Tips to help your aging pup’s golden years be as comfortable and productive as possible

By Ken Foster

For most of history our canine friends were viewed not as friends, but as non-sentient worker animals. Nowadays, however, we regard dogs as card-carrying members of the household, who give love and receive it, are attuned to our needs, and serve the prime purpose of providing companionship and reducing our feelings of isolation. Many of us have forged stronger bonds with our pets over the years than some of the human animals around us, watching our quadrupedal friends grow from puppies into mature adults—so it is natural that we want to make their last years as comfortable as possible. Here we will give you a quick, basic overview about how to treat your elderly doggy.

First of all, though, when is your pooch officially considered a senior? In truth, it depends on the individual dog. Large dog breeds tend to age faster than smaller ones. Great Danes are considered senior by the age of about 5-6 years old, whereas Chihuahuas will probably be only middle-aged by then, and not considered a true senior citizen until the age of around 10-11. Genetics, environment, lifestyle and nutrition: all of these play a crucial role in how quickly your pooch ages.

What problems and challenges can you expect as your dog gets older?

He or she may get arthritis or develop other diseases that cause his or her health and mobility to deteriorate. Your dog will probably tire more easily, and won’t be able to walk or play for quite as long. She may have problems getting up, getting in or out of her basket, or out of the car, or up and down the stairs.

Dental problems are also a common phenomenon in older pets. If you have not taken proper care of your dog’s oral health earlier in life, by the time he reaches true old age he may already have lost several teeth. Dental disease can result in major complications for your pet, including weight loss and unkempt coat stemming from poorer nutrition. It can also be exceptionally painful for your pet.

As your dog gets older, dental disease is not the only issue you will have to deal with. Older dogs commonly suffer from liver disease, heart disease, kidney disease and various other conditions that can cause weight loss. However, some dogs may suffer from the opposite problem. As they become less active with age, their weight may bloom, leading to a risk of obesity and associated health problems like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and skin disease.

What can you do to help your elderly dog deal with the pitfalls of old age?

• Check in regularly with your veterinarian: your pooch needs to be checked up at least yearly, preferably twice yearly, even if he appears healthy. Many diseases are not easy to spot and remain hidden until they are very well developed.

• When you visit the vet, be sure to get an evaluation of your dog’s body condition to determine whether he is overweight or underweight. You can even ask your veterinarian to teach you how to do it yourself at home.

• Feed your dog properly and maintain his nutrition: choose a diet that is appropriate for her lifestyle and age. Especially if your dog is overweight, consult your veterinarian to help you pick a diet for your dog which is appropriate and effective in helping him lose weight while still getting adequate nutrition. If your dog has a condition like heart or kidney disease, he may well have special dietary requirements, so, again, consult your veterinarian.  Another thing to consider is whether your dog would benefit from supplements like chondroitin and glucosamine if he or she suffers from arthritis or some other joint disease.

• Ensure your dog gets proper oral care: and, yes, this includes brushing his or her teeth! If you can’t brush your pooch’s teeth, consider purchasing dental treats or toys that will help keep his or her mouth clean.

• Exercise, exercise, exercise: this is especially helpful if your dog is overweight, since regular activity will keep your dog fit and maintain proper muscle and joint health. Be sure, however, to tailor your dog’s fitness regimen to his needs and abilities. For a large dog a walk around the block will be a breeze, whereas for a little Chihuahua, it will probably seem like a huge trek. If your dog is not accustomed to a fitness regimen, start out slowly and gradually build up the difficulty levels. Consider consulting your veterinarian as well, just to be safe.

• Keep your dog occupied: toys, puzzles, etc., will not only exercise your dog’s body but also his or her mind and spirit. Keep your dog’s mood elevated by giving him or her the opportunity to have plenty of fun!

• Pay attention to your dog’s accommodations and living environment: for example, older dogs with arthritis might require softer bedding than they are used to. Add extra blankets or towels to his basket, or look into finding her a special dog bed. Ramps can be installed at your house to make it easier for your dog to get up and down the stairs. If you have mostly hardwood floors at home, you can even consider placing thick rugs or carpeting over them so your pooch can find her footing more easily and walk around with less effort.

There you have it, then! Be aware of the issues faced by aging dogs, and make your canine loved one’s golden years as comfortable and productive as possible by following the advice presented in this article. Given all the love, loyalty and companionship he has provided you with over the years, you owe your pooch that much at least! ND

Ken Foster is a long-time pet owner and blogger. He scoured the internet to find the best and most useful information on caring for his dogs, but had a hard time digging up great resources. This is why he created, where he writes about everything from dog care tips to the best dog product reviews, all in one helpful place. For more dog care tips and tricks, please go to