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Nutrition info

Sage’s Story – What Makes The Best Senior Dog Food?

Inspiration For Our Healthy Senior Dog Food

With advances in nutrition and veterinary care, the lifespan of our pets is increasing resulting in a higher population of elderly pets that need extra care and support through their twilight years. We see elderly pets on a daily basis in our in-house vet practice, Vet’s Klinic and our veterinary team’s recognition of the special requirements these animals need was the inspiration behind our Salmon & Brown Rice senior dog food.

Knowledge & Expertise: Understanding The Unique Needs of an Older Dog

Just like growing puppies, senior dogs have different requirements to adult dogs and it’s important that the correct life-stage food is fed at each stage of your pet’s life. It is common for some brands of senior food to only differ from adult diets by being a bit lower in protein and fat, with (if you’re lucky) a few joint supplements thrown in for good measure. However, we know that there is much more to growing older. With age comes a less efficient digestive system, heart weakness and changes to brain function and metabolism. The aging process may sound all doom and gloom but a properly formulated senior food can help support dogs much better than it could 20 years ago, even slowing down some of the processes, giving your friend a better quality of life as well as a longer lifespan.

Research:  Finding Best Ingredients To Keep Older Dogs Fit and Healthy

There are several challenges facing a senior dog; how to keep them lean when their activity levels decrease, how to keep their joints and hearts healthy and if possible, how to delay brain aging and the signs of cognitive dysfunction.  So we looked at the latest research available, including studies on nutrients such as DHA, taurine and L-carnitine.

DHA is a key fatty acid used in the body’s brain and retinal cells (in the eyes). Therefore DHA is essential for brain and nervous system development but also plays a key part in supporting the day to day functions of an adult brain. In humans a plentiful supply of DHA in the diet has been proven to directly increase their learning ability and a deficiency has impaired cognitive function. DHA has proven useful for dogs showing signs of canine cognitive dysfunction (a condition similar to dementia in humans) and along with another omega 3 (EPA) has shown promising results for dogs with heart conditions.   

Both taurine and carnitine are also useful for senior dogs. These nutrients are both amino acids - the building blocks of protein.  Several studies in dogs and cats show that diets supplemented with L-Carnitine- the bioavailable form (ready to use by the body ) of carnitine can increase the rate of weight loss and amount of weight lost when compared with similar low fat diets that are not supplemented with L-Carnitine.. L-Carnitine helps to transport fats to cell structures called mitochondria where the fat is metabolised into energy. This can be useful for older, less active dogs that are prone to weight gain. For dogs prone to arthritis, keeping them lean can reduce pressure on the joints. However, L-Carnitine has also been show to help improve blood flow and can be useful for aiding heart health. 

Another amino acid, useful for cardiac (heart) health is taurine. Unlike cats, that require a dietary source of taurine (meat or fish), dogs can synthesise taurine themselves – as long as their diet contains adequate amounts of protein and the amino acids methionine and cysteine. However, elderly dogs that may not be able to digest and absorb their food as efficiently as a younger animal and breeds with genetic heart problems (who may have difficulty maintaining the right balance of taurine in the body) have been shown to benefit from a taurine supplement in their diet.  

Formulation: Creating Our Senior Dog Food

Although dogs can get amino acids from their food (and some they can make in their body) for elderly dogs supplementation can be useful. Therefore, based on our research Vet’s Kitchen Senior Salmon & Brown Rice Senior Dog Food was formulated to contain L-Carnitine, Taurine and DHA to help maintain a healthy heart and provide nutritional support for the aging brain and joints.
Our senior recipe also needed to be made with ingredients an elderly dog could digest easily, we chose salmon and brown rice to be the main protein and carbohydrate sources. This recipe also contains a lower level of protein, fat and calories with a slightly higher level of fibre. This is to help meet the metabolic requirements of older dogs which are generally less active and help them maintain a lean, healthy weight.

Just like growing puppies, senior dogs have different requirements to adult dogs and it’s important that the correct life-stage food is fed at each stage of your pet’s life.

