Keeping an Older Dog Comfortable

how to keep an old dog comfortable

how I keep my senior dog Red comfortable

You may have just welcomed a senior dog into your life and if you have, congratulations!! Or your dog has reached that golden age and you’re starting to wonder if there are things you should be doing differently.

Well, this post is all about me sharing the ways I keep Red comfortable. I have adopted a number of senior dogs over the years so this advice comes from experience, and I hope it helps.

Red’s background

When I lived in Florida I volunteered in the “oldies room” at Tri County Humane Society, and that’s where I met Red, a Chihuahua/Min Pin mix. I’m still convinced she has some Rhodesian Ridgeback in her because of a faint how I keep my old dog Red comfortableridge down her back, but my husband disagrees!! Anyway, she was around 8 years old at the time, obese and blind but what can I say, we fell in love with each other. Last month we celebrated 8 years together, and despite several issues she’s still going strong!!

We brought her home, had her eyes fixed because they were, literally, about to pop out of her head, and put her on a weight loss program. She’s still blind but not in pain and looking good.

Sleeping arrangements

For the first few years Red slept with me tucked under my arm, and we would stay like that all night. When we adopted Saffy, a puppy mill rescue, she was so terrified she only found comfort with Red, so she left our bed to keep Saffy company. Later on when Red started having to pee more frequently, it was safer to have her sleep in her own bed, the floor covered in pee pads.

Three winters ago she discovered the joy of sleeping on a comforter (duvet to some!), and now she has two to choose from. She loves the extra padding it gives her, and they’re light enough she can scrunch them into any configuration she likes. Although she wears a sweater for warmth in the winter, I always keep a blanket on her beds in case she gets cold. It’s too cute watching her wrap herself in one, like she’s in a cocoon.

The type(s) of bed that suits your dog at one stage of life, may not suit at others so it will probably be a case of trial and error. One thing I do look out for, especially if a dog has arthritis or some joint issues is, if you’re looking for a bed with raised sides so your dog can rest his head against it, be sure there is one side that is lower for ease of access.

Bathroom breaks and accidents

With age comes more frequent pee breaks, and with certain medications, even more! I take Red out frequently, and at night I cover the area where she sleeps with pee pads. The fact that Red is blind means I can’t just put a couple of pee pads down and teach her to find them. Sometimes no matter how many times they go out, accidents still happen, and no matter how many pee pads you put down, they find the one tiny exposed spot!! Not much I can do but blot the stain and use a good enzymatic cleaner.

Visiting the vet

I have had some wonderful vets over the years, and I’ve had the misfortune of meeting others who did not deserve the title. I am extremely fussy about the vet I choose, always have been, and even more so after several unfortunate, and two deadly experiences. I have a wonderful vet I trust completely, and I don’t think Red would still be here if not for him. I also take Red to a holistic vet for acupuncture treatments, and supplements/herbal remedies over drugs when possible.

Because a small thing can become a big thing very quickly, particularly in old dogs, I go to the vet at the slightest change. I know Red extremely well so anything out of the ordinary, no matter how minor it may seem, merits a phone call for an appointment. The thing is – I’m never wrong when I suspect a problem.

Nutrition

This to me is the most complicated topic of all. There is so much conflicting information, it can be almost impossible figuring it all out. Many vets believe in prescription diets, while others see no nutritional value. Raw food? Dehydrated? Cans? Dry? Wheat free? Added omega 3s? Senior dog food because my dog is a senior? Yikes!!

For many years Red was on a prescription diet, first for her heart, than her kidneys. My holistic vet was not impressed and created a recipe for a home cooked whole foods diet, tailor made for her. Her meal consists of boiled chicken, cooked broccoli, brown rice, quinoa, raw apple, raw carrot and olive oil. I will say since she’s been on it she hasn’t had any diarrhea or eating issues.

The absolute best advice I can give you when it comes to deciding on what to feed your senior dog is to do some research, and I’m going to help get you started by providing a few links to some information I have found helpful.

Read this ⇒ What to Feed Your Dog

Read this ⇒ What to Feed a Senior Dog

Read this ⇒ Prescription Diet Dog Food: The Lifesaver We’re Led to Believe?

