Tips & Training
Senior Dog Checklist – Everything you Need for an Older Dog
Copy: Serena Faber Nelson
Photography: As Listed
Pet lifestyle expert Serena Faber-Nelson is the founder of Pretty Fluffy. A contributor to Everyday with Rachael Ray, Modern Dog Magazine, Cesars Way and more; her modern, stylized take on DIY dog treats has seen her recipes viewed millions of times over.
Serena is the author of the go-to dog mom bible, Dog Mama, and the popular dog treat recipe book, Healthy Homemade Dog Treats.
As your dog gets older they have different needs from their younger years.
They may need more time to rest, their eyesight or hearing may not be what it used to be, and getting up out of bed gets that little bit harder – just like us!
1. PADDED OR ORTHOPAEDIC DOG BED
As a senior, your pooch is going to be spending a lot more time sleeping – which means making sure their bed is 100% comfy is a must. As your dog ages, climbing onto high beds and into baskets will prove harder for them, so a dog bed low to the ground is your best bet. Just always ensure it is in a warm space so your pup retains their body heat whilst in bed.
For any senior’s dog bed, supportive padding is a must to protective their ageing joints and bones. Beds like the Snooza Orthobed feature convoluted foam that provides the perfect amount of support, while the POOCCIO Pooccillo features a full cushion that supports and envelopes a senior’s body.
Pictured: POOCCIO Pooccillo Dog Bed
2. JOINT CARE FORMULA
As many dogs get older, they start to suffer from joint pain and arthritis. The sad thing is limping, stiff or tired dogs often have the energy and inclination to run and play as they used to but they are just slowed down by the pain in their joints.
A simple way to combat join pain and arthritis in senior pets is a powdered joint care formula. Just add to your elderly dog’s diet to help protect them against joint problems and reduce pain associated with inflammation and arthritis. Some of my favourite picks include Rose-Hip Vital Canine (see our full Rose-Hip Vital Canine review), Glyde and Sasha’s Blend.
Pictured: Rose-Hip Vital Canine
3. SAFETY RAMPS & STAIRS
For senior dogs jumping up and onto things can prove more difficult than it used to be. Due to ageing joints, decreased eyesight and muscle deterioration Fido can find it hard to jump in an out of the car, or onto the bed like he once did with ease.
For these situations it’s much better to invest in a dog safe ramp and/or stairs that allow your dog to access the same spots they’re used to without risk of injury.
Pictured: Orvis Pet Ramp
4. DOG NAIL GRINDER
Due to their slower pace of life, senior dogs generally don’t pound the pavement as much as they used to. One little known side effect of this is their nails don’t spend as often being naturally filed by the sidewalk during their walks. This can lead to their nails become overgrown, which in turn can affect the way in which they walk, and leaves to wear and tear on your dog’s already sensitive joints.
A dog nail grinder is the perfect solution to keeping your senior pup’s nails trimmed without the fear of cutting them too short (and hitting the quick!) For older dogs, finding less stressful solutions to things like nail clipping just make things easier for your golden girl or boy.
Pictured: Andis Pet Nail Grinder
5. DENTAL CARE
One of the most common problems vets see in senior dogs is infected teeth and gums. These infections can affect your dog’s ability to eat and drink and, if left untreated, can lead to more serious health complications.
The best way to protect your senior dog’s teeth and gums is through diet and/or teeth cleaning. Raw chicken or turkey necks allow your dog to literally chew and scrape away their tartar, while (if your dog can tolerate it) a weekly brush with a pet friendly toothpaste can keep their smile bright.
For more tips on dog dental care see our article 3 Ways to Look After your Dog’s Teeth.
Pictured: Kissable Dog Toothpaste and Toothbrush
6. EAR CLEANER & EYE DROPS
From the age of 7+ years, your dog’s eyesight and hearing can begin to deteriorate ever so slightly. By keeping their ears clean of bacteria with a weekly natural ear cleaner you can help ward off infection AND allergies known to irritate.
Senior dogs also tend to suffer from dry eyes. By using regular old eye drops (just regular ones from your pharmacy should be fine – just check with your vet first) of a night time, you keep your senior pup’s eyes moisturised and bright.
Pictured: PAW by Blackmores Gentle Ear Cleaner
7. HEALTHY SENIOR DOG FOOD & TREATS
If there’s one thing you can do to ensure your senior dog is happy and healthy: feed him a suitable senior’s diet. Senior dogs have different nutritional needs to younger pups. They often require lower calorie meals because they are less active, and by choosing a meal filled with antioxidants, vitamins and fatty acids you’re ensuring they’re getting the highest nutritional value in one go.
Either work with your vet to choose an appropriate brand of senior store bought food, or transition to a homecooked diet featuring lots of superfoods for dogs and a dog supplement full of extra nutritional goodies.
As for treats, swap big ol’ bones for smaller items like chicken necks (that are easier on the teeth and easier to digest) and try to choose natural, organic treats where possible for general wellbeing. Feeling adventurous? Check out our healthy dog treat recipes!
8. SENIOR DOG TOYS
Just because your dog is getting older, doesn’t mean they don’t want to play anymore! As your dog ages, so will their interest in certain toys.
For dogs heading into their golden years consider adding age appropriate toys into their toybox. Soft rubber toys (like the Senior Kong) allow your dog to play as usual, but are gentler on your dog’s jaws and teeth. Soft plush toys are also big hits with senior pups – their squeakers making play a fun game, and their gentle materials easy on their mouths and paws.
Lastly, consider investing in some interactive dog toys – such as those by Nina Ottosson. These games keep your dog’s cognitive abilities sharp, while also providing a fun way for the two of you to bond.
Many older dogs can suffer from anxiety as the years creep on. Combined with decreased levels of eyesight and hearing, things that didn’t use to bother them – fireworks, thunderstorms, trips in the car – now can prove to be a very stressful experience for your pup.
The Thundershirt is a handy little jacket that helps soothe and calm your dog in stressful situations through gentle pressure points. See our full Thundershirt Review for more information.
10. GENTLE GROOMING: SHAMPOO & SOOTHING BALMS
Last but not least, I want to talk about senior dog grooming. For a lot of older dogs, inflammations and allergies can be easily stirred up by certain ingredients in grooming products.
It’s imperative that you choose a natural, low allergy dog shampoo and grooming range to keep your senior pooch happy. Additionally, you may find their paws and snouts are more sensitive than they used to be. Nourishing balms such as the Natural Dog Snout Soother and the Natural Dog Paw Soother can come in very handy.
MORE TIPS FOR SENIOR DOGS
In addition to the above essentials, keep in mind these tips for senior dogs:
+ Keep their joints and muscles working (and their minds active!) with a regular and gentle daily exercise schedule.
+ Make sure you see your vet at least twice yearly for special ‘senior check ups’. Smaller problems in older pets can quickly become bigger issues if not addressed quickly.
+ Keep your senior dog’s weight at optimum levels. Extra body weight can cause or worsen many health problems, so work with your vet to keep them in the healthy weight range.
+ Like us, senior dogs enjoy routine. Try to avoid changing their daily habits, such as walk and dinner times – and keep their bed and toys in the same spot.
+ Senior dogs do not like the cold! Ensure there is always a soft, warm place for your pooch to rest and recharge in safety.
+ Take more time out to play, bond and cuddle with your senior dog. They have been your faithful friend for so many years, now is a wonderful time to give back to them.
Download and print your Pretty Fluffy Senior Dog Checklist here.
Copy: Serena Faber Nelson
Photography: As Listed