog

Animal caretakers must exert strict self-control when attempting to nurse a starved dog back to good health. The natural and common tendency is to overfeed the dog “because he’s ravenous.” If an emaciated and starved dog is suddenly overfed serious consequences, such as refeeding syndrome, await. This is because a sudden load of carbohydrates in a large meal can create serious shifts in potassium and phosphorus concentrations in all body cells.

Signs of Refeeding Syndrome are described as muscle weakness, muscle cramps, heart muscle damage and rhythm irregularities, seizures, red blood cell rupture and respiratory failure.

In addition, a prolonged lack of food does not “shrink the stomach,” but it does make the stomach much more sensitive to stretch receptor nerve impulses. The dog may feel as if full when the stomach has only a small quantity of food in the stomach. The increased sensitivity to gastric expansion will dissipate over 3 to 7 days.

The food being fed to the starved dog should have adequate mineral composition, especially phosphorous, potassium and magnesium. (Therefore, do not be tempted to feed, for example, just hamburger, which does not have a wide or balanced mineral content.) The amount of food, or total calories, should not exceed over 24 hours what the dog would normally eat at its normal weight. An emaciated dog is best served consuming a small meal every six hours (4 times a day) rather than consuming one or two larger meals.

A broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement is important to include at each meal. Some evidence supports the addition of the amino acid glutamine to the recovery diet. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acid supplements are also beneficial to a dog recovering from malnourishment; the same holds true for the amino acid arginine. Dietary nucleotides are important contributors to the formation of DNA and RNA and assist in a number of metabolic activities of healthy cells. Diets rich in meat provide adequate nucleotides.

By feeding a highly digestible, meat-based “Puppy” or “Growth” food, along with certain supplements, recovery and weight gain should be evident in a short period of time — that is, as long as the dog has a normal appetite.

Also, until a normal appetite should return, it is recommended to divide the daily suggested amount of food (based on the dog’s estimated health weight) into four smaller portions. At each meal, closely monitor the dog’s intake and note it on a chart. For example, the record could state, 8:00 a.m. meal – ate 100% or ate 50% or ate 10%.

If, after two days, the dog does not consume an amount over a 24-hour period approximately equal to the amount expected to be eaten by a healthy dog of the patient’s ideal weight, assisted (forced) feeding may become necessary. Consult your veterinarian regarding how best to force feed the patient.

Keep in mind that some dogs raised on a single type of dog food may reject a different type no matter how hungry the dog may be. There are dogs that simply refuse to eat canned food, dry food or table scraps, so be prepared to be creative. Slightly warming the food or moistening with chicken broth, and presenting the food in tidbit amounts can tempt a reluctant appetite.

If you estimate the dog has been deprived of food for 7 days or more, the diet should be composed predominately of fat rather than carbohydrates. Never allow the dog, especially early in the recovery feeding process, to consume a large meal all at once. Small amounts fed at intervals during the first few days is very important. Free access to water is proper.

It is common to see occasional vomiting or loose stool in the early recovery time of a starved dog. By weighing the dog twice a day (a.m. and p.m.) and by noting the amount of food ingested versus the amount vomited and passed as feces, an assessment can be made regarding positive or negative weight gain. Veterinary care is needed if bloody stool or vomit is noted or if there is weight loss during the refeeding and recovery period.


Determining How Much to Feed

Nutritionists employ a number of methods and formulas to determine the average total caloric intake for dogs based upon the dog’s ideal body weight. Any estimate of “how much” to feed is inherently subjective and lots of variables will apply to each individual dog.

Some nutritionists rely on the (MER) Maintenance Energy Requirement to determine approximately how much food (actually how many calories) an average dog needs on a daily basis to maintain body weight. In spite of exceptions and variables, calculating the MER is sensible and useful.

Below is an approximation for an average dog’s maintenance daily caloric requirements:

Dog’s Weight in Pounds Total Calories Needed Per Day
11 456
22 725
44 1,151
66 1,508
88 1,827
132 2,394

The stress of recovery from a starvation state might demand a slightly higher caloric intake than estimated. When feeding the emaciated dog, the number of calories the dog should ideally consume during recovery from starvation should be approximately the same as what the dog would consume at its normal weight. For example, if a rescued Mastiff is extremely thin and emaciated and upon examination she weighs 88 pounds and you estimate that when healthy she would weigh 130 pounds, try to feed the dog a daily caloric amount calculated for a 132 pound dog. Therefore, during a 24-hour day you would provide the dog not with 1,827 calories but rather 2,390 calories.