Eating and drinking

About a year and a half ago I raised Red’s food and water bowls off the floor. She didn’t look like she was having any trouble reaching her food (bless her she’s always had a healthy appetite!), but I got this thought into my head Red eating her home cooked meal from a raised bowlthat it might be more comfortable for her if they were elevated and I do believe it is.

You can find some beautiful adjustable bowls out there, but I went the DIY route and put the water bowl on top of an upside down glass casserole dish, and at meal time I hold the bowl for Red.

Medication

As Red got older, the amount of medication she was on increased. It seemed like every time I went to the vet with a problem, I came out with more drugs. My holistic vet was shocked at the amount my little dog’s body was expected to process. Of course there are times when drugs are necessary, and I will without hesitation give her what’s necessary, but in many instances a homeopathic remedy or herbal supplement can do a good job, if not a great job.

Red now also gets regular acupuncture treatments (both needles and laser), and I see how much it has helped boost her immune system.

Dental care

Good oral hygiene is critical for overall health, and yet Red makes it impossible for me to do a decent job. She weighs just under 10lbs, but when she clamps her jaws shut, nothing is prying them apart. Even my vet needs back up! The thing is, if your dog has bad breath you know there’s a problem so I suggest you visit your vet sooner rather than later. Your dog may be in pain (you know what a tooth ache feels like!!), and really bad dental disease can lead to organ problems. Your vet will let you know what’s going on, and whether or not surgery is recommended. Discuss the risks and see if he can give your dog the mildest anesthetic available.

It’s really good to know how many dental care products for dogs there are on the market, so no matter how difficult your dog is, there should be something you find that will work.

I use a cotton pad wrapped around my finger with some dental gel on it, and while it’s still an epic battle it’s easier to get my finger in her mouth than a toothbrush. Since she gets so stressed I can only do it for a few seconds, but I feel it’s better than nothing. I also sprinkle some Plaque Off powder onto her food. Other options are dental chews, bones, chew toys, water additives and the like. I try and go with the more natural products rather than chemical laden ones.

Wardrobe

I’ll be honest – I don’t like when people put dresses and other clothing on their dogs, so they look like fashion accessories rather than dogs. However, Red does feel the cold so she wears a sweater several months of the year, indoors and out, and has raincoats and coats for her walks. I crochet a lot of her dog coats, and because of her size I can make one from scratch in an evening. I’ve included the video if you want to give it a try, and you don’t have to be a great crocheter to do it!! 

Grooming

Red’s fur doesn’t grow so all she needs are baths (which my husband does) and her nails clipped, which we have done at the groomer or vet’s office. No matter how old a dog is they need to be groomed, but of course you have to be careful of painful joints which can make it hard for them to stand for long periods of time. Failing eyesight may make them nervous when they never used to be, and lumps and bumps mean greater care taken when shaving them. Having your dog groomed is also a good chance to check for any growths or changes that would otherwise go unnoticed.

If you’ll be taking your dog to a new groomer and he does have some issues, be sure the groomer is comfortable with whatever  is going on. We had a deaf and mostly blind dog and it was impossible for us to find one who felt comfortable grooming her. I ended up buying clippers and doing it myself while my husband fed her constant treats. To have her face cut short we had to sedate her at the vet. Not a fun experience for anyone, but the only option.

Be careful of slippery flooring

Dogs of any age can easily injure themselves sliding across an uncarpeted floor, but an older dog who may be suffering joint pain or be unsteady on their feet can have a hard time getting around. Our kitchen is not carpeted and when Red is jumping around waiting for her food, she does tend to slip so I have to watch her until she gets the bowl in front of her.

If you can’t stand the sight of carpeting, try and get some area rugs to give your dog a non slip surface to walk confidently on. Another option is a product called ToeGrips which fit over your dog’s nails to give them some grip on slippery floors. I have no experience with this product, nor do I know anyone who has used them, but I have read positive reviews so it’s worth looking into.

How I exercise Red

Dogs of all ages and abilities need some form of exercise, the type and frequency will of course depend on your dog’s abilities. Red goes out several times a day, sometimes just for a quick pee, but about four times a day for a walk. She walks well but I keep each outing to about 10 minutes or so. If I join my husband when he takes our other dog Jack out, or we take a day trip, I have a stroller I use for Red. The bonus is there’s room for Jack if he gets tired, needs a break, or for safety in large crowds.

