As dogs age, their dietary requirements change. It was long held that older dogs need less protein in their diet but that is not now believed to be the case. It is calorific value that needs to be reduced; protein levels should be maintained to conserve muscle mass.
Diet and Kidney Health
High-protein values were traditionally thought to contribute to kidney failure but that is not current thinking. The ASPCA reports that studies have confirmed that higher levels of protein is not a primary cause of renal failure.
Body Score Condition
Body score condition relates to the proportion of fat to muscle on a dog and is used as an indicator of general health. Protein makes an important contribution to maintaining muscle mass, helping senior dogs to remain active.
Calories and Protein
Although older dogs require fewer calories, particularly if they are already overweight, they may benefit from foods with an increased level of protein. Rather than generalizing, each dog should be assessed to determine its optimum diet.
Senior Diets with Low Protein
Some manufacturers still produce foods specifically for mature dogs and advertise that they contain lower protein, despite the current view being that protein levels should be maintained through a dog's life. These foods should be used with caution, given the current views on protein for older dogs.
How Much Protein?
Commercial high-protein dog foods for senior dogs have about 18% protein content. This is higher than regular dog food, at 12% to 14%, and is designed to provide part of a balanced diet specifically for the older dog.