Every pet food or supplement label must list the calories per unit weight of the product. Plus, the percent fat and protein are listed. For some mysterious reason carbohydrates (CHO) percentages are not often listed and, if needed, must be calculated by deduction from the percentages of everything else listed on the label. Fortunately, in the starving dog’s recovery diet our main focus is on fat and protein intake so calculating the calories supplied by carbohydrates isn’t a priority.

It is suggested that dogs mildly to moderately underweight be provided with a diet moderately high in fat and protein. These diets should have adequate levels of carbohydrates but not predominantly carbohydrate. Try to feed products that show (for dry food) fat content of 18% and protein 28-30%. (Liquid supplements will list seemingly lower percentages for fat and protein because they typically are 60 to 70% moisture whereas dry pet foods have only 10% moisture.)

For a markedly underweight dog that truly looks starved, an even higher fat content in the diet is recommended… but remember to start out slowly! Do not overfeed with too much at any single feeding. Also, check with your veterinarian before giving an emaciated dog a recovery diet.

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T. J. Dunn, DVM


Healthy Foods Checklist: Fish Oil for Dogs

Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and provides a variety of health benefits for dogs. Cold-water oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and trout, naturally contain fish oil.

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that may lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis in dogs. These good fats are also said to help with skin conditions, allergies, and kidney function. Fish oil also supports healthy skin and coats, vision development and cognitive function.

You can give your dog fish oil capsules to eat, hide the pill inside a tasty treat, or add liquid oil into your pet’s food.

Fish and fish meal is often found in dog foods as the main protein. In addition, many pet foods are formulated with fish oil because of the critical role omega-3s play in treating and preventing disease.

Pet owners should talk with their veterinarian before giving their dog fish oil, since too large a dosage can cause adverse side effects.

What Is AAFCO and What Does It Do?

Choosing the right cat food or dog food is a challenge for every pet parent. There are plenty of factors to consider, but one thing that all vets agree on is that whichever pet food you select, it needs to be AAFCO-approved.

But what is AAFCO? What does it mean for a pet food to be AAFCO-approved? This guide will break down everything you need to know about AAFCO-approved dog food and cat food and why it’s so important for pet food packages to have an AAFCO statement on them.

What Is AAFCO?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a private, nonprofit, voluntary membership association.

AAFCO is made up of officials that are charged with regulating the sale and distribution of animal feeds (including pet foods) and drug remedies. AAFCO also establishes standard ingredient definitions and nutritional requirements for pet foods. Individual states often use AAFCO’s recommendations to create pet food regulations.

Does AAFCO Test Pet Foods or Regulate Pet Food Ingredients?

AAFCO does NOT directly test, regulate, approve, or certify pet foods to make sure that they meet the standard requirements. Instead, they establish guidelines for ingredient definitions, product labels, feeding trials, and laboratory analyses of the nutrients that go into pet foods.

Pet food companies then use third-party testing agencies to analyze their foods according to the AAFCO guidelines.

AAFCO guidelines for pet food labels include:

Product and brand name

Species of animal that the food is intended for

Net quantity

Guaranteed analysis

Ingredient list

Nutritional adequacy statement (complete and balanced statement)

Feeding directions

Name and location of the manufacturer

Does the FDA Regulate Pet Food?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes sure that the ingredients used in pet food are safe and have a purpose in pet food.

Some ingredients, like meat, poultry, and grains, are deemed safe. Other substances, like vitamins, minerals, flavorings, and preservatives, may be generally recognized as safe for an intended use. The FDA also regulates specific claims such as “low magnesium.”

The FDA requires that pet food packaging include:

Proper identification of the product

Net quantity

Name and location of the manufacturer/distributor

Proper listing of all ingredients

Ingredients must be displayed in order of the largest amount to least amount by weight.

States may have their own regulations as well. Many states follow models based on AAFCO recommendations.

What Is the AAFCO Statement on a Pet Food Label?

The AAFCO statement found on pet food packaging explains whether the food contains essential nutrients, how that was determined, and for which life stage the food is appropriate for. It basically lets you know that the food is “complete and balanced” for a particular life stage.

Life stages are separated into two categories:

Adult Maintenance: These foods are intended for adult dogs or cats.

Growth and Reproduction: These foods are designed for puppies/kittens and pregnant or lactating females. A newer guideline for puppy foods also includes a statement about large dogs (those over 70 lbs.)