In addition to physical exercise, all dogs need mental stimulation. Keeping their brain active staves off boredom and behaviour problems, and can help with the effects of doggie dementia. Interactive puzzle toys, treat dispensing toys, Kongs and games are all great ways to provide mental stimulation.

How to keep an old dog comfortable – conclusion

As our dogs age we’re always looking for ways to ensure their comfort. Well, now you know what I do for Red and I hope you have found my tips helpful.

What types of things do you do for your dog? Sharing helps others so leave a comment below, or on my Facebook page.

I would like to extend an invitation to join my new Facebook group called Senior Dog Care Club. There you can find tips, tricks, advice, ask questions, share stories and meet fellow senior dog parents. Join today!!

 

 

 


Keeping an Older Dog Comfortable
Hindy Pearson
Helping people care for their senior dogs
I am a certified dog trainer and pet care consultant, specialising in working with rescue dogs and first time pet parents. I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, and advocate for shelter adoption of all animals, particularly older dogs and cats. I am currently working on a spay/neuter program in Spain.

You May Also Like

42 thoughts on “Keeping an Older Dog Comfortable

  1. These are all great ways to keep an older dog comfortable! I especially like that you included a photo of a dog in a dog stroller. The first time I saw one “in the wild,” I thought it looked kind of silly. But then I spoke to the woman pushing the stroller and she told me that her dog was very old and couldn’t walk for a very long time, but she still needed fresh air and a bit of exercise. Now I see why dog strollers are useful.

    I recently bought my dog a special orthopedic dog bed with memory foam. She’s not quite a senior yet, but she does find it comfortable, and I’m sure she’ll appreciate it once she needs it!

    1. Hi Samantha, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. That’s my dog in the stroller. I sometimes feel silly, especially if I take her on the bus, but my husband keeps reminding me that it’s great for everyone to see it, and maybe they’ll learn to be more compassionate towards senior dogs, or maybe even realise they could use one for their dog. Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of people tell me what a great idea it is, and they’re going to consider getting one. You certainly don’t need to be older, to appreciate a nice memory foam bed. Sounds so comfy.

  2. This is a great article! I have two dogs and one of them is starting to show some signs of age. we definitely work to keep her comfortable and as healthy as we can.

    1. Hi Raphael, Nice to hear from you, and thanks, I’m glad you found it helpful. We love our dogs so much, any tips we can get to keep them healthy and happy, for as long as possible, are always welcome. Enjoy your dogs!!

  3. Hey Hindy.

    Such a great idea for a website and a post!

    I have had a few senior dogs in my time and it’s always sad when they start to lose their sight.

    Our German shepherd is currently completely deaf and her hind legs have started to give in, possibly slightly early due to a car accident years ago. Fortunately she is not yet in pain and still very protective over my 2 year old daughter.

    i agree with you that comfort and diet is a key part in a dog’s health. You can see almost immediately see how different food brands affect an animal’s coat. I can only imagine what effects are happening internally if the external are so noticeable.

    Thanks again for the awesome info. A comforter is maybe a slightly better option to the harder bed she is currently using. Her current bed is more for the younger generation 😉

    Keep well.

    Cheers,
    Marc Parsons

    1. Hi Marc, Thanks so much for taking the time to reply, and glad you like the site. I have a soft spot for senior dogs, and wanted to do what I could to help others who share their lives with seniors. I recently wrote about hearing loss in dogs. Have you been teaching her signs? When training my other dog I somehow naturally added hand signals to the cues, so now I don’t have to say much, just use a sign. It will come in handy for later in life. My dog’s definition of comfort has certainly changed these past few month, and is happiest when snuggled up in a comforter. I wish you many more years with your Shepherd.

      1. Hey Hindy

        Thank you for your response and very wise words.

        Unfortunately it looks like Tesse will not be around for much longer. She is not in pain, but took a turn for the worst last night.

        She is now barely walking or eating at all. We are trying to keep her as comfortable as possible, but at 14 years old, we may have to look at the humane option if things do not change by the morning.

        My little girl is still too young to understand, but you can see the toll it is having on the family.

        As far as the signs go, we use to show our dogs and I have to agree, Signs often work better than language as dogs react to the tone of a person’s voice and your tone/mood can have a negative impact on the dog’s reaction to commands.

