After yesterday’s post, I was reflecting upon the time it has taken us to find supplies that work for our needs as a senior dog household.
There has been plenty of trial and error as we try to find what works for us, so I wanted to put together a quick post to share with you the supplies that we have found to work best.
*Please note, while we do receive a commission from the links provided in this post, these are all retailers that we use or have used for these EXACT products. I do not promote any products that we have not utilized AND seen results from ourselves.*
Since this has turned in to such a long post, I have included some quick links to help you to find what you’re looking for:
The Best Food for Senior Dogs
The Best Dry Kibble for Senior Dogs
Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Chicken & Rice Natural Dry Dog Food – Jet is picky about chicken so I have to add to this kibble to get him to eat it (I’ve found that adding the powdered joint supplement listed in this post works quite well.) With that said, however, this is my favorite kibble choice for senior dogs for a few reasons:
1) The ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is optimal at 5:1.
2) The ratio of glucosamine to chondroitin is optimal at 3:1.
3) The low levels of phosphorus at .75%
4) The sodium levels are moderately low at .16%, a necessity for a dog with heart disease.
5) It contains no corn, wheat, or soy.
6) It’s affordable at around $53 for a 30# bag.
7) Added taurine for heart health.
The two concerns I have with this food? 1) The previous recalls that Wellness brands have issued. I would obviously prefer to feed a food that has not had recalls in their past, but these days that is next to impossible. I do always recommend keeping tabs on pet food recalls, however, to ensure that your pet food is not affected. 2) Wellness seems to be somewhat evasive in terms of where all of their ingredients are sourced. Multiple reputable sources (we like the Truth About Petfood) have attempted to get the company to comment, but none have yet to get a to the point response. The best that could be obtained was from Susan Thixton at Truth About Petfood who received the response of “95% of all ingredients are US or Canadian ingredients, 4% (lamb) from New Zealand, and less than 2% ingredients are purchased internationally.” While this food is “made in the USA,” some questions remain as to where the ingredients used in it actually come from.
If you have a poultry-intolerant dog, we also like Open Farm Catch of the Day food and California Natural Kangaroo and Red Lentil formula, although I have been told that they are going to stop selling their food online and if you live in California (ironically) you cannot purchase this food because it contains kangaroo. If you need something a little more affordable that does not contain poultry, check out Earthborn Holistic Ocean Fusion or Natural Balance L.I.D Lamb Meal and Brown Rice. Lastly, if you are looking for something that does not have phosphorus limitations, we really loved Acana Ranchlands.
The Best Raw Food for Senior Dogs
During our experience with raw food, we discovered a few brands that we really love! Keep in mind that we ONLY fed ground raw food for a number of reasons, some of these reasons seemed to tick off many in the raw community, but I know what is best for my boy. We chose ground food because Jet chokes all. the. time. and I was not ready to have him choking on bones that he gulped down whole. It is also not uncommon for dogs eating whole prey to vomit up large pieces that were swallowed whole, I did not want any more strain on his system than he already has with heart disease, age, bad joints, and a sensitive gut. Keep in mind when feeding raw that it is always best to add a probiotic to your senior dog’s diet with raw food, you must always monitor your dog’s weight when they begin a raw diet to ensure that you are feeding enough, and it is always cheaper to buy your raw food locally if you can find it!
Stella and Chewy’s Frozen Patties – Jet loved the Surf and Turf frozen patties and I liked the added benefit of more fish in his diet. We bought our supply locally for around $29.99 for a 6# bag which was enough food for 6 days with supplementation or 4 days fed alone. I love the variety of protein offered by Stella and Chewy’s.
Bravo Balance Frozen Chubs – Bravo is the more economical option when you want to feed raw on a budget, but don’t want to tackle whole prey pieces or piece together your own meals. There are multiple forms of Bravo frozen raw food available, but we chose the balance chubs because it includes meat/bone/organ/veggies/minerals/vitamins and is a complete and balanced food, but it is still affordable. The Bravo Balance is only available in beef, chicken, and turkey. You can get Bravo Balance in patties, but the 5# chubs will be your most economical choice.
All Provide – All Provide is another great option if you are looking for affordable raw food. This is a pre-packaged raw food service that mail your food straight to your door. They have beef, chicken, turkey, puppy, and senior mixes of complete and balanced raw diets. We DID NOT try them personally due to the individual answering the phone being quite rude when we called, but if you are looking for affordable, their food comes highly recommended.
