Natural Instinct raw food for senior dogs

Feeding Raw to Older Dogs


feeding raw to older dogs

Dogs and cats have evolved to eat meat and bone. The structure of their jaws, their teeth and their digestive system have not changed at all since the days that they would hunt and scavenge for their food, which is why it makes sense to continue to feed them raw meat and bone, just as nature intended.

Natural Instinct is a Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (“BARF”) for dogs and cats providing a balanced nutritional and delicious diet. Their products are all made in Surrey using human grade ingredients. They work hard to provide as safe a product as possible, which is a process that starts on the farm with the selection of healthy animals and involves the all important deep freezing process. Recipes are made using 100% British meats and the freshest fruit and vegetables (for dogs only) and are free from artificial additives, colours, preservatives, fillers or grains.

What are the benefits of feeding your dog Raw Ingredients?

Despite the many years of domestication and the evolutionary changes that have occurred as a result of this, the domestic dog is still designed to process and benefit from a raw meat and bone based diet. The dog’s dentistry for Natural Instinct raw food for senior dogsexample is designed for nipping, tearing and crushing/macerating meat and bone and has no side to side grinding ability that is needed for plant fibres. The gut is short and the stomach small with strong acid which is adapted to high meat and bone based diets and not for the breakdown and fermentation of high starch and plant fibre based diets. Even though the domesticated dog largely uses humans to supply their food, they have never learnt to cook and never get excited about a field of corn… other than when a rabbit is running through it!

What are the health benefits of feeding raw dog food to an older dog?

The health benefits of feeding high quality balanced raw dog food are the same for an older dog as they are for a young or middle-aged dog.  Well-formulated raw dog food is the biologically appropriate food for dogs with no processing, no artificial preservatives or colourants and no hidden ingredients. 

With increased heath issues relating to the human diet such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes people are now taking more care about their own diets and are eating “cleaner”.

Pets are such an important part of the family and owners are following the principles for their own diets for their pets – feeding as nature intended, free from artificial additives, colours, preservatives and fillers.

The benefits of feeding a raw diet are endless and include:

  • A shiny coat
  • Fresher breath
  • Healthy skin
  • Healthy digestion and bowels
  • Strong bones, teeth and joints
  • Stools reduced and easier to clean up
  • More resilient immune system
  • Dense muscle structure
  • Lots of energy


We receive numerous testimonials from customers saying how uncomfortable skin, coat, teeth and joint conditions have been resolved following a transition to Natural Instinct. Problems relating to digestion, breath and aggressive behaviour have also shown improvement. Increased health and vitality, as well as an alleviation of IBS and colitis have also been named.

Why is it important to change a dog’s diet as they get older?

As dogs’ age they may be subject to more wear and tear issues such as arthritis and the geriatric animal is more likely to have less efficient organs such as the kidney, liver and immune system, so the food needs to be adapted to these potential changes. Many of these things lead to a reduction in the level of exercise and activity, which also changes the dogs’ calorie requirement. It is very individual just as it is in humans and this is where routine health checks in old age to check organ function can be a great help in assessing the dietary needs of your dog.

Natural Instinct offer a Senior recipe for Dogs

Natural Instinct’s Senior recipe is made using human grade chicken and bone, together with the freshest apples, carrots and butternut squash, spinach, sea kelp and Scottish salmon oil, the Senior recipe is suitable for dogs who feel their age or have joint and mobility issues as it contains additional supplements. The addition of Vitamin C helps support the immune system and the added Glucosamine and Chondroitin help aid aging and stiff joints. Chondroitin is a natural substance found in a dog’s cartilage and, when paired with glucosamine, has an even more beneficial effect on a dog’s joints.

How should older dog owners transition their dog to a raw diet?

Firstly owners of older dogs need to fully assess the health status of their dog and know any individual requirements e.g. an older dog prone to pancreatitis will need lower fat formulations, arthritic dogs will need higher glucosamine content and will need particular attention paid to not becoming overweight due to their reduced activity levels so may need less than the average feeding rate. Our advice for those who do wish to convert is to slowly transition over a 2-week period and support the dog with probiotic during this period (Natural Instinct offer a Zoolac Probiotic Paste). The body needs time to adjust to a completely different diet and this may take longer in older animals – slow is best to allow adjustment to take place and prevent constipation or diarrhoea during the switch over period. In geriatric animals or very sick animals it may not be appropriate to convert them from a processed to a raw diet if they are currently stabilised on the diet that they are on. 