        Keep up the great work. You have an awesome website here!

        Cheers,
        Marc Parsons

        1. Hi Marc, I am so terribly sorry about Tesse. Believe me, I know how you’re feeling. Quality of life is a tough decision to make, but at the end of the day, as much as we’re hurting, it’s only about what’s good for the dog. Be well, take care of your little girl, and please let me know what happens. Thanks for your kind words. Regards, Hindy

  4. hi Hindy
    Bless your heart for taking in senior dogs that others would be reticent to take in! Wow, so good. I love Red, especially in the red blanket! dogs can be soooo funny. I think that although every dog is different, the needs you discuss here and the tips you provide based on your experience are very relevant. The pee pads are such a good idea! Saves you and Red a lot of trouble

    1. Thank you Emily, kind of you to say. Red is hilarious – nothing funnier then watching her organise her bed, then wrap herself up in her blanket. These days I keep the heating on for her where she sleeps. True – all dogs are different, yet their needs are the same. I wish my husband and I had thought of taking out stock in the pee pad company. We would have opened our Retirement Home for Animals by now.

      1. oh I would love to see Red organizing her bed and blanket! I can picture it! 🙂 Dogs are creatures of habit and some rituals allow them to find comfort. Just like humans. We all do it at times. I used to know someone who used those pee pads too. When I lived back east, the winters were just brutallll! So not having to go outside when it was freezing cold was a big incentive!

        1. Hi Emily, it is cute believe me!! I would be lost without them. No dog I get has a clue of what it means to wait until they go outside – sad really. I took her to visit my family in Toronto a couple of years ago, in January and she was not happy. She’s a Florida girl, and it was a nightmare trying to get her to go out in the snow. I tried putting booties on her, but she wouldn’t have it, I finally bought the wax you put on the bottom of their paws to protect against the salt. Imagine what that was like, 8x a day! I’d be there now but she couldn’t tolerate it.

  5. It is so cute that Red wrapped her red blanket. It clearly shows that she knows what she wants. She is a fighter.
    The dog stroller is interesting. I haven’t seen one before. It is a brilliant investment indeed because it is really helpful.

    1. Hi Stella, So nice to hear from you. It really is hilarious watching her wrap herself up. She wears a sweater most of the time, yet knows when she needs added warmth. The stroller really is such a help. Although she’s a small dog, she gets heavy quite quickly if I have to walk far with her. Now I throw her in the stroller (not literally, but you have to say that nowadays!!) and I can take her on the bus, or long walks so I can get some exercise. They really are a marvellous invention.

  6. Keeping an older dog comfortable is the key. Age will always catch up with them. Monitoring there changing behaviors is helpful. Thank you for your good advice.

    1. Hi Ronn, Appreciate you taking the time to comment. Sadly none of us can outrun it! Glad you liked the advice – I’m doing my best to share my experiences, and as much helpful information as I can about ways to care for our senior dogs.

  7. Hindy,

    first off let me say that I really respect what you’re doing, making sure people are well informed about how to keep an older dog comfortable. I am a total dog lover, have been brought up with dogs, and have seen the struggle and pain older dogs face. It’s admirable that you have put together this complete list of things to remember and ensure for your dog to stay content in their old age. I have a 7 year old German Shepherd, also adopted, also big problem with his eyes among many behavioral issues, but there is no love like that of a dog towards their owner and vice versa, thank you so much for writing about helping them!

    Take Care,
    Eva

    1. Hi Eva, thank you for your kind words and beautiful comment. I always love to hear when someone’s pet is adopted, and not bought from some puppy mill. If I can help you with any of his behaviour issues, or anything else, please feel free to contact me any time.

  8. My heart just went awww when I read about your journey with Red. I don’t have dogs of my own (I’m more of a cat person I’m sorry, haha!) but I’m glad you rescued her from being put down and that you’re taking such good care of her now. Thanks for all the recommendations! 🙂

    1. Hi Sienna, Thanks for taking the time to comment. I was a cat person long before I had dogs. I got to the point where I had a group of 5, and whenever I moved, they all came with me. My last one died of cancer last December. I do hope to get another cat, I miss having one (or more!!) around.

