12 ways to Support Your Senior DoG


Pug senior dog with white fur around the face being hugged  by his owner.

Are you the parent of a senior dog? Maybe you’ve noticed that chasing squirrels has become more challenging for them. Or perhaps in recent months, they’d rather lay at your feet than jump in your lap. What gives? 

The canine senior years don’t exactly come with a guidebook, but we’re here to tell you that it’s normal to be unsure about the best way to support your senior pooch. Some new behaviors might even be worrisome enough to keep you up at night––so it’s important to know what to expect as your dog transitions from adult to senior citizen. 

When is a dog considered a senior?

At what age is a dog considered a senior? Generally, a dog is considered a senior or has reached the senior dog age range when he or she is between 7 and 12 years old. Giant breed dogs have a shorter life expectancy than smaller breeds and therefore reach their golden years a bit sooner at 5-7 years of age. 

Medium and small-sized dog breeds are considered seniors around 10 plus years of age. Just like with humans, there is no hard line that dictates when dogs ‘officially’ become seniors––but in most dogs, these milestones can mark when their appearance and behaviors may start to evolve and they generally start to slow down.
Boxer senior dog with brown and white fur

What to expect as your senior dog gets older

Not every dog will age in the same way––so some dogs may experience these behaviors and some may not. However, most senior dogs will encounter one or more of the following in their later years: 

Reduced mobility – your once-zoomy dog is now taking his time getting around

Change in appetite – your dog is becoming pickier about what and how much they eat

Weight gain – reduced energy levels mean your pup may be packing on more pounds

Increased allergies – your dog’s reactions to seasonal allergies seem to be more severe

Changes to skin and coat – your dog’s fur is thinning, or their skin is drier than usual

Joint stiffness or pain – running, standing up from lying down, and other physical activities seem to be more painful for your pup

Mental changes – your dog’s mentation, or mental activity, may change as they get older. Some senior dogs experience mental dullness and dementia, which can manifest as increased drowsiness, shaking or trembling, or more time spent sleeping. 

If you’re ever worried about senior dog behavior changes–whether mental or physical–start a discussion with your veterinarian. They can advise you on what to do to support your senior pet at home. They can also determine if a more aggressive or clinical approach is appropriate based on the presenting symptoms in your pet. 

Infographic picture listing the important parts of senior dogs' health

12 ways to support senior dogs

Is your dog approaching–or already deep into–their senior years? It’s normal to worry about what could happen as they age, or wonder if you’re doing enough to keep them happy and comfortable. We all struggle with knowing what to do to support our pet’s best health! To start, we have a few suggestions for how to support your senior dog at home.


Just because your senior dog is slowing down doesn’t mean they should (or want to) stop being active! There are plenty of safe and effective ways to exercise your senior dog that can support circulation, muscle recovery, joint health, heart health, mood, and so much more.


This one might seem obvious, but any veterinarian will tell you that a balanced diet can help your dog live better, longer, and more comfortably. A high-quality dog food is recommended, and you can choose a formula specific for your senior dog. These diets are well-balanced and often contain fatty acids to help with joint health as your pet ages.

Your veterinarian can advise you on which diet is best, but limiting table scraps is a great place to start. Cutting back on ‘people’ food can help your senior dog maintain a healthy weight––which can also help limit excessive strain on aging joints.


Senior dog supplements can provide additional nutritional value to your senior dog’s regular diet. These supplements can help improve joint health, skin health, and cognitive function. Some beneficial ingredients for senior dogs could include:

  • Glucosamine (for senior dogs’ joint and cartilage health)
  • Chondroitin (for senior dogs’ joints and connective tissues)
  • Turmeric (to support a healthy inflammatory response)
  • Omega Fish Oils (to support healthy, strong muscles, joints, and skin)
  • Astaxanthin (an antioxidant that helps maintain essential functions of the brain, eyes, heart, and more)
  • Lutein (for senior dogs’ eye health)
  • Probiotics & Prebiotics (to help maintain healthy GI function and digestive health)
  • Quercetin (to support a normal inflammatory response to seasonal allergies)

Supplements for senior dogs should include a recommended amount to feed your dog based on weight so that you can give them an appropriate amount of beneficial nutrients.


Keeping your senior dog comfortable is one of the best ways to support them as they transition into their golden years. You can soften the blow that joint stiffness, pain, and lower energy levels can have on your pup:

  • If you haven’t already, think about having a few dog beds around the house so that your senior dog can easily rest when they feel tired. This will also help take the pressure off of their joints as they rest.

