Caring For Older Dogs

Caring For Older Dogs

It is a privilege to care for an older pet, but they do need a little extra special care.

Your older pet will start slowing down on walks or may be less able to move around the home. After a vet visit to discuss pain medication, you can start to make adaptations at home too. Dogs will still enjoy walks, but these should be slower with lots of opportunities to stop and sniff. Consider swapping ball chasing games for ball hunting games, which are easier on older joints. Your cat may struggle to get to her favourite high-up sleeping spot, so consider some extra steps or a new, cosy place to sleep. Dogs can slip on wooden or tiled floors as their strength diminishes. Consider some carpet runners along their most used routes or try paw wax to give them better grip. Vaccinations and parasite control remain important for older pets, especially as their immunity can start to wane.

A health check with the vet every 6 months is advised for pets over 8 years old to allow for early diagnosis of arthritis and other health conditions. Older pets, especially cats, may not groom themselves properly so make time for regular pamper sessions. Grooming can be a great way to spend time with a senior pet instead of going for a walk. Active feeding (using suitable puzzle feeders) is another good alternative to long walks to keep older pets mentally fit and avoid boredom. If your pet’s eyesight or hearing is deteriorating you will need to think about new ways to communicate with them.

Deaf dogs are very good at learning hand signals, and blind pets can follow you if you wear a bell. Sleep is especially important for older pets so choose a comfortable bed, but one which they can get on and off easily. Some old dogs get stuck in deep beanbag-type beds; however, these can be useful in the car to prevent older dogs being thrown about so much. Old dogs generally enjoy a trip out in the car to find new places to sniff, but they may need help getting in and out.

Training large breeds to use a ramp when they are young is a good idea, so they are confident in using it when they need it. Although it isn’t something any of us want to think about, you should also make some plans for your pet’s end of life care. Euthanasia can be carried out at your veterinary practice or at home. You might be lucky enough to have a place to bury your pet, but you may prefer cremation instead, either with the ashes returned or scattered at the crematorium. Your vet will be happy to discuss options in advance so that when the time comes you can put all your energy into making your pet’s last few days as good as possible.

If you would like any further advice on caring for older dogs, please contact the OSCAR Helpline on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email

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