Tips for caring for an older dog

Posted on 6 March, 2017

Mature pug

Dogs are said to be in middle age from around seven years old and, depending on the breed, will be in their senior years on average from ten years old. Larger breeds tend to reach old age quicker, and have a lifespan of around ten years, whilst smaller breeds can reach 15 or 16 years.

When dogs get a bit older they can slow down and have a tendency to put on weight. Some dogs may become friendlier; others can become a bit grumpy. They can also become a little bit more anxious, especially if their hearing starts to go, and may not be so quick to react to their surroundings.

If you are caring for an older dog it’s important to bear these things in mind. We have put together the following tips for caring for an older dog, which you might find useful:


Older dogs may not be able to walk as far as they could. Adjust your walking schedule to fit the dog and be careful not go too far until you know how much exercise the dog can handle. If a dog seems unwilling to go out for a walk, and this is unusual, then a trip to the vet is in order to find out of there are any underlying health issues.

Feeding time

Sometimes older dogs can become greedier, so for homesitters it’s important to take careful note of how much the owner feeds their dog. Or if it’s your own dog, to adjust the amounts based on how much exercise they are getting. As the body slows down dogs may start to gain weight, which can lead to future health problems. Therefore their weight needs to be kept under control.

Senior dog food

Switching to dog food formulated for seniors can help with weight management as its lower in calories, so if it’s your own dog this could be worthwhile.


Be careful with treats and adjust how many you give to the dog’s needs. You could try switching to lower calorie treats or using vegetables such as carrots if the dog needs to watch its weight. Homesitters should make sure they ask about feeding treats at the preliminary meeting and make a note of what is allowed.

Common problems

Arthritis and joint problems are common in older dogs, which mean they can be stiff in the morning or after a longer walk. Exercise helps but little and often is best, rather than one long walk. 20 to 30 minute walks, twice a day are ideal for dogs in their later years.

A dogs hearing may not be as good as it was, so before letting them off the lead make sure they can hear you calling them back. If they is any doubt about a dogs hearing its best to err on the side of caution and leave the dog on the lead.

Female dogs often suffer from a leaky bladder in later life. Check their bedding regularly to ensure they are not lying on damp cushions or blankets. Also don’t scold an older dog for wetting themselves, remember they can’t help it.

Do not disturb

The old saying ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ is particularly true when it comes to older dogs. They can sleep quite a lot more and go into a deeper sleep. Being deliberately woken up can cause confusion and lead a dog to snap. Calling them can be better than nudging them, if you need to wake them up.


Most dogs love to be brushed and it’s great for their coat, as it stimulates oil production. It’s also the ideal time to spot growths that may need to be checked out by a vet. With an older dog just be a bit more aware they may have sensitive areas and adjust your brushing technique.

And Finally

If you are at all worried when looking after an older dog, such as the dog not eating, drinking more than usual, not wanting to go out for a walk or getting extremely tired when they do, looking disorientated or panting a lot, or you spot an unusual lump, then its always best to get them checked out by a vet.

Remember at Homesitters we are always available 24/7 whilst you are on assignment, so if you are unsure about anything please do give us a call.


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