Feeding Your Elderly Pet

Older pets can become very finicky as their appetites change. Older pets often need modifications to their feeding routine to help them continue to get the nourishment they need to flourish.

If you are struggling with a diabetic pet, feeding becomes critical because it coincides with the administration of their medication. If you are struggling to get your pet to eat, two strategies have proven to work with older pets.

Change in Feeding System

Some pets become very finicky with age and the food itself may not always be the issue. Changing a pet’s diet can lead to stomach upset or more aversion to food. Instead, as a first step, you may try changing your pet’s feeding dish. Elevated dishes can be helpful for some pets, if they have arthritis or joint pain, or pain from stooping over. Many smaller dogs who become finicky and refuse to eat, actually prefer to eat off the floor – often dumping their food on the floor to eat – when they actually do decide to eat. 

If you are considering paper plates, trays or just letting your pet eat off the floor, another option was recently designed by the makers of The Pet Plate. They have developed a flat feeding dish that is suitable for both cats and dogs who are finicky and prefer to eat off the floor. The plate is made of porcelain and is both dishwasher and microwave safe. While we do not endorse or promote any products or companies, we do recommend that your pet eat from a sanitary eating surface that is regularly cleaned, versus the floor, a paper towel, or paper plate.

Another option or additional option for pets who refuse to eat may be a change in diet. Use caution when changing a pet’s diet as a last resort because abrupt diet changes can cause a pet to become more finicky. If you decide to change your pet’s diet, it should be done gradually, introducing the new food slowly over the course of a couple of weeks so they have time to get comfortable with the new food.

Visit our pet food information page to learn more about senior pet food and whether a switch to senior pet food is right for your pet.

Change in Diet

Older pets who become finicky may become adverse to a diet they once enjoyed. Some owners find that feeding a home cooked diet or switching to a senior pet food or specially formulated food may be more desirable for an older pet. It can become especially challenging to feed an older pet who has special needs, like dependency on insulin, where adequate food consumption is critical to administering insulin. While there are many senior pet foods available on the market and several pet diet sites for home cooked meals to reference, some pet food companies offer customized meal plans based on your pet’s needs.

While there are many homemade pet food recipes online or books available for sale, many do not offer nutritionally balanced recipes that are designed specifically for your pet and based on your pet’s unique needs. If you are looking to cook a home cooked meal, consult with a vet specialist trained in pet nutrition or compare specially formulated dog food that can be customized specifically for your dog or cat to be sure they receive adequate pet specific nutrients and pet supplements that many home cooked foods lack. 

The bottom line is, there is no need to get frustrated at meal time when there are viable solutions that can offer much needed mealtime help.

If your pet is finicky, read our article, Top 10 Reasons Your Senior Dog or Cat is Finicky


The Elderly Pet Organization is a 501C3 non profit organization whose mission is to provide information and education about senior pets. Our goal is to end senior pet abandonment and premature euthanization, while increasing senior pet adoptions throughout the US. We accept donations of unwanted items, as well as cash donations to help us with our cause. Read more about us.




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