Foods that are marketed for “all life stages” must meet the more stringent standards for “growth and reproduction.” However, this is not an AAFCO designation.

Nutritional adequacy standards established by AAFCO must be met or exceeded in order for a pet food to be marketed as “complete and balanced” for a certain life stage.

Any product that does not meet either standard must be labeled for “intermittent or supplemental feeding only.” These foods are not deemed to be complete and balanced and should not be fed as your pet’s primary diet.

Products that are clearly labeled as a snack or treat do not have to contain one of these AAFCO designations.

Testing Procedures for AAFCO Approval

Pet food companies use a laboratory analysis and will sometimes conduct feeding trials to prove that their food is complete and balanced for a certain life stage.

Feeding Trials

Feeding trials use both a laboratory analysis of the food as well as conducting actual feeding trials. AAFCO outlines specific protocols for conducting feeding tests for each life stage that include:

Minimum number of animals in the trial

How long the test should last

Physical exams performed by veterinarians

Clinical observations and measurements such as weight and blood tests

For example, “adult maintenance” feeding trials for dogs must include a minimum of eight healthy dogs that are at least 1 year of age, and the trial must last 26 weeks.

Pet foods that pass the feeding trial requirements will have a label stating something like:

“Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of food) proves complete and balanced nutrition for (life stage).”

Laboratory Analysis

AAFCO publishes specific dietary nutrient requirements for dogs based on the two life stages—adult maintenance or growth/reproduction. If a laboratory analysis was used to verify that a pet food meets AAFCO’s nutrient profiles, the label will read: 

“(Name of food) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (Dog/Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles for (life stage).”

AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles

Growth and Reproduction

Protein 22.5%

Further broken down into specific amino acid requirements

Fat 8.5%


Includes calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine, selenium


Includes vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid, vitamin B12, choline

Adult Maintenance

Protein 18%

Further broken down into specific amino acid requirements

Fat 5.5%


Includes calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine, selenium


Includes vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid, vitamin B12, choline

AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles

AAFCO publishes specific dietary nutrient requirements for cats based on one of two life stages—adult maintenance or growth/reproduction.

Growth and Reproduction

Protein 30%Further broken down into specific amino acid requirementsFat 9%MineralsIncludes calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine, seleniumVitaminsIncludes vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid, vitamin B12, choline, biotin

Adult Maintenance

Protein 26%Further broken down into specific amino acid requirementsFat 9%MineralsIncludes calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine, seleniumVitaminsIncludes vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid, vitamin B12, choline, biotin


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Virginia LaMon, DVM


Dr. Virginia LaMon graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. She completed her clinical year at Auburn…

Can Dogs Eat Broccoli?

NOTE: Always check with your veterinarian first before giving your dog any new foods, especially “people foods.” What might be okay for one dog might not be good for your dog, depending on multiple factors, such as their age, health history, health conditions, and diet. Dogs on prescription diets should not be fed any food or treats outside the diet.

Yes, adult dogs can eat broccoli. It’s not toxic to dogs and contains health benefits, so it’s safe in small portions.

Puppies have different dietary needs than adult dogs, and their digestive systems aren’t as developed. The high fiber content in broccoli could cause problems for puppies, so it’s best to avoid feeding them broccoli. 

Whether you want to give broccoli to your adult dog as a snack, or if they ate some when your back was turned, here are some safe feeding portions, health benefits, and concerns about dogs eating too much broccoli. 

Is Broccoli Good for Dogs?

Broccoli is not just safe for dogs to eat; it contains many health benefits and nutrients for your dog, just like it does for you. In fact, some dog foods even contain broccoli. It is full of fiber, antioxidants, and digestible plant protein, and it provides vitamins and minerals like:

Vitamin C

Vitamin K

Folic Acid





Although broccoli provides a lot of great health benefits, your dog cannot rely on broccoli alone for their vitamins and minerals. Additionally, you should be careful not to feed your dog too much broccoli because it can cause intestinal upset.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Broccoli?

Yes, dogs can eat raw broccoli florets. If you make sure to wash them first, then cut them into small, edible pieces, they are safe and nutritious. In fact, eating broccoli raw or steamed is the best way to keep the most nutrients in the broccoli. 

Can Dogs Eat Cooked or Steamed Broccoli?

