Older Dog Care

If you're looking for information about older dog care, chances are you furball is not as feisty as he once was.

Sad as it may be to hear, dogs are considered seniors at around the age of six or seven. While there may be some exceptions due to hereditary factors and differences between breeds, this is a good time to start watching for physical and behavioral changes in your pet.

dogs sitting at sunsetDogs at Sunset

It seems like only yesterday he was a puppy, today he's your aging dog, but still just as special and beloved. Time flies.

When Does Older Dog Care Begin? - Sooner Than You Think!

When dogs enter their senior years, they need your compassion and loving attention more than ever. It is a necessary commitment that goes hand in hand with dog ownership. In other words, it's time to think about what you can do for your older dog.

With some dog breeds, you'll need to be particularly observant for signs of age-related conditions such as arthritis and other joint related conditions.

I'm speaking of those dogs with a high pain tolerance, that are able to carry on as normal showing no signs of any discomfort they may be enduring.

While retrievers and terriers are typically in this category, many dogs hide their pain to avoid showing weakness to predators- something learned long ago.

Making Home Checkups Part of Older Dog Care

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so the saying goes, and there's a lot of truth in that statement. The best way to spot changes and common dog health problems in your dog no matter what his age, is to learn how to give a weekly checkup.

It's a good habit to get into right from puppyhood and definitely a habit to include in your weekly older dog care schedule.

When you do this you'll be able to notice subtle differences in his condition that may indicate a problem. Early discovery of a potential dog illness can make all the difference in curing or managing it.

Not only that, but you may just be saving your senior dog from a lot of needless suffering - something really worthwhile for your best friend!

So, how do we go about doing a checkup?

We'll go over that in just a bit. Or, you can schedule a visit to the vet and have him demonstrate how to check your dog's vital signs so you'll be able to tell what is normal vs. abnormal.

Things like, pulse, temperature, respiration, circulation and fluids. Once you start doing this at home, keep a journal to record the information so you'll have an accurate record from week to week.

young and older golden retrieversLove Them Young And Old

Early Detection Can Save A Pet's Life

As mentioned earlier, your dog's vital signs are fairly simple to track on a week-to-week basis, and good overview of his current health.

Record your findings in a notebook as part of your older dog care - here's how to go about it:

Older Dog Care - The Vital Signs

Yes, they are vital, as these signs serve as indicators of your dog's health. If you start recording them from a young age, or at a time when they are in good health, you'll have a head's up if there are any changes.


Let's start with the dog's temperature, which normally falls between 99.5° and 102.5°. A fever would be indicated at a temperature above 103°. If you're not the nervous type or too squeamish, you can take the temperature with a lubricated rectal thermometer.

But, an even better non-invasive option, that works immediately, is the No-contact Pet Thermometer that is designed to take a reading when held over a part of your dog's body. Great for nervous older dogs and their owners!

His Heart Beats For you, So Check Your Older Dog's Pulse

OK, now that's done, let's move on to the pulse to find out what's going on with the heart.

This is where it will come in handy to ask the vet what is normal for your breed of dog, because it can vary between size and breed.

So once you have that information, what you are looking for is a strong and regular beat. You can check the beats in either of two locations.

One is inside the upper thigh on your dog's rear legs, which is where you'll find the femoral artery.

The other is on the chest behind the left leg. Count the beats per minute - actually you can do it for 15 seconds and then do the math, times 4.

Normal beats can fall in the 60-150 range, but don't jump to any conclusions until you know what is normal for your breed of dog as I mentioned earlier.


Respiration, or in other words breathing, is another good health indicator to review. Do this when your dog is in a relaxed state, not after he's been playing fetch or is panting due to summer heat etc.

Once you know what is normal for your aging dog, it will be easy for you to spot any distress or changes in his breathing. The average range is around 10-30 breaths a minute, but again it varies according to breed and size.

You can visually do a 15-second count of the breaths, or use a stopwatch, then multiply by 4 to get the one minute result.

older dog lying down


Another health indicator is circulation which can be affected in aging dogs. Just as with humans, the blood must be carried efficiently around your dog's body to deliver nutrients to the tissues.

You can check out your dog's circulation by lifting his lip and pressing a finger on the gum line above the canine tooth. When you take your finger away, count how many seconds it takes for the gum to return to its normal pink color.

More than a couple of seconds is an indicator of a problem and you should talk to your vet as soon as possible.

While checking his gums, use the opportunity to also look over the condition of his teeth for any signs of dental problems or excessive tartar build-up.

Dental health is especially important to all dogs. Any problems, left unattended, can result in infections, which in turn can cause serious conditions if they get into the bloodstream.

Older Dog Care and Hydration Levels

Water, as we know, is necessary for all life forms to exist. Observing your dog's water intake as well as checking his hydration levels can give you life saving information.

I know the importance of this because it led me to discovering my dog's diabetes. Don't hesitate to talk to your vet if you notice a sudden and significant increase in your dog's water consumption.

Here's a simple way to check for dehydration in your older dog. It's often referred to as the tenting test. Just pull up some skin around your dog's neck and then release. It should fall back to normal right away if enough fluids are present.

However, if your dog is dehydrated, the skin loses its elasticity and remains in a tented position, taking longer to return to normal. Any sign of dehydration, which can be life threatening, is reason to call your vet.

Hands On "Pampering" Exam

After you have completed the measured health stats, follow up with a hands on examination and visual once-over of your senior pet. If your dog has become used to your tender touch, and most likely he has, then he'll just think he getting some more pampering.

So run your hands over his joints, back, and belly for signs of discomfort or swelling, and check his eyes, ears and bottom for any signs of infection or parasites.

Don't overlook the paws, as this is a prime location to inspect for embedded foreign matter or hidden abrasions.

black and grey large dogSweet Sixteen


And finally a few last tips.

As part of your older dog care routine, be sure to check your dog's breath for any difference other than the usual doggy smell. If there are no obvious dental issues, bad breath can be an indicator of other serious conditions such as diabetes or kidney problems.

Inevitably in our beloved older dogs, there will be some physical signs of aging. Stiff joints or arthritis are common dog health problems, but there is a lot that can be done to ease the pain of these conditions. Fox example, if you haven't already started with hip and joint supplements, now is a good time to begin.

Hearing and eye problems can also be issues and sometimes there are changes in behavior. Owners will spot these signs and be able to respond to them quickly if they implement a weekly inspection routine.

The good news is, dogs are living far longer these days thanks to incredible advances in veterinary medicine. So make the most of their golden years.

Once you become very familiar with the routine indicators of your senior dog's life, including what goes in and what comes out, you will quickly notice any changes that occur.

With compassion, there is so much we can do to make our senior dog's life comfortable and enjoyable. And, this is the greatest gift a master can give his loyal friend.

Note: Although this article was written with the senior dog in mind, the suggested check-ups are highly recommended for dogs of all ages.

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NOTE: Information on this website is not intended to take the place of advice from a veterinarian.

More information about older dog care can be found here