The Best Wet Food for Senior Dogs
We do not currently, nor have we, fed Jet canned/wet food. There is no reason for this other than the fact that I have never seen the need to. I have been considering it as an option lately, however, as we move back into kibble feeding. Since we have not tried it yet, I can’t say one way or another what my thoughts are, but at the moment, I am leaning towards Wellness Complete Health Whitefish and Sweet Potato. I will update you if we do decide to give it a try.
Foods Tips to Remember for Senior Dogs
Feeding a senior dog requires education on your part. You MUST learn to read the ingredients in the foods that you are considering. Depending upon your dog’s health, you need to learn to look for certain nutrient levels. You are always going to want to pay attention to calorie content since your senior dog is less active.
You are always going to want to pay attention to calorie content since your senior dog is less active. The amount of calories your dog will require are going to depend on whether you are looking to help them to maintain, lose, or gain weight. You can find an easy calculator to get a starting point for calorie intake here.
Protein should be higher quality proteins, it is a common myth that older dogs require less protein. Senior dogs do, however, require higher quality proteins rather than rendered meats which is why so many seniors do well with raw diets. The exception to this rule is the dog who is in the later stages of kidney failure. In this case, protein levels should be reduced as per your vet’s instruction – usually between 13 – 18%.
Phosphorus levels should be monitored for dogs with a prevalence for bladder and kidney stones. For these dogs, it is recommended to find a low phosphorus kibble with a level of between .70% to .80% phosphorus.
Sodium levels should be monitored for dogs with cardiovascular disease. The current recommendations for sodium intake are .35% – .50% for dogs without cardiovascular disease, .10% to .35% for dogs in early stages of cardiovascular disease, and less than .10% for dogs in advanced stages of cardiovascular disease. I am in the process of adding sodium levels to my low phosphorus kibble spreadsheet at this time, so check back if you’re looking for help.
The Best Incontinence Supplies for the Senior Dog
Incontinence is an issue that many senior dogs face and when you have larger male dogs, this can be particularly challenging since most incontinence type products are designed for females in heat. After some trial and error, however, we have found a few products that work well for senior dog fecal incontinence. I can’t speak to their effectiveness for urinary incontinence, but would imagine if they can keep the poop contained, they can manage urine!
The Best Diapers for Senior Dogs with Fecal Incontinence
Finding dog diapers for fecal incontinence is a struggle. We went through a range of solutions until we came up with one that worked for us. The primary diaper that we use for Jet is the Tranquility line. Currently, we use the Tranquility Premium OverNight Pull-On Diapers in XS, I preferred the security of the tabbed version of these, but we found that when Jet lay down, they became too tight around his thighs when he lay down. It may be worth looking into a larger version of the tabbed diapers, but I’m afraid if we go much looser, they won’t do their job. So, for now, we are sticking with the pull-on diapers. These are different to traditional “pull-ups” because they are made to handle fecal incontinence and are much more heavy duty in structure. We simply cut a slit with two sides at the back (think this shape: [ turned so that the flat section is on top and the two legs are hanging down,) for his tail. Just be sure to size your dog’s diaper by using waist size rather than weight. Jet wears the XS and he weighs 70lbs and fits diaper covers 18-26″.
On top of his Tranquility diaper, we also sometimes use a single pair of Goodnites x-large bedtime underwear. This serves to hold his diaper in place, but also to create a backup elastic seam around his legs to prevent leaking.
The Best Diaper Covers for Senior Dogs with Fecal Incontinence
We went through a few different diaper covers in our search for one that would work well for us. While a number of them worked quite well, we lost quite a few to tummy upsets. After losing these, I went in search of a waterproof diaper cover that would work for us. Surprisingly the majority of diaper covers are made from fabric which is very frustrating when accidents happen, which is why I LOVE this waterproof dog diaper cover we found on Amazon. If you opt to use a diaper cover like this one, you can use it alone with the Tranquility diapers and avoid using the Goodnites on top.
The Best Bed Covers for Senior Dogs with Fecal Incontinence
Growing up in the UK infant beds had what we called “rubber sheets” to protect the mattress from bed wetting and leaking diapers. Funny story – over in the US it doesn’t seem to be referred to as a “rubber sheet” and I have yet to discover what it is called. What I do know, however, is that if you search rubber sheets, you are going to find some quite unusual websites that have nothing to do with caring for an incontinent senior dog. When expressing this concern to my best friend, she suggested a few other search terms, but when we came up with nothing, she was struck by an instant of genius – shower curtain liners. Wrapping a PVC-free shower curtain liner around your dog’s bed as if it were a fitted sheet is an affordable way to waterproof your dog’s favorite bed and make accident cleanup much easier. I won’t include a link here because for a few dollars you can grab a shower curtain liner at your local Walmart, Target, or maybe even Dollar Store.