Dogs can also safely eat cooked and steamed broccoli. If you steam broccoli for just a few minutes, it will retain more nutrients than if you cook it. But either way, it’s safe for your dog to eat. 

Just make sure that it’s not too hot so they don’t burn their tongues. And be sure to only feed your pup plain broccoli. That means no butter, oils, or seasonings. Not only are these added ingredients unhealthy for your dog, but certain seasonings like garlic and onion are toxic to dogs. 

Can Dogs Eat Broccoli Stems?

Broccoli stems are not toxic for dogs, but they aren’t the best part of the broccoli to feed to your dog. The stems could become a choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage. If you do feed stem pieces to your dog, make sure they are cut up into very small, easily edible pieces. 

If your dog seems to be choking, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Can Dogs Be Allergic to Broccoli?

Dogs can develop allergies from repeated exposure to a food. Food allergies in dogs usually cause skin issues, rashes, and ear infections. If this is the first time you’re feeding your dog broccoli, you could see signs of food intolerance, which is different from an allergy. Signs of food intolerance include vomiting or diarrhea.

Does Broccoli Make Dogs Fart?

If you’ve wondered whether broccoli can make a dog fart, the answer is yes! Not only does broccoli contain a high amount of fiber—which can cause an upset stomach and intestinal gas—but the broccoli florets also contain isothiocyanate.

This organic compound is thought to help prevent cancer. But it can also cause gastric irritation in dogs—which can also cause your pup to pass gas. 

And although broccoli contains plant protein that dogs can digest, too much protein can also cause flatulence. 

How Much Broccoli Can Dogs Eat?

If you’re wondering how much broccoli is okay to feed your dog, check out our chart below. And remember—everything in moderation. That means that even healthy treats like broccoli should only make up 10% of your dog’s diet. The other 90% should come from a well-balanced dog food diet. 

Below are some general guidelines for safe portion sizes to feed your dog broccoli, based on your dog’s weight and breed size:

Extra-small dog (2–20 pounds) = one to two pieces (½-inch wide by ¼-inch thick)

          Examples: Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Pugs

Small dog (21–30 pounds) = three to four pieces of broccoli (1-inch wide by ¼-inch thick)

          Examples: Basenjis, Beagles, Miniature Australian Shepherds

Medium dog (31–50 pounds) = five to six pieces of broccoli (1-inch wide by ¼-inch thick)

          Examples: Basset Hounds, Border Collies, Australian Cattle Dogs

Large dog (51–90 pounds) = handful of broccoli pieces (1-inch wide by ¼-inch thick)

          Examples: Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Australian Shepherds

Extra-large dog (91+ pounds) = large handful of broccoli pieces (1-inch wide by ¼-inch thick)

          Examples: Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs, St. Bernards, Great Pyrenees

If your dog ate some broccoli when you weren’t watching, or you accidentally fed them too much, keep an eye out for the following symptoms of an upset stomach. If you do notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian right away. 

Decreased appetite or loss of appetite


Acting depressed

Looking uncomfortable

Gulping or licking their lips, the air, or objects


Excessive diarrhea

Blood in their vomit or stool



How to Feed Your Dog Broccoli

Ready to feed your pup some broccoli as a treat? Wash the broccoli thoroughly, cut it into small, edible pieces, and remove the stems to avoid any choking hazards. 


Raw pieces of broccoli are the easiest and quickest way to share them with your dog while preserving the nutrients.


Steamed broccoli takes just a few minutes, but this method also helps maintain the highest nutrient levels. Do not add other ingredients or seasonings. 


Cooking broccoli takes a little longer and may take strip away some of the natural nutrients, but it’s still very healthy! Don’t add extra ingredients or seasonings to cooked broccoli either. 


If you’re feeling fancy, you could blend together a little bit of broccoli with some dog-safe fruits like blueberries and bananas, plus a scoop of completely plain, sugar-free, xylitol-free yogurt. You can add this on top of your dog’s food, or even freeze it in your dog’s KONG toy as a cold treat for later. 

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Victoria Lynn Arnold

Victoria is a freelance copywriter for the dog and pet industry, and has two big furbabies of her own. She’s always been passionate…

How to Best Treat Arthritis in Dogs

By Ashley Gallagher, DVM

Arthritis is one of the most common ailments affecting dogs, especially middle aged to senior dogs. Whether the dog is large or small, arthritis can be a source of chronic pain and negatively affect quality of life. Also known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis occurs when a joint is unstable and causes the bones to move abnormally within the joint. Cartilage lines the joints, acting as a barrier between bones. Over time this abnormal movement erodes the cartilage and bone begins rubbing against bone, creating chronic inflammation and pain.