For more information visit their website and



I have no association with Natural Instinct, financial or otherwise. I approached them to write this article, as it is a diet I am interested in including more information about on this website.


What to Feed a Senior Dog

what to feed a senior dog

I know I say this a lot, but knowing what to feed a senior dog is so confusing!!

I could add it’s confusing no matter what age your dog is. For me it’s because of the amount of conflicting information out there. I finish reading about how good dry food is to help keep teeth clean, when the next article says it’s a myth, and by the way, dry food is nutritionally dead. And that’s just one tiny example!!

You’re not helping!!

Sorry about that, I tend to get on my soapbox a little bit when it comes to this topic. I know I’ve made so many mistakes in the past when it came to choosing food for my senior dogs.

Before I became slightly more “enlightened” (and I do mean slightly), I focused more on the brand than the type. Since I rely on my vet to help me do what’s best for my animals, I’ve listened when certain foods were recommended, yet at other times felt frustrated by their lack of knowledge in the field of nutrition, and questions went unanswered.

One vet I had, who was an amazing vet by the way, actually told me whatever I bought from the supermarket would be fine. He believed anything a pet food manufacturer churned out contained all the necessary nutrients.

I must say I was shocked!!

All my vets would stack a few main brands, and that’s what they would recommend. Only once I started learning about reading labels and understanding ingredients did things get really muddled.

Senior food for senior dogs

I believed that, so that’s what I fed my seniors. When Red’s heart murmur became louder than a murmur, my vet put her on a prescription heart diet. When her kidneys started playing up she was switched to a kidney diet. My what I used to feed my senior dogvet was convinced she was doing well as a result, yet there I was reading articles about how shockingly nutrient poor those diets were.

I did nothing when it came to changing her diet because, for awhile, Red was having all sorts of issues, and I was starting to panic it was the beginning of the end. Everything was being managed, but she was walking a bit of a tightrope. I wasn’t going to upset that precarious balance for anything.

Curious about alternative treatments

I’ve wanted to take Red to a holistic vet for quite some time, but I didn’t for a few reasons:

My vet does not have a holistic vet on staff

  • There were no holistic practices where we lived
  • Because of the “delicate balance” we call Red, I would have been too afraid to rock the boat and make any kind of change
  • I am a firm believer in continuity of care, and even if there had been a vet nearby, I would not have taken Red there for natural treatments, and my vet for the rest. Of course they could communicate, but that would be a big ask if the vets are extremely busy. I wouldn’t want a crucial piece of information to get lost between two practices

What’s going on now you ask?

Well, we’ve relocated for a few months, and since I needed a new vet anyway this was my chance to go holistic. Yes it’s a bit of a pain to get to distance wise, but it’s worth it. I won’t go into details since this post is, specifically, about nutrition so I’ll only discuss that facet of Red’s new treatment plan.

Our new vet was not at all happy about her being on a prescription diet. He’s a firm believer in healing with whole foods (that’s one important aspect), so after seeing Red’s blood test results he created a recipe for a whole foods, deciding what to feed a senior doghome cooked diet. At first I was feeling a bit resistant because I hate cooking, but since it’s for my sweetheart Red, I was willing to do it. When Dr Ortega said I could make big batches and freeze, I was more than delighted.

She now eats a mixture of boiled chicken, brown rice, quinoa, cooked broccoli, raw carrot, raw apple and olive oil. She’s loving the food, and hubby thinks she’s doing much better overall.

Obviously I’m so happy we’ve gotten to this stage, and I no longer have to be concerned about types and brands. So what are you going to do?

Some words of interest

In an article I came across recently entitled “Do You Know What Food is Best for Your Senior Pet?” there are some helpful pieces of advice, including words of warning that are important to hear. I hope you’ll find that post of interest.

Of course there are other posts on this site you will find informative as well, and I will list them at the end of this article.  

What to feed a senior dog – conclusion

Figuring out how to satisfy the nutritional needs of our senior dogs can be a bit of a minefield, so I always advise researching the various types (not brands) first. It will give you a good understanding of your options, so you can make the best decision for your dog.

Yes you will find lots of conflicting information but that’s okay. Take note of where the advice is coming from, speak to your vet, speak to a holistic vet if you’re interested, then make the decision that seems right to you.

I hope you have found this post on what to feed a senior dog helpful, and if you’d like to share what you feed your dog, let us know in the comment section below or my Facebook page.

What to Feed Your Dog

Should Every Old Dog Eat Senior Dog Food?

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Dog Food

Prescription Diet Dog Food: The Lifesaver We’re Led to Believe?