The Best Baby Wipes for Senior Dogs with Incontinence
There really isn’t a “best” baby wipe for your dog since most are formulated with sensitive baby skin in mind. Since we have so much expense to cope with already, we tend to go for whatever is currently on sale. I tend to prefer the Pampers Softcare Baby Fresh Wipes we snagged from Amazon in bulk, but if you have a dog with allergies or particularly sensitive skin, I’d go with the Huggies Hypoallergenic wipes instead. I do advise staying away from the “dog wipes” out there since essentially they are just more expensive versions of the same thing you get with baby wipes.
The Best Cleaners and Odor Control Options for Senior Dog Owners
Cleaners and odor control are a necessity for most dogs, particularly older dogs who experience incontinence or vomiting as the result of gastrointestinal distress. Below are some of the products that we have found to work best for cleanup and odor removal.
The Best Carpet Cleaner Vacuum for Senior Dog Owners
Bissell 3624 SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner – Carpet cleaners are a must for any “dog person’s” household. I prefer the portable machines because they are easier to maneuver and store and since Jet’s puppyhood we have been a Bissell family. The 3624 SpotClean Professional is my current favorite machine because it not only makes quick work of all kinds of Jet-related stains, but it also has some really cool attachments. (Go with the Pet and Odor control cleaning formula bundle.)
The Best Spot Clean Carpet Cleaner for Senior Dog Owners
Bissell Spot Stain Pet Spotlifter – Not ready to cough up the cash for a portable cleaner and just looking for something cheap to handle those stains? Go with the Bissell Pet Spotlifter cleaner with the brush on top. It handles stains quickly and isn’t too expensive for multiple uses. I haven’t included a link to this one because it’s far too expensive to ship online. You can usually pick it up at your grocery store, Target, or Walmart for $5 – $8.
The Best Air Fresheners for Senior Dog Owners
Air fresheners are a tricky business because a lot of them contain chemicals that I don’t want in my house or around my dog. With that said, however, it is necessary to do something to control air quality in our house. Both Jet and I have allergies so we opted instead of air fresheners, to go with a high-quality air purifier. We have Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover units located throughout the house and regularly change out the filters to ensure that they continue to work well. I HIGHLY recommend investing in an air filter or air purifier for odor reduction in your home instead of covering up odors with toxic chemicals.
The Best Dog Shampoo for Senior Dogs
Aroma Paws Mandarin Green Tea Dog Shampoo – Throughout his lifetime, I have been a firm believer that Jet required a bath once, maybe twice a year. This prevented overdrying of the natural oils on his skin and throughout his beautiful double coat. As he began to experience incontinence, however, it became necessary to at least bathe his rear end whenever accidents occurred to keep him clean and protect his skin. I worried over shampoos that would dry his skin or ruin his coat with such semi-frequent bathing, so I visited our small local dog store that specialized in “health first” dog care. They turned me on to the Aroma Paws line and I LOVE it. The scent is light and fresh and it doesn’t tax Jet’s skin even on those weeks where we need three baths. The only drawback I found to this shampoo is that it takes quite a bit of it to really work up a lather and get Jet’s fur healthy and clean. (While you’re picking up your shampoo, I also recommend an anti-slip anti-bacterial bath mat for the bottom of the tub!)
The Best Mobility Aids for Senior Dogs
Jet suffers from arthritis, unilateral hip dysplasia in his right hip, and had a CCL repair at 10 years old on his left leg. All of these things mean that as he has aged getting around has become increasingly difficult. Fortunately due to my obsessive need to research, we ran across our favorite mobility aid rather quickly, take a look at the Help ‘Em Up Harness below.
The Best Dog Harness for Senior Dogs
The Help ‘Em Up Harness – I cannot tell you enough how much I LOVE the Help ‘Em Up Harness. This two-part harness has a support handle on the center over your dog’s torso and one over the hips so that you can offer full support to your dog. We got ours after Jet’s CCL repair surgery, but we have used it ever since to help him with stairs, getting in and out of the car, and to support him when he is generally fatigued. If you get your senior dog one thing, this is it.
The Best Steps for Senior Dogs
Pet Gear Easy Step II Extra Wide Pet Stairs – I will preface by saying that Jet was terrified of the idea of using steps and as such, he gave these steps a wide berth. With that said, however, I love these steps for senior dogs for the simple reason that they offer a wider platform for the dog to step on resulting in less stability. I would like to see more weight in these to keep them from shifting, but if you need steps, these are the best I can recommend.