Ways to Treat (and Prevent) Arthritis in Dogs

The absolute best way to prevent arthritis in dogs is to keep your pet at a healthy weight. This will reduce the stress that the body places on joints and help keep things moving like they should. If you notice that your dog has some “extra padding” around the ribs or belly, you should speak with your veterinarian immediately to see if your pet is overweight. Your veterinarian will also be able to help you with a weight loss plan.

Therapeutic diets, found at your veterinarian’s office or at many online pet specialty retailers, are a great option for pets with mobility issues. These diets can be specifically formulated to address many health issues, including arthritis. For example, therapeutic pet foods with Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids balanced in a specific ratio can reduce inflammation and target pain pathways in dogs. When used properly under the supervision of a veterinarian, therapeutic diets can help arthritic pets resume running, walking, and jumping in as little as a few weeks. Your veterinarian may also recommend a therapeutic diet with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, two commonly used nutritional supplements that support joint health by maintaining the cartilage and repairing any defects that might be present.

You may be tempted to supplement your pet’s current diet with fatty acids, glucosamine or chondroitin on your own, but be aware that it is difficult to get the proper balance with the diet. This will also add unwanted calories, which is undesirable when you are trying to keep your pet slim. Therapeutic diets that are specially formulated for arthritis have a lower overall calorie count and the additional calories from the fatty acids have already been factored in. Therefore you have a much lower risk of overloading your pet with calories, which can lead to weight gain.

Pets with arthritis aren’t necessarily incapable of exercising. Staying active actually helps many arthritic pets who suffer from achy bones and joints. It is, however, vital to consult your veterinarian before beginning an exercise regimen. Exerting your dog too much or too quickly may inadvertently do more harm than good.

If the above methods don’t do the trick, it may be time to discuss pain medication with your veterinarian. Joint disease should be addressed on multiple fronts in order to make your pet as comfortable as possible. But as the saying goes, prevention is always the best medicine. Keep your pet slim. And if you do notice some stiffness, limping or slowing down in your dog, talk to a veterinarian right away about therapeutic diets and other arthritic treatments available for your pet.

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Ashley Gallagher, DVM


What’s in Natural Dog Food?


We all want to offer the best in nutrition to our pets, but selecting the right diet can be difficult when there are so many options. In many cases, the terminology and “buzz words” used on pet food labels can make it even more confusing.

“Natural” is a term that you’ll find on a lot of pet food packaging. But how is “natural dog food” different from other dog food? Is it an official term? Are natural dog food diets better?

To help you navigate the labels, this guide will explain everything you need to know about the term “natural” and what it means for dog foods.

What Is Natural Dog Food?

The term “natural” conveys an understanding that the item can be found in nature and is not manmade or produced secondary to a chemical or synthetic process. So do pet food companies have to adhere to any regulations to call specific formulas or ingredients “natural”?

Does the FDA Regulate Natural Dog Food?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet defined the term “natural” in relation to pet food labeling. Instead, the FDA relies on the requirement that the label information must not be false or misleading. The FDA requires that all animal foods be safe to eat, produced under clean and sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled.

Many FDA regulations for proper labeling of products are based on models provided by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This voluntary membership organization provides guidelines for the local, state, and federal agencies that regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds, including dog and cat food.

What Are the AAFCO Guidelines for Natural Dog Food?

Guidelines established by AAFCO are followed for properly displaying certain terms such as “natural” or “organic” on products. Understanding the meaning of some of the terms used by pet food companies is a great starting point to finding what you are looking for in an individual product.

AAFCO defines “natural” as follows:

“a feed or feed ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur in good manufacturing practices.”

Essentially this means that an ingredient can be present in its natural state or may have been handled under a nonchemically synthetic process, and it does not contain chemically simulated additives.

When Can a Dog Food Be Called “All-Natural”?

“Natural” can be used to describe certain ingredients in a product or the entire product. A product can claim to be “all-natural” or “100% natural” when every ingredient used to create the product falls under the AAFCO definition of the term.

What Ingredients Are in Natural Dog Food?

The accepted definition of natural encompasses a wide array of ingredient components, as the majority of ingredients found in pet food products are indeed from plant, animal, or mineral sources.