Types of Dog Food: Which is Best?




should every old dog eat a senior diet

Should Every Old Dog Eat Senior Dog Food

Should every old dog eat senior dog food

There are many vets who believe the nutritional needs of the senior dog can be met by feeding them senior dog food. There are also many vets who believe they can’t!

My thoughts 

I am not a vet or a professional dog food expert, I am however someone who has shared their life with dogs and cats for the past 31 years, and senior dogs specifically for the past 10. I personally don’t believe there is a “one size fits all” answer to canine nutrition, nor do I believe every food labelled “senior” is guaranteed to be the best diet for your dog. I also believe it’s important to know your dog’s health status and whether or not there are ingredients you need to avoid.

Educating yourself is key. While my wonderful vets have done an amazing job at helping me care for my animals’ medical conditions, when it came to nutrition they were not as helpful as I would have expected. Plaques on theShould Every Old Dog Eat Senior Dog Food wall informing us of their staff’s experience in pet nutrition, were awarded by pet food companies and it was the same brands the practice would stock. 

For many many years I switched to senior food as soon as my dog or cat hit that milestone, blindly trusting that it was the right thing to do. I had no idea it was something I should question, especially when my vets were believers. I remember having a bit of a freak out when I first moved to England with my cats and was shocked to find only a couple of brands made a senior formulation, and they were the cheap brands. I wonder now why it didn’t occur to me to look online but it wasn’t such a “thing” back then, at least not for me. I was very concerned, okay extremely worried, the odd time when I fed them “adult.” I don’t know what I thought would happen to them, but I was sure it was something bad.

My awakening

I guess it started a couple of years ago when this website came to be. One of the topics I was planning on writing about was nutrition, and the more I read the more confused I became, the less I wanted to write about it because I was so confused!! 

How could it be that my beliefs about dry food, prescription diets and senior formulations were coming into question after reading so much that was contrary? Was it really true dry food was not necessary for teeth cleaning? Could it be prescription diets contained horrible ingredients? You mean senior food is not “the” answer!! 

My intention is not to get you to stop buying senior food

I believe everyone must make the best decisions they can for their pets, and they need information to do that. There is a lot of conflicting advice out there about so many things, pet nutrition included. My best recommendation is to research and see what makes sense for you.  

[bctt tweet=”Should every senior dog eat senior dog food? Let’s find out!!” username=”petcrusader”]

So what’s changing that makes us turn to senior formulations?

While some seniors do remain as active as they ever were, many tend to start slowing down. They don’t get as much exercise as they once did, their metabolism is not as fast as it once should all old dogs eat senior dog foodwas, and the chances of weight gain and obesity become all too real. Sense of smell and taste can fade, along with the ability to chew as effectively. Smaller kibble size can help, as can smaller chunks of food and small more frequent meals throughout the day. 

What are the characteristics of a senior diet?

  • lower calorie to compensate for a decrease in activity level and slowing down of the metabolism, helping your dog avoid weight gain
  • easily digestible higher quality protein to maintain muscle mass and improve palatability of the food
  • higher fibre for gastro intestinal health, and because older dogs are more prone to constipation
  • added supplements like omega-3 fatty acids for joints, and antioxidants

How do I know if this is what my senior dog needs?

That’s the thing isn’t it – you don’t!

Not every senior dog has a weight problem, and a calorie restricted diet wouldn’t be the best thing for dogs who have trouble eating, aren’t interested in eating or are high energy. Then there’s the issue of quality – is the ingredient list loaded with corn, by-products and meal? You’ll find that on food for dogs of all ages, not just senior. Is that really the best we can offer them?

The protein debate

More protein? Less protein? Depends who you’re listening to! It seems to be less about the quantity of the protein, and more about the quality.

This is what I’ve discovered, and to be frank it makes a lot of sense

There are highly digestible proteins that your dog’s body can easily absorb, and those that it can’t. Animal parts like beaks, feet, and tails are 100% protein, but not at all digestible. So why is it appearing in pet food?

Soy is high in protein and a very popular dog food ingredient, but is believed by many to be an inappropriate source of protein. It is seen as merely an inexpensive way for pet food manufacturers to increase the protein content of their food.

From what I understand, the recommendation for lower protein diets in seniors came as a result of how the pet food industry made its’ food 50-60 years ago (sorry I don’t recall the source of that info!). Slaughterhouse waste was combined with discarded vegetables and grains not suitable for human consumption. Because the quality of protein (and of course the food in general) was so poor, it was difficult for dogs (and cats) to digest it, causing strain and stress on the liver and kidneys. As a result, senior pet foods were introduced and as a pet aged vets recommended them for their lower protein content.

