Caitlin UltimoPet Lovers / Pet Parenting

Senior Dogs: What To Expect

Taking care of a senior dog is a little like taking care of a puppy, but without the high energy and chewed up shoes! Give senior dogs lot of love and care, and they’ll give you that love right back. Check out our tips for what to expect with a senior dog.


A senior dog is typically 7 years old or older (in human years), although it can vary with the breed. This life stage covers from when a dog is mature to his final life expectancy age. Dogs who live longer than the typical life expectancy for their breed cross into the geriatric life stage. When your dog becomes a senior, he doesn’t suddenly lose all his energy, turn white overnight and start getting canine social security. Aging is a gradual process. Senior dogs’ muzzles do gray or turn white, they may not hear, see or smell as well and may be less active. Dog owners should not confuse signs of old age with symptoms of a chronic disease. Senior dog owners should be alert to what is a normal, gradual change and what could be a sign of a health issue, such as unusual bumps, a change in appetite or drinking and potty changes.


Older dogs progressively slow down, just like people do. In fact, dogs have issues like arthritis just the same as us. Older dogs will still like their walks, but for shorter periods of time and distances.


Dogs spend a lot of time sleeping, at least 12 to 18 hours a day, and senior dogs tend to sleep more. Senior dogs may sleep longer during the day and get up more in the middle of the night. Too much time sleeping could be caused by a health problem, so if your senior dog seems to be sleeping excessively, take him to the veterinarian and have him checked out.


Adult dogs have 20 teeth on top and 22 teeth on the bottom. By the time dogs become senior dogs, they may have lost some of their teeth due to dental issues. Brush your dog’s teeth daily for good dental care and take him to see your veterinarian for a dental checkup yearly, or more frequently if recommended.


Check with a veterinarian for the best diet for a senior dog. Seniors may need fewer calories to maintain their best weight or may have some trouble digesting certain foods. Obesity can be an issue with older dogs if they become less active but are still fed larger portions and given a lot of dog treats.


Senior dogs typically go to the bathroom when they wake up, after eating or drinking, or during or after exercise. They will have to go more frequently than they did as an adult dog, and you may need to take them out once or twice during the night. Senior dogs develop bladder issues, so housetraining work may need to be done.


Senior dogs especially need regular grooming to keep their coat and skin in great shape and to note any physical changes like a bump. Grooming should include the coat, ears, teeth, nails and anal sacs.


The rule of thumbs for nails is that they should be short enough to not click on the floor, so trim them once a month or less.

Bathing And Brushing

How often you bathe your dogs depends on his coat and how dirty he gets. Senior dogs may have some health issues that make bathing more difficult — like arthritis or back and hip issues. Most professional groomers have experience grooming senior dogs. If going to a groomer is stressful, then perhaps a mobile groomer is a better choice — they make house calls!


Use dog toothbrushes to brush your dogs’ teeth daily.


Consult your veterinarian on the best schedule and method for cleaning your senior dog’s ears. If your dog continually scratches at his ear, the ear smells or is really dirty, then he may have an infection; a visit to the vet is needed.

Anal Sacs

Dogs have an anal sac on either side of the anus. A veterinarian or groomer should regularly check the anal sacs to make sure they are secreting properly. If not, the anal sacs can become full and painful. When dogs scoot their butts on the floor or lick that area, they may need these emptied.

Barking And Whining

Dogs are social animals and make a lot of different sounds to communicate — they bark, growl, whine, whimper and howl. Pay attention to a senior dog’s vocalizations to get a feel for what is normal and what is not. Your senior dog’s hearing can be diminished and this can affect how he vocalizes. Some senior dogs get more anxious as they get older and whine or whimper more. They may not be as comfortable around children or puppies, so they may growl.

Vet Visits

Senior dogs should go to the vet about every six months for a checkup. Run your hands over your senior dog daily to check for any abnormal bumps, bites or scratches and take your dog to the vet if you see or feel anything unusual.

Other Products And Stuff

It’s all about keeping senior dogs comfortable. You may want to get several dog beds and put them in different parts of the house so your senior dog can go from bed to bed — away from the noise or just be around the family. Some senior dogs get arthritis and the veterinarian may recommend supplements or some anti-inflammatory medicine. For any potty problems, pee pads can minimize any messes caused by incontinence.

By: Melissa Kauffman

Featured Image: Isabelle Francais/I-5 Publishing