These ingredients are still considered to be natural if they undergo commonly used processing during manufacturing, or if they contain only trace amounts of synthetic compounds.

Ingredients are not considered natural if they have been chemically synthesized. This would include:

Artificial flavor or coloring



Synthesized vitamins or minerals

A product that is labeled as natural will often include a disclaimer stating that there are added vitamins or minerals that are needed in order for the product to be a complete and balanced diet.

What’s the Difference Between Natural, Organic, and Holistic Dog Food?

You might see these terms used on their own or with each other on pet food labels, but they are not interchangeable.

Natural Dog Food

Natural dog food implies that the ingredients used exist in nature and are not manufactured by humans. This can pertain to the product as a whole if all ingredients are natural, or to individually stated ingredients such as “natural beef flavor.”

Organic Dog Food

AAFCO defines products as “organic” when they meet the requirements for production and handling set forth by the National Organic Program (NOP) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The NOP regulates that crops, livestock, and agricultural products said to be organic are certified to the USDA’s standards. These products must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients and will display a USDA organic seal.

Holistic Dog Food

The term “holistic” means taking into consideration a dog’s whole being, as opposed to focusing on individual factors. For dog food, holistic has very little meaning, as there is currently no legal definition nor regulation for it under the FDA, AAFCO, or the USDA. It is often used as a marketing term as it has no accepted specific relation to ingredients that are used in a product.

Is Natural Dog Food Better?

Most people feel that the less processing involved and fewer additives in a food, the better the food is. However, it’s not as simple as a blanket statement that natural dog food is better. As with all products, just because something is natural, it does not necessarily mean that it is safer or of superior nutrition or quality.

Even foods that are all-natural can have too much or too little of individual nutrients, and the addition of some synthesized nutrients such as sources of amino acids, vitamins, or minerals is often required to achieve a food that is nutritionally complete.

While selecting a dog food, look for claims that the product is “complete and balanced;” this ensures that the diet meets AAFCO’s nutrient profile requirements.

No diet is “one-size-fits-all.” Selecting the ideal option for each individual pet is a decision that should be based on a number of factors, including:

Life stage

Breed and size


Special considerations

Your veterinarian is a great resource for discussing diet options and finding the right fit for your pet’s needs. They can answer questions and make suggestions that take your pet’s life stage, breed, and medical history into consideration to find the ideal diet to support your pet’s best health.

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Ashley Joy, DVM


Dr. Ashley Joy graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2014, after receiving a Bachelor of Science…

Does My Dog Need Senior Dog Food?

Nutrition is a very powerful tool throughout all stages of a dog’s life. It can be used to maintain health, prevent disease, and even primarily manage some disease conditions. That said, just because your dog is getting older doesn’t necessarily mean they need a diet change.

There are many foods out there that are labeled for mature, aging, and senior dogs. There are even diets labeled for all life stages. It can be hard to know what is best for your dog and whether you should switch to senior dog food.

Do Senior Dogs Need Senior Dog Food?

The decision on what to feed and whether to change to senior dog food should be based on many factors—your veterinarian can help make recommendations based on your dog’s health status, disease risk, and lifestyle.

The goals for feeding a senior dog are twofold:

Prevent or manage disease

Increase longevity

If your dog has been diagnosed with a condition that’s known to be influenced by nutrition, it may be time for a switch. This is one of the main factors to take into account when deciding if your dog needs a senior food.

What Makes a Senior Dog Food Different?

So, what makes a senior dog food different from adult or all life stages dog food? Food that’s labeled for senior dogs may vary in their ingredient and nutrient profiles, but not always.

For example, the percentage of protein in adult dog food ranges from 18-30%. This is similar to the range of 18-23% for senior dog foods (on a dry matter basis). Other nutrient content can vary widely, as is often the case with sodium and phosphorus levels.

What sets senior dog foods apart from adult or all life stages foods is whether they also have certain nutrients and other ingredients that can help influence or manage certain diseases.

It’s important to read dog food labels, and if you are contemplating a change, check in with your vet to see what your dog’s specific needs may be.

All foods, regardless of stage, should provide the recommended amounts of required nutrients as established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (or AAFCO). It is important to note, however, that AAFCO approval does not ensure the food will be effective in preventing or managing a specific disease.

What Conditions Can Senior Dog Food Help Manage?

