How to care for your senior dog

Last edited: .
Reviewed by our experts. More info
Sarah Pollard, Cindy Feng

You and your senior pup carry a lifetime of memories — sharing a unique and unbreakable bond. As you move into this next chapter, it’s all about addressing their changing needs. 

This means plenty of quiet cuddles, easy strolls, and real food to help your golden oldie thrive. We've gathered our best expert tips on caring for an older dog — with a handy cheat sheet for you to download.

Get the senior care cheat sheet

What to expect with an ageing dog 

Most dogs start their senior years at the age of approximately 7. There are obvious signs of ageing like white fur or a silver snoot, as well as subtle changes in behaviour, brain function, and sensory abilities. 

You may notice your senior dog: 

  • Stumbles or bumps into furniture, or startles when you approach — these are signs of sight loss. Don't rearrange furniture on a regular basis, and quietly announce yourself when nearby. 

  • Is less responsive to sounds, including commands — this is a sign of hearing loss. Use hand signals and other visual cues to communicate. 

  • Has less of an appetite, which could be the result of reduced taste or smell senses. Opt for appetising real food meals, and try heating it up to release some of the aromas.  

If you notice any sensory changes in your dog, speak to your vet to rule out underlying issues. 

Staying up-to-date with health checks

Take your senior for wellness checks every 6 months, on top of monthly preventative measures for fleas, ticks, and worms. 

Your vet can advise on whether your dog needs vaccinations or blood tests. They can also screen for health problems like heart murmurs and vision issues. 

Making your senior dog comfortable at home 

Take steps to create a comfortable, dog-friendly home — but try not to overhaul your home’s layout completely. This could be confusing for your dog, especially if they’re vision impaired. 

Some senior-friendly adjustments include: 

  • Avoiding clutter and obstacles to prevent tripping hazards 

  • Ensuring there’s enough lighting if they need to get up at night 

  • Getting an orthopaedic dog bed for joint support and pain relief 

If your dog has limited mobility, supervise them when using stairs — or block off access with pet gates. Other great options are non-slip grips for stairs, and non-slip mats, rugs, or runners. Some parents choose to reduce slippage with boots for their dog. 

Portable pet steps or ramps can also help your dog get up on the couch, bed, or car. Some dogs can be wary of these due to old habits, so be patient — never force your pup to use them. 

Get our cheat sheet for creating a senior-friendly home 

Mental and emotional wellbeing for senior dogs 

Your dog might not have that rough and tumble puppy love any more, but they’ve still got plenty of love to give! Attention and cuddles go a long way — especially when you provide them with regular cognitive enrichment. 

Keep their brain fighting fit 

Mental stimulation is crucial for brain health — even more so in a dog’s senior years. Spending time together and watching the world go by is good for their cognitive wellbeing, as is: 

  • Encouraging them to interact with other dogs — but bear in mind they might have limited patience for overly playful puppies 

  • Including them in household activities and outings 

  • Playing with them — whether that’s modifying their favourite games, or carrying around a favourite toy 

  • Introducing training or food puzzles 

  • Doing scent activities or taking them on a sniffari 

Sniffari definition

Watch for any signs of stress or cognitive challenges and dysfunction, and raise with your vet immediately.  

Managing anxiety triggers 

Anxiety can have several causes in senior dogs — these factors are not always within your control. Your golden oldie might be feeling anxious because of: 

  • Natural ageing, which sometimes comes with increased anxiety 

  • Pain or discomfort — speak to your vet if this is the case 

  • Reduction in their sensory abilities or cognitive function 

  • Changes in surroundings, separation anxiety, or the loss of important people 

There are, however, ways to reduce triggers in your senior dog’s immediate environment — like minimising guests and large gatherings. If you have children or puppies, encourage gentle handling and respect for their slower pace. 

Keep their routine as consistent as possible, allowing time for extra toilet breaks if your dog has a history of incontinence. Never punish or shame them if they have an accident — seniors have less control over the muscles that control urination. 

Keeping your senior in tip-top physical shape 

Adjusting your walks 

While they might move a little slower, your dog still needs exercise to stay mobile and mentally stimulated. 

