Your Senior Dog Needs You to Care

Senior dogs need your care, patience and compassion. They are not as quick on their feet and may be suffering from pain and mental decline. Help them to enjoy their golden years.

figure: old dog being dragged on walk - wrong
figure: old dog allowed to sniff on walk - right

Adapt to your senior's slower pace and consider their welfare.

As dogs get older they usually show signs of aging similar to humans, such as hearing loss, bad eyesight, trouble getting up, being disoriented, memory lapses, irritability, change in appetite, different sleeping patterns and so on.

At what age your dog moves into their senior years depends on breed, individual genetics, environmental factors, lifestyle and life-long health care. Large dogs generally age sooner than smaller dogs.

Check out these links to learn more about your dog's age:

A Dog's Age in Human Years , dog age-weight chart by The Senior Dogs Project

Dog years: How do you calculate a dog's true age?, by Ben Carter, BBC news 2013

No, A 'Dog Year' Isn't Equivalent To 7 Human Years", by Jessica Orwig, Business Insider Australia 2014

How Can I Help My Senior Dog?

Always take your dog to the vet if their behaviour changes suddenly (this applies to dogs of any age).
Make sure your dog does not suffer from pain or any treatable condition by having regular health check-ups at the vet.

If your dog's behaviour changes at a mature age, do not simply assign this to age related deterioration. Your dog might have a real illness or injury that could be treated.

figure: senior dog at vet

Vet Check

Health Check every six months and every time your dog's behaviour changes suddenly

Know about prevalent disorders and diseases, so you can recognise them in your dog and get treatment early:

Caring for an Elderly Dog - Age is Often Mistaken as a Symptom of a Treatable Illness, by The Whole Dog Journal

Prevalence and Nature of Inherited Disorders in Breeds of Dogs, The University of Sydney

Control Your Dog's Weight!

Obesity is a major problem for aging dogs. Even a little bit of excess weight can cause them more pain and decrease their quality of life dramatically.

Pet Obesity - Dogs, by the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA)

Dogs are following their owners to obesity says Adelaide vet, by Brett Williamson, ABC News, 2015

It's a dog's life when man's best friend becomes his fattest, by Christopher Degeling, The Conversation, 2013

Just like in humans, dental health is immensely important for dogs. If you have never brushed your dog's teeth, start now!

Dental Care for Cats and Dogs, by the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA)

Dry Dog Food and the Myth of Cleaner Teeth, by Dog Food Advisor

Seven Dental Myths for Pets, by Dr Donna Solomon, Huffington Post 2014

Dental Health, by RSPCA Victoria

Help your dog to enjoy life into old age with management, gentle exercise and enrichment.

Make your home more comfortable for your senior dog. Arrange things so they can't get stuck in places, slip on surfaces or trip on stairs. Don't let other dogs or kids bully or tease your senior dog. Provide them with their own cosy bed where they can retreat to and be safe.

senior dog at the top of stairs looking down
dog in dog bed being sprayed with water gun by laughing kids

Protect your senior dog from stress and danger and make them feel safe and comfortable.

Challenge your dog mentally with training, puzzle toys and visiting new places. Take your dog for walks and allow plenty of time for sniffing. Always proceed at your dog's pace and never rush or force them.

If your dog is less mobile, put them in the car or other safe vehicle and drive them places. Provide gentle physical stimulation such as water therapy and massage.

Help your dog with mental and physical stimulation.

Follow these links to find out how you can help your senior dog:

Teach Senior Dogs New Tricks to Stay Healthy, by The Bark

Caring for an Older Pet FAQs, PDF by AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association)

Behaviour Problems in Older Dogs, by ASPCA

Caring for Your Senior Dog, by Grey Muzzle, an organisation to help homeless senior dogs in the US

Kane the husky benefitting from water therapy

Photo of a man and his senior dog in the water goes viral

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Dogs

Dogs can suffer from an aging condition similar to Alzheimers in humans. Watch out for the signs and get help for your dog to prevent them from suffering.

As with Alzheimers it is best to prevent or at least delay the disease through daily physical and mental exercise.

Typical symptoms of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (also called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction) are getting lost or stuck in places, not recognising familiar people and even watchdog barking at them, house soiling and changed sleep/wake patterns. Talk to your vet if you notice suspicious signs to have your dog correctly diagnosed.

Treatment involves medication, supplements, nutrition, behaviour modification and management.

figure: senior dog stuck in a corner in a room


figure: senior dog pacing at night and barking

Restless at night

figure: senior dog weeing on carpet

House soiling

figure: senior dog not recognizing their human

Not recognising familar people

What happens when your dog gets Alzheimers, 2015 article in the Washington Post

Now Why Did I Come Here? Canine Cognitive Dysfunction by Dr Kirsti Seksel, SBMS (Sydney Animal Behaviour Service), PDF (please ignore the promotion of a particular brand of dog food; for independent information on nutrition go to

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, blog post by Eileen Anderson with pictures and more links

Your senior dog needs your companionship, appropriate exercise and mental stimulation. And they can still benefit from training.


Your dog may sleep more as they age and sometimes not be in the mood to be touched. However, they still appreciate your company. Consider slow massages or any other gentle interaction your dog enjoys. Provide them with their own warm, comfy bed in a corner or other protected place in a family room, so they are not isolated from you but still safe from "through" traffic, noise and children.


Walking and swimming are good exercises for aging dogs. It is very important to control your senior dog's weight. Talk to your vet about pain management and what your dog is capable of. Stimulate your dog's mind with toys made from softer materials, play the games your dog has always loved at a more moderate pace or try something new.

Check out Nina Ottosson's Puzzle Toys, which are very suitable for injured and old dogs:

Nina Ottosson Puzzle Toys for Dogs


Even an old dog can learn new tricks. As long as your dog has fun, you can still teach them things that are within their physical and mental capabilities. It is good for their brain and their general health.

Read more about training in the 'Dog Training' section.