There are quite a few diseases that are known to affect aging dogs. Many of these can be influenced or managed, in part or entirely through nutrition. This includes conditions such as:

Dental disease


Cognitive dysfunction (dementia)

Kidney disease


Skin diseases

Certain cancers

In some cases, nutritional changes can affect the outcome or slow the progression of a disease process, while in others, it may simply help reduce the signs associated with the condition.

Dogs with dental disease may benefit from senior dry foods with a specific kibble shape, size, and texture to reduce plaque buildup. These may contain added ingredients known to specifically control dental disease. 

Alternatively, if your senior dog has lost their teeth, or has few teeth left, your vet may suggest going with a canned food variety for ease and comfort with eating.

Dogs with arthritis may benefit from senior foods with added ingredients that are known to benefit the joints, such as glucosamine hydrochloride; chondroitin sulfate; and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)), to name a few. If a therapeutic diet is not suggested, supplements containing these ingredients may be recommended for your senior dog.

If your dog has kidney disease, your vet might recommend a high-quality senior food with low (but quality) protein. In many cases, a therapeutic diet may be recommended.

When Does a Dog Need to Switch to Senior Dog Food?

Dog life-stage classifications can help you know when your dog is considered a senior. Depending on their breed and size, most dogs are considered to be “mature adults” between 6 and 8 years old. In most cases, a dog older than 8 years will move into the senior category.  

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While these age classifications can be helpful in guiding food choices, it’s important to remember that animals are individuals. Just because they reach a certain age does not mean they are necessarily old on a physiologic scale.

The aging process differs for each dog, and just like with people, it may look, feel, and affect them all differently. If your senior dog is healthy and maintaining a good weight, a new dog food may not be needed.

Your veterinarian is your best ally in determining when your dog is ready to transition to a senior diet.

How to Choose the Best Senior Dog Food

Before making the transition to senior dog food, talk with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is ready and that they don’t have any particular suggestions.

Here are some tips for how to make the transition easier for your dog.

Use the Senior Version of Their Current Food

If your canine companion is ready for a senior food, you can start by trying the senior version of what they already eat (same brand, variety, and texture). Many brands offer a senior version of most mature adult foods. This may help avoid digestive upset associated with diet change.

Look for a Senior Dog Food That Is Similar to Their Current Food

If your brand does not offer a senior version, look for senior dog foods with similar ingredient and nutrient profiles. For example, if your dog has always eaten a chicken and rice kibble, look for a senior dry food with similar ingredients.

If your vet has suggested a different formulation, brand, or variety, take a closer look at the ingredients and make your selection based on your dog’s unique needs.

Consider Trying a Food That’s Specialized for Your Dog’s Size or Breed

There are usually small and large breed varieties of senior dog food, depending on the brand.

If you have a small dog, looking for a small breed senior food is a good idea (and the same for larger breeds). These diets are usually formulated with size-specific (or in some cases, breed-specific) needs in mind. This could include a certain kibble shape, size, and texture, or added ingredients for diseases that are more likely to affect dogs of different sizes or breeds.

Listen to Your Veterinarian’s Recommendations for Special Conditions

If your dog has been diagnosed with a condition known to be influenced by nutrition, or they are at risk for certain diseases based on their health and lifestyle, your vet may suggest a therapeutic or prescription diet. These diets require a prescription from your veterinarian.

While these diets do not usually contain the word “senior” in their title, they are formulated to manage disease conditions commonly seen in senior dogs. They may have added ingredients or formulation-specific differences not available in over-the-counter varieties.

Transition Slowly to the New Senior Dog Food

Once you have selected the right diet for your senior dog, it’s important to make the transition gradually to their new food. Ideally, this should be done over 7-10 days or more, with a complete transition to the new food by 14 days.

If your dog is prone to digestive upset, you may want to take longer to introduce the new food. It’s best to start by mixing in small amounts of the new food with their current diet. Each day, you can add more of the new food and remove more of the old food until the transition is complete. If digestive upset occurs (vomiting, diarrhea, or not eating), it’s best to stop the new diet and contact your vet.

Always Talk to Your Vet About Diet Changes

There are so many great options when it comes to senior dog foods these days. The variability in nutrient and ingredient content makes it hard to know what is best. Choosing the right food should be a decision based on your senior dog’s specific needs, known health conditions, disease risk, and lifestyle. Your veterinarian is a key player in your dog’s health and should be consulted when considering a dietary change.

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Christina Fernandez, DVM, DACVECC


Dr. Christina Fernandez obtained her DVM degree from St. George’s University in 2007 and membership with the Royal College of Veterinary…