Make the most of your walks together by: 

  • Shortening the length of walks, with plenty of rest stops 

  • Paying attention to their pace and respiratory rate 

  • Slowing down or stop if they’re showing signs of tiredness or pain (like stiffness or refusing to walk) 

  • Opting for locations that are familiar and close to home 

  • Avoiding extreme temperatures — taking routes with plenty of shade on hot days and bringing a jumper for them in cold weather 

  • Teaching them hand signals to improve recall if their eyesight isn’t what it used to be 

Speak to your dog’s vet or physiotherapist if they suffer from arthritis, as they can recommend suitable exercise alternatives like swimming which put less strain on the joints. You could even treat them to acupuncture or hydrotherapy: both can be a relaxing and fun day out for dogs.  

Managing weight 

Dogs typically put on weight and lose muscle mass with age. Obesity comes with a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, skin issues, and cancer: as well as putting more strain on their joints.  

Changes in weight could be a sign of underlying health conditions, which your vet can help you screen for. 

Read Lyka's weight guide

Dental health for senior dogs 

Dental disease is the most common health issue for dogs over 3 — but it’s never too late to make a change. Daily brushing is the best way to reduce your dog’s need for dental procedures: as dogs get older, general anaesthetic becomes less of an option. 

Our guide to brushing your dog’s teeth has more information on how to maintain your dog’s dental health. 

If your dog shows aggression or has had dental interventions in the past, seek the support of a veterinarian. They can help identify any causes of pain, desensitising them through rewards and gradual exposure.

Grooming your senior dog 

Grooming has practical benefits, but it’s also a great bonding experience for you and your senior dog. Look out for lumps or skin issues, and don’t forget to clean their ears. Since your dog will likely be less active, they may require more nail trimming — which can also help to minimise slippage on tiled or wooden floors. 

If at-home grooming isn’t possible for you, consider taking them to a veterinary clinic rather than a groomer. Grooming salons can have too much activity for some senior dogs, leading to stress. 

Nourishing a senior dog 

Keep them hydrated

Senior dogs are more prone to dehydration, so lots of access to fresh drinking water is essential. You can encourage them to drink water by: 

  • Elevating their water bowl so it’s easy to reach 

  • Replacing metal bowls, which can startle older dogs 

  • Giving them water with a pipette or oral syringe 

  • Adding some dog-friendly bone broth, whose scent and flavour may entice them to drink 

Adjust their feeding routine 

You may notice that your senior is not as enthusiastic about their food as they once were. Their stomachs may be a bit more sensitive and easily filled. 

Rather than forcing them to eat, try feeding more frequent meals throughout the day. 

Don't leave Lyka out for over 20 min

Make their food more enticing 

Older dogs can become fussier, as their food preferences can change. Whilst their desire for food may have lessened, a dog’s sense of smell usually remains intact — our aromatic Fish Bowl is one solution to this, and is packed with omega-3s and 6s to support healthy skin, coat, and joints. 

We recommend putting their food in an elevated bowl or flat plate, so they don’t have to bend over to eat.

Gizzie testimonial

The role of preventative nutrition for senior dogs

Preventative nutrition goes beyond adding years to your dog’s life — it’s about adding life to their years, improving health span over life span. 

Just ask Lyka’s CEO and Founder, who saw the preventative benefits of real food in her own dog — sending her on a mission to seek better health outcomes for dogs across Australia:

"It's worth investing in preventative lifestyle choices, with nutrition being a key one. It makes me so happy seeing Lyka go for sprints in the park or “flirting” when she comes across a dog she likes! I never would have expected her to have so much energy at this age!”

— Anna Podolsky, Lyka CEO and Founder

Read Lyka's nutrition guide for seniors

Lyka: helping seniors keep their independence (and that sparkle in their eye) 

Did you know, senior dogs don’t need a senior-specific diet? All Lyka meals are formulated by board-certified veterinary nutritionists — to go above and beyond nutritional standards. 

Lyka meals have a low omega 6:3 ratio, helping to reduce chronic inflammation and with it, the risk of diseases like cancer and arthritis. You can choose from 6 different proteins based on your dog’s needs and taste preferences — with key ingredients including fish oil, safflower oil and hemp seeds. Our Joint Supplement amplifies the benefits of these meals, with active ingredients to support healthier connective tissue and joints, and improved mobility.

Jeffrey testimonial

By feeding your dog a diet packed with quality protein, fruits, vegetables, and superfoods, you can make a difference to their health — which doesn’t have to decline. Real food, made with fresh Aussie produce, can provide targeted benefits for your pup’s individual needs. 

This article was reviewed by Lyka's veterinary and nutrition experts

Need a sniff of approval?

Join the pack today with 30% off your first order.

Try out 6 different proteins before committing to a flexible meal plan that meets your dog’s taste preferences and needs.

Get started
A picture our range of Lyka meals

Related articles