The Best Ramp for Senior Dogs
We have not yet tried any ramps for Jet and, as such, cannot recommend any. If you have any suggestions, we would love to hear them!
The Best Non-Slip Socks for Senior Dogs
Grippers Non-Slip Dog Socks – It sounds silly, but non-slip gripper socks are AMAZING. We got them because we have hardwood floors in the downstairs of our house and in his older age Jet has begun “knuckling” or walking on the knuckles, with his back feet. These socks not only help him to grip the floor, but they also remind him to be aware of his feet and cut down on his knuckle walking.
The Best Indoor / Outdoor Dog Shoes for Senior Dogs
Neopaws Indoor Outdoor Dog Shoes – When Jet started knuckling, he did it both indoors and outdoors. I didn’t want him taking his grippers outside because they weren’t exactly waterproof or dirt-proof, so I looked for some shoes. The idea was, once again, a little odd, to be shopping for shoes for my dog, but if they were going to protect his feet when outside then I was happy. We got the indoor and outdoor mesh shoes from Neopaws thinking that we could use them indoors as well, but while they work both indoors and outdoors, Jet gets upset indoors because they get caught in his blankets on his bed and makes shifting around more difficult. So, we use these outside only. I got two pairs, one for the back feet and one for the front, although we mostly use only the back pair since that is where he knuckle walks. These shoes take a little bit of patience to get on, but they are worth the investment in my opinion.
Mobility Aids to Avoid for Senior Dogs
Avoid sling harnesses, “handbag” harnesses (these have a single long strap connecting the front and back of the harness,) and cheap flimsy harnesses. These types of harnesses put unnecessary strain on your dog’s groin and belly and they can also throw off your dog’s center of gravity leading to faceplanting.
The Best Bed for Senior Dogs
Sleep becomes an increasingly frequent pastime for the senior dog so it is important to have a good bed that provides your dog with adequate support. We have gone through an insane number of beds, so believe me when I tell you that those listed below are the best.
The Best Unconventional Bed for Senior Dogs
Serta Perfect Start Crib and Toddler Mattress – If you find the cost (or odor) of memory foam dog beds to be too much, look into crib mattresses. I LOVE crib mattresses as bed options for older dogs, particularly when they have incontinence concerns. Crib mattresses offer support with inner springs, plenty of space, and they are waterproof. Plus, you can pick up crib sheets quite affordably online to cover the bed if you want to. The only drawbacks I have with this option are 1) the noise when Jet gets up and turns around at night and 2) the size is much larger than many people anticipate.
The Best Orthopedic Bed for Senior Dogs
The Snoozer Luxury Pet Sofa – I have to admit that I HATE memory foam beds. I hate them because they soak up and trap odor which is a HUGE problem with older dogs that have incontinence issues. With that said, however, there is a degree of support that is achieved with memory foam that is much more expensive to get from many other bed options (I still opt for the crib mattress.) If you have to have a memory foam mattress, I recommend the Snoozer Luxury Pet Sofa this might be for you, but ours soon lost its support and Jet started sliding off it frequently. We have one and it offers support in the beginning it offered support; however, it is not as deep as Jet would like it to be and he often ends up hanging off the edge at night…and now he slides off it completely since the side bolsters have lost their support.
I no longer recommend this bed. Althuogh the cover is washable, the side “supports” do not hold and offer ZERO support for senior dogs.
The Best Cot Bed for Senior Dogs
The Kuranda Bed – There is a good reason why these beds are so popular among rescue organizations – they last. This isn’t the only reason why I love these beds, though. Senior dogs tend to get hot, particularly at night and cot beds like the Kuranda allow for air flow around your dog to help keep the nighttime temperatures down. If you have a chewer, the Kuranda bed also has a “chew-proof” option.
The Best Bolster Bed for Senior Dogs
Snoozer Luxury Overstuffed Pet Sofa – Jet loves bolster beds, so when we caught this one on sale on Amazon I snagged one. He absolutely loves this bed because he can snuggle into it. I am not as much of a fan because the padding leaves a little to be desired and it’s one of the bulkier beds we have ever owned. With that said, it keeps him happy and affords him plenty of space for his favorite pastime – watching baseball.
My personal favorite bolster bed used to be the Simmons Beautyrest Right Angle Bolster Lounger Pet Bed, but it seems that this has now gone out of production. If you manage to find one, it’s well worth the investment. The base is an innerspring mattress and two sides have bolsters, although the bolsters do get a little flat over time.
