4 ways to care for a senior dog holiday cottages

Canine Care

4 ways to care for a senior dog

Battersea 08 March 2023

As our dogs get older and start to grow a few grey hairs, we might start to spot changes in their behaviour, mobility and habits.

When this starts to happen, we need to change our expectations of them, learn to recognise different signs, and support them as best we can.

Luckily, our friends at Battersea have created a helpful list of things to look out for, and ways to help your dog as they start to age.

Caring for older dogs | Spot the senior signs

A senior dog walking around the house

At times it may not always be easy to spot when your dog is becoming ‘senior’. However, generally the breed and size of your dog will determine when they’re classified a senior.

Smaller dogs have a longer life expectancy so they may not become senior until they’re around 10 to 12 years, whereas for bigger dogs, it’s more like six to seven years. Here are some tips about caring for older dogs.

Signs your dog is getting older

  • Slowing down and changes in mobility
  • Struggling with the stairs, or being less keen on jumping up
  • Their joints and limbs become stiff when they get up
  • Difficulty or loss of hearing
  • Impaired vision e.g. they might bump into things that are always in the same place
  • Changes in behaviour such as being sleepy and falling asleep outside of their usual routine, seeming confused and disorientated, or crying at night

If you spot any changes in your dog, or you’re concerned about their health, you should always contact your vet regardless of their age.

If caring for your older dog is the issue, there are things your vet might suggest to help support your pet through this stage of their life. Vets are a great source of knowledge and support when it comes to looking after older pets. Battersea always recommends speaking to your local vet, even if your elderly dog isn’t facing issues, as it’s good to find out what additional support they offer for owners.

Switch up their exercise routine

A senior Chihuahua on a gentle walk

We want to make our pets’ lives as comfortable as they can be from when they’re young pups or kittens, right through to when they’re older and less mobile. This means adapting to accommodate the changes they’re going through.

One key example of this is your dog’s exercise routine. If their mobility is decreasing, then rather than going on one long walk, it might be a good idea to take them for short walks more frequently. It’s also good to remember that your dog might get tired more quickly, so give them plenty of breaks during the walk so that they can recuperate.

Your vet can advise you on what exercise routine would work best for your dog. If walking is a struggle, then hydrotherapy is a great way for them to exercise without putting excess strain on their joints. You can find out more about hydrotherapy on the Battersea website.

Exercising your pet’s mind is also important, especially for senior dogs who struggle with moving about. Low impact activities such as search games, training sessions and trick training can all do the job without putting strain on their bodies.

Alongside altered mental and physical exercise routines, making sure they eat healthily will help improve their quality of life as they continue to age. If they become overweight, then this can lead to a number of health issues.

Make their home environment extra comfortable

A senior Labrador having cuddles with his owner

Just like for humans, home is a place where dogs can relax in familiar surroundings. However, when they start to age, moving around this familiar space may not be as easy as it once was. So, it might be a good idea to make some adjustments to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

This could be as simple as introducing a small set of steps or a ramp to help your dog get to higher places such as the sofa, bed or car, particularly if jumping up is becoming a struggle. If you do use a ramp or steps, give your dog time to familiarise themselves with it as they may be a bit wary of it at first. You can, of course, help your dog to reach certain places by lifting them up, but it’s important to be careful when picking up older dogs. 

It’s also a good idea to create a comfortable cosy dog bed near the place where your dog likes to settle e.g. an armchair, for the times when you might not be around to help them up. If your dog is having a tough time getting up the stairs, then it could be a good idea to block off the stairs with a baby gate.

Flooring is another thing you might want to consider if your dog is unsteady on their feet. If you have laminate or wooden flooring, then we’d advise putting some non-slip rugs down so that your dog feels more stable and comfortable.  A non-slip mat for the bathtub is also helpful and can significantly reduce the risk of injury at bath time.  

Watch for changes in behaviour

A senior golden retriever relaxing in bed

We’ve covered the physical changes that a senior dog may go through, but what about the mental changes? There is a possibility that due to their reduced mobility they might feel more vulnerable and anxious. This might lead them to become more irritable and less tolerant. They may even react differently to certain situations that didn’t bother them at all in the past.

This reduced tolerance may be more noticeable in certain situations, for example around children or when interacting with other dogs. For example, a rough stroke from a child or jump up from an excitable dog could be painful or anxiety inducing, as the elderly dog can no longer get away as easily.

So, give older dogs plenty of space and provide them with safe areas to go when they’re feeling overwhelmed or irritable. Also, if they do act out of character, don’t tell them off; it’s not their fault they’re feeling like this.

Senior dogs really do need their own space. As they get older, they may react badly to people coming into their territory when they are relaxing and resting. Older dogs slip into deeper sleep more easily and are more prone to sleep startle when they don’t hear people coming. It’s important to respect this and leave them be whilst they are asleep. You can find more information about sleep startle on the pet advice section of the Battersea website.

Although we don’t have superpowers to stop our dogs from ageing, we do have several tools to make life as comfortable for them as possible. If you have any questions regarding how best to take care of your senior dog, do ask your vet for advice. This, combined with additional support at home, should mean they have a great quality of life during their twilight years.

Enjoy a special holiday with your senior dog

Spend some quality time with your beloved best friend and enjoy life in the slow lane on a relaxing dog-friendly holiday. Browse our range of dog-friendly cottages by clicking the button below.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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