  9. Its very apparent that you are passionate about dogs and the best care for them. Red is very lucky to have you as adoptive human’s.

    I had adopted an elderly cat with aging problems as well. She didn’t have them when we adopted her, but a few years later it became apparent how old she was. I found it very rewarding to know that what I was doing for her helped her be more comfortable. She lived for 4 more year after that.

    Bless you for having such a wonderful and caring website for dog owners

    1. Hi Debra, thank you for saying that. I’m so glad to you hear you adopted an older pet, how wonderful you had the compassion to do that as sadly most don’t. It is very rewarding knowing how much joy and care you’re bringing to a homeless animal, and I’m sure it’s because of that care your cat got to live so much longer.

  10. Hi Hindy!

    Really great article that you posted here.

    Sometimes people neglect older dogs and it’s a shame…
    It’s very important to take care of its own dog no matter the age.
    I think you really nailed it by adding the “Exercise your dog” part.
    It’s often forgotten but it’s very important for a dog to keep exercising.
    One of my two dogs is getting pretty old now and I can really see that my guy feels way better after half an hour running around the park 🙂

    Keep up the great work!
    Best,
    Matt

    1. Hi Matt, thank you I’m so glad you liked the article. You’re right about people neglecting older dogs (cats, people…). They assume because they sleep more and may have some trouble getting around, they don’t need to get out there and take even a short walk, see the world. How nice that you share your life with dogs, and good to hear the exercise is doing some good.

  11. First off I think your dog looks beautiful! But is there anything you can do early on to prevent using a lot of medication when they get older? Plus, those dog strollers look fancy… They can walk for a bit then get back on the stroller when they are tired! Great site, my dog is still fairly young but it’s important to stay on top of these kinds of things early.

    matt TheDopestMatrix

    1. Hi Matt, thank you for the comment. Cute yes, but a handful these days!! I really don’t like the amount of medication she’s on at the moment, but because of where I live, I can’t get to a holistic vet, so I make sure I use supplements when I can. I believe that either seeing a vet that is familiar with alternative therapies, or a fully qualified, professionally trained holistic vet is a great way to keep them off as much medication as possible. I don’t believe that medication can be avoided 100% of the time (I’m sure many will disagree with that) but with alternative therapies (like in humans), the focus is on the entire animal and using remedies, homeopathy, supplements to keep them “in balance” is a better path to take.

  12. Hi Hindy. I enjoyed reading this post. I shared it with my roommate who helps me take care of our dogs. We are considering the pee pads at night and that K/d dog food. We’re wondering how long it would take our dog, Baby, to figure out she doesn’t have to wake anyone up and can go on the pads. Second, is the K/d dog food and expensive and where do you purchase it? Thank you.

    1. Hi Rawl, glad you enjoyed this post. If Baby has an accident in the house, does she give off signs that she’s about to pee? Circling, wandering… If she does and you know it’s about to happen, put her on a pee pad then give her a treat, something that she doesn’t usually get that she loves. She should soon associate using them with something good. I don’t recall if you mentioned if Baby has kidney issues. Has your vet recommended it? It’s a prescription diet that is available through your vet or online. Online retailers used to require a prescription, now they just ask you to tick off a box saying you understand that it’s for kidney disease… It’s more expensive than your basic supermarket food, but not outrageous. In my experience it’s significantly cheaper online, I just compare different sites.

  13. Hi HIndy
    All I remember with both our labradors when they got old is that they struggled with arthritis pain so we regularly gave them medication for that. The other problem we had in winter is that we would put them to sleep at night on their beanbag beds (bought specially for their needs) and if they got up at night they wouldn’t be able to find their way back due to being mostly blind… and then would fall asleep on the cold tiled floor. This was a big problem because it would almost freeze their joints up and they couldn’t stand up in the morning!

  14. Hi Hindy,

    It’s so crazy to think that Red’s eyes were actually bulging out of her head, because of how overweight she was. I’m glad that she is so comfortable now 🙂

    Are there many dogs that are put down from not being able to find homes for them? so sad 🙁

    I am planning to get a dog for my girls in a little while and we are going to choose one from a shelter, even though not a senior dog, at least we will be able to give one a home.

