Just be always there for your elderly furry friends


Read on to find some useful and effective tips that’ll make geriatric age for your pet more comfortable.

Dr N Krishnaveni (left) & Dr N Srikumar (Right)

Geriatric age sets in around seven or eight years of age and continues throughout the remainder of your dog’s life. These are the golden years when your pets need special attention and assistance. This is the time, where, like puppyhood, we must have ultimate patience and sensitivity.

Make some changes

  • Your elderly dog may require more physical help doing simple things like getting up from the bed, climbing stairs, getting into the car, or navigating slippery surfaces. Help them.
  • Your dog will need more quiet time with you to enjoy simple things – sitting in the yard, sitting at your feet while you’re watching TV, or going for a slow casual stroll.
  • Visit the veterinarian two times a year for their annual check-up. Medical issues that can develop into large problems can be caught early and treated, cured or managed, more comfortably. Blood tests should be done more frequently; it’ll help detect medical problems at an early stage.

Avoid these things

  • An older dog will not have a high degree of tolerance for younger, more active dogs. If there are other dogs in the house, make sure your ageing dog gets enough rest away from them. Be certain that younger dogs are not stealing the older dog’s space, toys, time with you, or peaceful time alone.
  • Your older dog may not have a high degree of tolerance for noise. Avoid loud music or car noises.
  • Babies, toddlers and children under ten years of age can be stressful for an older dog. Be certain to give your older dogs a reprieve from children by putting them in their ‘special place’ when the children are more active.

Mental needs

  • Using obedience training at this stage of life keeps your dog’s mind clear and alert. Small training sessions will keep them happy and mentally alert. It’ll also help your dog feel that he is still precious and valuable to you. This is critical in keeping their spirits up and preventing them from becoming depressed.

Physical needs

  • A geriatric dog’s physical needs are much lower than younger dogs.
  • Mild swimming in calm water is a good exercise for an older dog. This also helps to tone muscles and is very relaxing at the same time.
  • Keep a close eye on your dog’s potentially changing health. From stiff joints or limping, to appetite and water consumption variation, keep an eye on these changes. These small changes signify internal ageing that needs attention.
  • Make their bedding softer for greater comfort.
  • Older dogs feel cold much faster than younger dogs. Make sure they are warm and cosy during winters, cover them with the blanket/sheet when they sleep, make them wear a coat or a jacket.
  • When practicing obedience replace the ‘sit’ command with ‘stand’ which will put less stress on their hip joints.

Social needs

  • Social time is incredibly important in keeping an older dog from slipping into depression.
  • Geriatric dogs often do not like to be alone. Your presence makes them feel secure. Some dogs begin to feel frightened or extremely lonely when you leave them as they age. If you need to leave them, put a quiet TV programme or tune the radio to a pleasant station.
  • There are plug-in devices with calming hormonal aromatherapy scents that can ease your dog’s stress of being alone. The scent relaxes the dog by calming their senses.
  • A stuffed toy for your dog to hold, carry, and sleep with may be soothing for them as well. Having something to cuddle may help them feel more secure while you are gone. Something with your scent on it, like an old dress, may also add comfort in your absence.

Rest needs

  • Old dogs need more rest than young dogs. Make provisions for their much needed rest and adapt yourself to this change by being aware that it is normal.

Special needs

  • Some older dogs lose their hearing as they age. If you have trained your dog using hand signals as well as verbal signals, it will be particularly helpful. Use your dog’s ability to see a ‘silent’ hand signal, so that he can understand you even if he can’t hear you properly. If your dog’s vision has become impaired, approach him gently by talking softly and announcing your approach. Be gentle so that your dog won’t flinch or be frightened.
  • If your dog’s hearing is impaired, tap on the floor with your foot as you approach him. The vibration from the floor will give him an alert that will reduce any chance of starling them.
  • Give your dog a gentle body massage on a daily basis to pamper him and soothe his muscles.
  • If your dog begins to dismiss commands, don’t assume he is just being difficult. If your dog appears to be losing memory, your best tool is patience.

Geriatric house soiling

  • Geriatric dogs can have incontinence problems at times. You may need to get them out more often for ‘potty breaks’ and forgive the occasional accident in the house. They are as upset about these accidents as you are, so be patient with them.
  • You can use ‘doggie diapers’ as well for incontinent senior dogs. You must remember to keep your dog’s skin dry and free from irritation if they are wearing a diaper. Remove the diaper when you are home and allow their skin to breathe.

Keep your dog mentally aware and physically comfortable. Be aware of your dog’s changing needs. Spend more time with them, take lots of pictures, and just be there for them!

(Dr N Krishnaveni and Dr N Srikumar run Star Pet Hospital, a multispecialty hospital, at Mylapore in Chennai).