On the flip side, many vets believe protein is particularly important in aging dogs. Be advised the protein they’re referring to is high quality, easily digestible.

Does that mean a raw diet?

Yes, to many it does! Raw food in its’ natural state is considered by many to be the most digestible form of protein, full of moisture with nothing added. Because manufactured food has been dehydrated, pets must drink a lot of water to rehydrate, stressing an older dog’s organs. I know many people who swear by a raw diet and have seen noticeable, positive changes as a result.  


What about the need for added fibre to prevent constipation and aid in digestive health? Although higher fibre causes dogs to poop more, too much fibre can block the absorption of healthy nutrients. Well, as is the theme throughout this article, plenty of vets believe senior formulas contain the right amount of fibre, while others believe there are healthier ways to get that much needed ingredient.

Healthier ways to add fibre

canned pumpkin to add fibre to a senior dog dietPsyllium husk powder, dark green leafy vegetables, and canned 100% pumpkin are just a few examples.  

Supplements in the food

You read about all the wonderful supplements being added to our cereals, juices, even skin care products. Then you read how they are actually present in such miniscule amounts as to have no positive effect at all. Many believe the same can be said about supplements added to dog food.

Omega 3 for example is sensitive to heat and light, so while it may be technically present in the food (so it can be listed as an ingredient on the label), the manufacturing process has made it useless. It’s best to supplement the diet with a good source of it.  

Joint supplements are another additive, but the quality and amounts are unknown. Once again, using a glucosamine or other appropriate supplement like New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels for instance, or Turmeric golden paste would be heaps more effective.

Read this→ Supplements For Dogs: A Whole Foods Approach

The beginning of the end of our confusion

I know the whole “what to feed my dog” issue can be confusing, but I think it would be a whole lot less confusing if we approached it from a different angle. Rather than checking out the hundreds of dog food brands (are there hundreds, or does it just feel that way?), and trying to figure out which one to buy, let’s do this…

Step one would be to take your dog to the vet for a health check, so you’ll have your starting point. Are there medical concerns? Things his body needs more of? Less of? You may have to schedule a separate visit to discuss your dog’s nutritional needs.

If you like the sound of a raw diet, or are interested in the benefits of adding some natural supplements to a branded food, talk it over. Once you have an understanding of your dog’s specific nutritional needs, you will find it much easier to assess the brands available, and choose the one best suited. Perhaps a commercial dog food isn’t the best option, but a home cooked diet is!! 

How about a chat with a holistic vet

Last year I took Red to a holistic vet for the first time. We had relocated to Spain for a few months and since we needed a vet anyway, it was my chance to “go natural.” His take on animal care in general was fascinating to me, how to find a great vet to help you care for your senior dogand in line with my views, and in particular when it came to diet.

Unlike my vet’s strong belief in the need for Red to eat a prescription kidney diet, my holistic vet wanted her to stop it immediately because of the poor quality of the ingredients. He believed natural was best for her, so after seeing the results of blood tests he created a diet just for her consisting of specific proportions of boiled chicken breast, cooked quinoa, cooked rice, boiled broccoli, raw carrot, raw apple and olive oil. 

Taking your dog to get another opinion on the best diet for him or her could be an interesting and eye opening experience. 

Senior food for senior dogs

If you’re happy with the senior diet your dog has been eating, he’s loving it and doing well I hope you don’t feel any pressure to make any changes. Tons of people (not very scientific but I don’t know the stats!!) choose a senior diet and they believe their pups are doing great. What you can do is ask your vet for recommendations on what you can add to make it even better – omega 3s, joint supplements, cooked chicken or fish, some fruits or vegetables…

Should Every Old Dog Eat Senior Dog Food – conclusion

There are many factors besides age that should be used to assess the suitability of a particular dog food. That’s why I don’t believe when the date on the calendar changes so must the food. Do your research and start educating yourself, it really is fascinating but pay attention to the source of your information and make sure it’s reputable. 

Here are some links to get you started

The European Pet Food Industry Federation 

FDA regulation of the pet food industry

Do You Know What Food is Best for Your Senior Pet?

Why 84% of Pet Owners Don’t Know What to Feed Their Aging Pets

8 Tips for Feeding Your Senior Dog


What is your opinion? Is your dog on senior food? What made you choose that particular brand/type? Please share your story in the comments section below or on my Facebook page.

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.