  • If stairs are becoming a problem for your pup, make sure they have an extra food or water bowl on every floor of your house to reduce their need to traverse stairs. 

  • For senior dogs with advanced hip and joint pain who have no choice but to ascend stairs, consider a dog sling. It can help you carry your dog up and down the stairs when you have no other choice!

  • If your senior dog likes to sleep on a couch or bed, build a ramp or step that can help them reach these higher places. 

Mental stimulation

Your senior dog’s brain health is one of their most valuable assets as they age! Mental alertness, curiosity, and even simple problem-solving (with gadgets like a slow-feeder bowl) are all critical for your senior dog’s health and quality of life. 

Dental care

Your senior dog’s teeth can be easy to forget, but periodontal (gum) disease can actually become a bigger issue once your dog hits their senior years––and can even have a negative effect on their heart health! Practice regular oral hygiene, avoid hard kibble or treats like rawhide, and take your senior dog to the vet for routine dental checkups. 


You may find that your senior dog’s fur appears thinner or more patchy as they grow older and that dry skin is becoming more common. That’s because the collagen bonds that make up a dog’s skin become more lax with age, which can affect the strength of hair follicles and the integrity of the skin’s moisture barrier. Hair loss can also be linked to the effects of seasonal allergies and itching.

So how can you support your senior dog’s skin and coat? Regular brushing can help stimulate circulation at the skin’s surface to support healthy hair growth. Supplements made with biotin and omega fatty acids can also support the skin barrier and fur. If you suspect that seasonal allergies are to blame for patchy fur or bald spots, look into seasonal allergy supplements for dogs or discuss your concerns with your vet.

If your senior dog isn’t itchy but you’re noticing significant amounts of hair loss, hormonal disease could be at fault. Consulting your veterinarian in these situations is key.


Some pet parents skip bath time more often as their dog gets older, thinking, “Baths are too stressful for my senior pet.” Is there some truth to that? Yes and no. 

While you should always try to make bath time as easy as possible for you and your senior pet, the truth is that preventing bacteria and environmental debris from accumulating between baths is ultimately more important. Going too long between baths can make your senior dog more vulnerable to skin infections and irritation, so don’t skimp on shampooing at bath time


The senior years can come with their own unique set of challenges, so giving your dog a few furry buddies to enjoy life with can be a real gift! Whether you prefer weekly visits to the local dog park, pup play dates, or even getting a second pet to keep you and your senior dog company, socialization will remain an important part of your dog’s life well into their senior years. Just make sure they have a place to retreat and recuperate after all the fun!


Do we really need to include this one on the list? Yes! While we know you’re probably not skimping on snuggling with your senior pet, remember that your companionship is the center of your dog’s universe. And while more active pet parents might struggle with slowing down to match the speed of their senior dog, there are still plenty of ways to share the love. 

Veterinary checkups

Keeping an open line of communication with your veterinarian can help you avoid surprises related to your senior dog’s health. They can offer guidance when new, age-related symptoms or behaviors pop up so that you don’t have to rely on Google for answers. They can create a comprehensive health plan for your senior dog, and will often recommend blood work to ensure their internal body systems are functioning properly. Veterinarians are the most qualified resource for your senior dog’s health!


Staying ahead of challenges can help you keep your senior dog healthy and happy for years to come! That might mean supporting hip and joint health in their adult years, maintaining a regular exercise routine, or being proactive about their health with help from your veterinarian. 

No matter what age your dog becomes a senior, many of the struggles can be the same! Your love, support, and patience will be the foundation of your future together––hopefully for many years to come.

Learn more about senior dog health with Dr. Joya Griffin!

Join the Pack!

Sign up for exclusive deals, curated pet tips from veterinarians, and product launches!

Pet Parents are Also Reading... 

Owner giving turmeric hip and joint supplement to dog

March, 2023

Related Articles

Veterinarian Dr. Joya Griffin with a dog patient


Dr. Joya Griffin is an Ohio native and graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has a special interest in fungal and immune-mediated skin diseases as well as feline and equine dermatology. Dr. Joya always strives to care for her patients as if they are her own pets and loves building long-lasting relationships with their pet parents. Dr. Joya also stars in the Nat Geo WILD television series, “Pop Goes the Vet with Dr. Joya,” which highlights the challenging and mysterious cases she encounters in veterinary dermatology.

Follow Vetnique

Follow us on social for pet tips from vets, new product launches, and giveaways! 

Follow Vetnqiue on Facebook
Follow Vetnique on Instagram
Follow Vetnique on TikTok
Follow Vetnique on Pinterest