Beds to Avoid for Senior Dogs
There are a lot of beds out there that offer little support, you want to avoid these beds for senior dogs because they do not cushion arthritic joints. The best way for you to test whether a bed offers enough cushion for your senior dog’s joints is to place it on a hard floor and sit on it yourself. If you can feel the floor with your bottom or if you know you couldn’t sit for long on that bed, then avoid it. You also want to avoid beds that have excessive fabric that could easily wrap around an unsteady senior dog’s feet and cause them to trip.
The Best Supplements for Senior Dogs
Supplements aren’t for every dog and it is important that you consult your veterinarian about your dog’s specific needs before you begin supplementing their diet with anything. Jet currently does take supplements, below you can find the best supplements that we have found.
The Best Joint Support Supplements for Senior Dogs
Particular Paws Joint and Hip Supplement – We prefer the powder since you can sprinkle it over food and add a little water to add flavor to food. The chewable tabs are just as palatable, however. Be warned, though, this is a popular product and sells out frequently!
The Best Cardiovascular Support Supplements for Senior Dogs
Grizzly Salmon Oil All-Natural Dog Food Supplement – Fish oil, particularly Grizzly salmon fish oil is our favorite heart supplement for senior dogs because it also bolsters joint health, skin health, and coat health. You can always use fish oil capsules in your dog’s food, but Jet really loves the stinky fish oil smell and the pump that comes with Grizzly Salmon Oil makes food prep easy!
The Best Probiotic Supplement for Senior Dogs
VetriScience Laboratories Mega Probiotic for Dogs and Cats – We like this probiotic because it is affordable, but it also works well to bolster Jet’s intestinal health. This is a great supplement if you choose to feed your senior dog raw food, if you have a senior dog with a sensitive gastrointestinal system, or if your dog is taking or has recently taken antibiotics – just remember to wait at least two hours between antibiotic dosing and probiotic dosing!
Pill Case – Each day Jet takes a number of different pills in the AM and PM and with a poor memory, I have trouble keeping track of what he has taken and when he has taken it so I use an easy to open pill case. We have the extra large one and each compartment fits three heart pills, and three supplement pills.
Medications for Senior Dogs
Again, medications must ALWAYS be cleared with and prescribed by your veterinarian! Please also note that I am not a veterinarian, the products listed in this section are simply the products that have worked for us. If you feel that one of these medications might be right for you, talk to your veterinarian. Please note that links in this section will take you to the reputable online pet pharmacy that we use for Jet’s medication. Their prices are extremely competitive.
The Best Arthritis Medications for Senior Dogs
Adequan – Adequan canine is a vaccination that we give monthly. It is a disease modifying osteoarthritis drug that helps to improve symptoms of Jet’s arthritis and relieve some of the pain he experiences.
The Best Pain Reliever Medications for Senior Dogs
Tramadol – This is the only pain reliever medication that works for Jet without destroying his sensitive tummy. We use it as needed which isn’t particularly often due to the other supplements and medications we utilize.
The Best Anti-Diarrheal Medication for Senior Dogs
Endosorb – By far this has been the most effective anti-diarrheal for us. Available by prescription from your veterinarian, this is much more effective than properly dosed Pepto-Bismol.
A Note About Anti-Inflammatories
Jet has a particularly sensitive digestive tract (he always has) and this makes prescription anti-inflammatory medications an impossibility for us. As a result, we like to utilize natural anti-inflammatory supplements like turmeric (check out Honest Kitchen’s Bone Broth with Turmeric.) Your vet may recommend prescription anti-inflammatories for your senior dog, but I strongly recommend that before you agree you look into the side effects of these drugs when taken regularly and consider natural supplementation as a first line of defense.
As your senior dog ages, you will find that they may need other medications. Trust your vet on their recommendations, but also do your own research into the medications so that you know what to expect in terms of side effects and the action of the medication itself. Jet currently takes Vetmedin and Enalapril twice a day for his heart disease and we are happy with these medications and the control they have over his heart disease at this time.
Additionally, don’t stop giving that heartworm and flea and tick preventative! Currently, we give Jet a monthly heartworm preventative and utilize natural methods of flea and tick prevention (coconut oil) due to his allergy to topical treatments.
Lastly, stay on top of your senior dog’s health by staying in touch with your vet. Twice yearly senior blood panels and check ups are a necessity! Also, talk to your vet about running titers before giving your senior pet vaccinations. Titers will show whether your dog has immunity to diseases and can go without a vaccination for that year. The way we work with our vet is if our titers show no need for a vaccination, we don’t give it. The less stress we put on Jet’s body, the better.
So, there you have our list, I am sure that over the following weeks and months we will continue to add to this list so make sure to check back frequently!