    Love and light.
    Vivia

    1. Hi Vivia, actually her eyes were bulging out of her head because of Glaucoma, not being overweight. It was all down to neglect by whoever she lived with before we took her home. About 4 million dogs and cats are killed each year in shelters in the U.S. I’m so glad to hear you’ll be giving a homeless dog a chance. That’s wonderful. I don’t know if you’ve had a dog before, but if I can help you with any training tips, or get you started, please don’t hesitate to ask.

      1. That is so sad, I really had no idea that so many animals are put down each year.
        I am originally from Jamaica and we have many strays there. My brother-in-law owns a really good vet clinic so the family tries to help out where we can, and find homes for some of them. We have helped get a few into really good homes, and my mother has taken many of the older dogs, being that she has a lot of experience with them.
        The tropical climate means that they are a bit more comfortable, but we have to be especially careful with heartworm, as a result of all the mosquitoes we have there.
        I have had a lot of experience with animals and volunteering at a vet clinic throughout my high school years. I think taking care of and being responsible for animals is a great thing to teach my children as well. I will let you know if I have any questions. Thanks for the offer.
        Love and light.
        Vivia

        1. Hi Vivia, how wonderful to hear about how much your brother in law and family help the strays. You are all incredibly kind souls to do that, as too many just walk by them without a second glance. You’re right about what a great lesson it is to teach children compassion for all living beings.

  15. Hindy, you have a heart of gold.

    I’m sure Red was pretty fried with us humans before she met you. You have restored her faith in humans again.

    Yes, comforters are so cozy. My wife and I use one in the winter too, so I’m glad that Red can feel cozy and know that somebody cares for her.

    It’s so important for all living beings to receive love, because inside that dog’s body is a vulnerable person who will respond to love or feel dejected is she’s rejected. Just like us human animals!

    Good for you, Hindy. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi PJ, that’s very kind of you to say. I don’t know what happened to her before she met us, but she’s incredibly good natured in spite of her past. That’s how we discovered her love of the comforter – my husband was babysitting when I was away, and he couldn’t get her to relax, so he put her on the bed, she made a nest and went to sleep. We all just need a little love don’t we?

  16. Hi Hindy,

    I can definitely relate to this article. My dog has been with me for almost 12 years (since weened). It kind of makes me sad to see her aging, but she still likes to play. I see that she seems to need to go out more frequently for those bathroom breaks too.

    China also likes to snuggle in her blankets. Sometimes it’s really funny to watch her trying to unravel the blankets to get them just the right way!

    I’m wondering more and more just how much longer she is going to be with me since she will soon be 78 in dog years. She is an American Terrier Pit Bull (Brindle) and has always been a marshmallow. She was never trained to be a bully. She is great around all my grands and they love her.

    So, can you give me any estimate regarding the average life span of this breed?

    Thanks for sharing this article and I think it is great that you think of the aged population of the dogs. They still need love too.

    Verna

    1. Hi Verna, I’m glad you enjoyed this article. It is definitely hard to watch them get older, but at least they’re still with us. If she’s starting to pee more frequently, have you taken her to the vet? If you’ve noticed an obvious increase, it would be a good idea to let your vet know. There’s nothing cuter than watching them arrange the blankets until they’re just right. Makes me smile every time. I wouldn’t be too concerned about translating dog years to human years. Typically smaller dogs live longer than bigger dogs, but it isn’t a simple formula. It depends on so many factors, it’s all about regular vet checks (at least twice a year or more if there are issues), providing them with good nutrition, physical exercise (type, length of time depending on her physical abilities), and mental stimulation. I have a soft spot for seniors, and only adopt old dogs.

  17. Hi Hindy,
    This dog is the luckiest dog in the world and all these suggestions and tips are all great. I love the dog stroller. just have a question about taking them out for a walk. is it ok if it’s rainy?
    I had a friend who never took his old dog out because he was afraid he get sick or something. this dog loved to be out when it was rainy.
    Anyway thanks for all of these great tips
    Cheers

    1. Thanks Jagulba, I’m lucky too! Of course it’s okay rain won’t hurt them, but the better question to ask is – will they go? A lot of dogs I’ve known look out the window, see it’s raining and won’t budge. My other dog Jack does that – he won’t even get off the couch he hates the rain. I put a raincoat on Red and we go. Glad you enjoy the tips.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*