Parenting a Senior Pet

Parenting a senior pet is a special time… Whether you have recently adopted a senior or have had the privilege of raising them since they were young, seeing your loyal companion live out their final years can be incredibly rewarding.

As pets get older, just like humans, grey hairs start to show, activity slows, eyesight and hearing fade and movement stiffens. Whilst we would love to prevent these things from happening, it’s all part of life. Some pets live years beyond their estimated breed age range and with adequate nutrition, hygiene measures and modern veterinary care, this is becoming more common.

As a pet owner, it is important to understand some of the measures that may need to be taken as your pet gets older to keep them safe and healthy. If you’re concerned that your pet is showing signs of any of the following, we highly recommend seeking veterinary attention for further advice.



Senior pets can suffer from dementia, similar to Alzheimers in humans, which causes problems with their memory. Common signs of dementia include:

  • Confusion, anxiety or disorientation
  • Loss of toilet training
  • Change in sleeping pattern
  • Change in ‘themselves’
  • Memory loss e.g. stop responding to commands or following normal routine
  • Change in activity levels
  • Changes to noise levels e.g. more vocal than usual, howling, barking or meowing, often for no clear reason and usually at night
  • Change in appetite

Your vet may prescribe medication as well as brain function-supporting supplements for their food or a special diet.


As pets age they can become incontinent due to a weakening of the muscles that hold urine in the bladder. There are also many diseases that can cause a pet to create more urine than normal (polyuria) and several of these have higher occurrence in older pets.

When no specific cause can be identified, medication may be prescribed by your vet that increase the tone of the muscles that hold urine in the bladder.


Arthritis is a common condition amongst senior pets. Although age is a high-risk factor, other contributors can include obesity, genetics or injuries/trauma. Common signs of arthritis include:

  • Limping
  • Reduced mobility
  • Abnormal posture
  • Reduced activity
  • Abnormal grooming
  • Changes in temperament
  • Muscle atrophy


Lumps and bumps

Lumps found on our pets can range from warts, benign tumours, abscesses to malignant or cancerous tumours. Although less than half the lumps seen and tested by vets aren’t serious, any lump that is seen to have fast growth, redness, swelling, pus, an opening or to be painful should be given medical attention.

Without testing the lump (fine needle aspirate, biopsy, or surgical removal) a diagnosis on whether it is serious cannot always be determined.


When your old pet coughs or gags, it is natural to dismiss the matter if it is a singular occurrence. Unless your pet has already been diagnosed with a condition that causes coughing, regular coughing heard from your pet should not be taken lightly as it can relate to heart and lung diseases and therefore veterinary attention is advised.

Bad breath

Build-up of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth causes bad breath and can eventually lead to periodontal disease and tooth decay. Dental disease is seen regularly in older pets and is not only very painful but can cause irreversible damage to the mouth. In other cases, the bad smell may be something more sinister and should always be examined and monitored by a vet.


Similar to hearing loss in older people, degenerative changes to the nerves found inside animals’ ears can occur over time. The changes will likely be gradual, with symptoms creeping up slowly, and you may not notice until virtually all your pets’ hearing is gone. Adding hand signals to any verbal cues can help with maintaining some manners if the hearing ability decreases.



Slight or complete vision loss in our pets’ overtime can occur for many reasons. Unlike humans, animals do not rely on vision as their most important sense and can adapt very well to living a life without sight. Their noses and ears allow them to adjust quite well to changes in their eyesight and therefore can still a long and very fulling life (just don’t move the furniture around).

As we continue to understand the challenges faced by ageing pets, more and more preventative measures are becoming widely available to help provide our faithful friends relief and comfort.

To discuss any concerns as well as tailored preventative health and wellbeing support available, we recommended booking an online appointment to speak with a Your PetPA veterinarian or nurse via our website or App.


Grooming your pet

Grooming your pet at home can be something that is enjoyable for both you and your fur baby, especially if you start from a young age allowing them the time to become familiar with the process and sensations!


Bathing and brushing

Bathing is an important aspect of pet care as it not only helps to remove unpleasant odours, excess hair and dirt, but also maintain healthy skin and coat. It can be performed on an as needs basis, however, avoid bathing more frequently than every 2 weeks as excessive bathing can remove important natural oils within the coat.

Types of shampoo and conditioner

Always choose a natural, hypoallergenic pet-approved product. Human shampoos are not acceptable as animals have more sensitive skin and different skin pH than us.

Common shampoo types:

  • General-purpose
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Medicated
  • Oatmeal
  • Flea

If your pet has a skin condition, always ask your veterinarian about the most suitable product.

Tools you will need

  • Bathtub, laundry sink, or large bucket
  • Pet-approved shampoo and conditioner
  • Towel
  • Water source e.g. hose or another bucket of warm water
  • Waterproof brush
  • Treats

How to bathe your pet

Always start bathing your pet from a young age and use treats to help make the experience a positive one. Walking your pet or giving them a play beforehand will help reduce excess energy for bath time!


  • Fill the bath with warm water
  • Gently wet the dog’s coat
  • Gently lather in the shampoo
  • Rinse
  • Apply conditioner
  • Rinse again


  • Allow your pet to shake off any excess water (most dogs will instinctively do this anyway!)
  • Use a large absorbent towel to pat dry your pet
  • Where a pet cannot comfortably air-dry, using a hairdryer is an option - always have it on a low setting and use it at least 30 cm away from their coat

Brushing your pet

Brushing your pet on a regular basis, between baths, will help keep your pet’s coat healthy and prevent matting. Guidelines as to frequency are as follows:

Coat Type Brushing Frequency
Smooth, short-coats every 3 weeks
Short, dense coats every 1-2 weeks
Long- or double-coats weekly
Puppies weekly


Trimming hair

Depending on the breed of your faithful friend, seeing a professional groomer may or may not be on your care list! Some of these pets also require regular hair trims between professional grooming sessions to help maintain hygiene and prevent irritation.

Areas commonly affected:

  • Eyes
  • Anus
  • Chin
  • Toes
  • Other areas that mat


  • Only attempt this at home if your pet is calm
  • Never use pointy scissors, only blunt or round-ended
  • Use food treats to help associate trimming with positive rewards

Shop at Your PetPA Online Store for all your grooming needs. Thriving Pets+ members receive 10% discount on all purchases.

~ Dr Clementine Barton


Preventative care for your pets

Preventative health care is just as important for our fur babies as it is for us humans… It is far easier to prevent illness than to treat it. Not only does
preventing illness afford your loving pet a longer and happier life, but it also saves on significant medical bills down the track.

pet_preventative_care_checklistPreventative Care Checklist for Cats and Dogs

Here at Your PetPA, we don’t just leave you as pet parents with this checklist in the hope of avoiding medical crises in future… We offer Pet Wellness Plans to ensure that vaccines, flea and tick medication and worming preventatives are not forgotten, as well as tangible support for affordable preventative health care assessment and services.

~ Dr Clementine Barton