Salmon is an excellent protein source for older dogs. Not only is it gentle on the stomach, it is also packed full of nutrients which are beneficial for elderly pets. Salmon is an oily fish which is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are best known for their anti-inflammatory properties – so they are useful for pets with stiff joints however, they have many more benefits and as discussed earlier, one particular type of omega 3 which is very useful for senior animals and cognition is Docosahexenoic Acid (DHA). Our senior food provides DHA from the salmon, salmon oil and seaweed oil extract.

Brown rice helps to balance the recipe and is a useful source of fibre, helping to make the senior food naturally higher in fibre and lower in fat than our adult foods. This helps to keep elderly dogs slim – putting less pressure on the joints and heart. Rice, unlike other grains such as wheat, rice does not contain gluten and rice allergies are still rare. We’ve avoided using ingredients known to trigger allergies e.g. wheat, dairy, soya and beef and therefore this diet (and all of our foods) are hypoallergenic. We also only use natural preservatives (rosemary extract and vitamin E) and avoid the use of colourings.  

Aside from the functional ingredients taurine and L-carnitine that we added specifically for senior pets this recipe, like our adult Chicken & Brown Rice and Salmon & Potato also contains Beta-Glucans for immune support, glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM for maintaining joint health and prebiotics fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) to help keep the digestive system healthy -  making this an all-round healthy diet for dogs over 7 years old. 

Feeding Trials

Before launching any food we need to get paws-up approval from a panel of experts. We want to make sure the food is as delicious as possible as well as being healthy. However, we only use willing volunteers to test our food. You can read all about palatability trials here

Hundreds of dogs enjoy Vet’s Kitchen foods as their daily meals, read more about why dogs love our food.

Brand Ambassadors

We are proud to use real pets on the front of our packaging. We call these our brand ambassadors because not only do they eat the food, it has made a difference to their long term health too. The beautiful chocolate Labrador you see on the front of our Senior dry dog food is Sage… here’s Sage’s story:

“ I'm super Sage & I'm as good as new - if not better. I go to hydrotherapy every week to help my muscles stay strong & love my Vet's Kitchen Senior Salmon and Brown Rice.”  Alyson. 

Unfortunately, even the very best nutrition cannot keep our pets with us forever and very sadly, at the grand age of 14 years Sage passed away. During her lifetime, she raised thousands for charity and will be missed by many humans and four legged friends alike. She has a huge fan base of followers on social media and after her passing many of them got in contact with us to ask us if we were going to keep Sage as the face of our senior food. We spoke to Sage’s mum Alyson and are delighted to say that Sage will remain on our packaging as a legacy to her. 


Snigdha (2016) Effect of mitochondrial co-factor and antioxidants supplementation of cognition in the aged canine. Neurobiology of Aging 37 (2016) 171-178

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Roudebush, et al (2008) An evidence-based review of the use of nutraceuticals and dietary supplementation for the management of obese and overweight pets, JAVMA, Vol 232, No 11.

R, J, Silver, DVM, MS, CVA. Animal Wellness Magazine, 3 effective supplements for weight loss https://animalwellnessmagazine.... 

VCA Animal Hospitals – Carnitine

Effects of L-carnitine on ventricular arrhythmias in dogs with acute myocardial ischemia and a supplement of excess free fatty acids.

R, J, Silver, DVM, MS, CVA. Animal Wellness Magazine, 3 effective supplements for weight loss https://animalwellnessmagazine.... 

Alix, Jeffrey (2014) DHAgold® S17-B, a Specific Marine MicroAlgae that is a Natural and Sustainable Alternative to Fish Oil, Now Proven to Help Improve Cognitive Function in Older Dogs, Feed Compounder, Pet Food Supplement, Issue 16, 2014.

Fascetti, A.J and Delaney S.J (2012)Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition, Wiley Blackwell. P150, 303-307.

VCA Animal Hospitals – Glycosaminoglycans ¬

Vermont Veterinary Cardiology Services http://www.vermontveterinaryca... 

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