In honor of Adopt a Senior Pet Month, I wanted to take some time to talk about grooming senior dogs, what type of accommodations I make for them in my salon, and how you can keep your senior feeling their best.
Let’s first ask the question: When is my dog considered a senior?
This is something that none of us like to think about, but it’s a good idea to know how long your dog might be expected to live, and take proper care with each stage of life. Different breeds have different life spans. With a quick internet search, you should be able to get a good idea. Typically, larger breeds will have a shorter life span than smaller breeds. Your dog can be considered a senior in the last 25% of their life. For example, if your dog ‘s average life span is about 10 years, your dog would be considered a senior at about 7 ½ years old.
Now there is also a difference between a senior dog and a geriatric dog. According to petmd.com, while the term “senior” can describe an aging dog, “geriatric” better describes dogs that are older and experiencing more health related issues.
At The Grooming Studio, I have dogs that are in their senior years and some geriatric dogs as well. Some of these dogs are still very healthy and need little to no accommodations during the grooming process. However, with age, the metabolism slows and dogs become less active, which results in weight gain. Couple that with achy and sore joints, you may have a dog that is not able to stand for long periods of time.
When this happens, it is time to come up with a plan with the owner regarding what a grooming session will look like. Many factors are considered.
I’ve come up with a list of some of questions we will ask when accommodations are necessary to help the dog feel more comfortable and provide a positive experience.
How often should my dog be groomed?
In most cases, it is best to have more frequent grooming sessions in shorter intervals. Keeping your dog maintained on a regular grooming schedule will result in shorter sessions that they will need to stand for, and may help will soreness they may feel that day or the next. Your senior dog may need more frequent potty breaks or just may tire quickly. How often between grooming sessions will also depend on your dog’s breed and coat type.
This is also where I would like to point out the importance of keeping your senior’s nails short. When an aging dog is experiencing weakness or soreness in joints, keeping nails short is going to help tremendously while they are walking and getting around. The length of the nails affects posture and balance. I recommend nail trims at least every 4 weeks for most dogs, at any age.
How will the groom be complete?
For larger seniors that are showing signs of arthritis, I will usually make the decision to groom the dog on the floor. The dog feels more stable on the floor as opposed to having to keep their footing and balance on a grooming table.
For any dog that has trouble standing, I will allow them to sit for a majority of the session. In some instances, I have taken the time to train the dog to lay while I am able to brush or shave their underside, which eliminates the need for them to stand at all.
Here are some photos of some of my senior clients. Pictured are some of the accommodations that have helped provide a more comfortable and relaxed grooming experience. Nyla, a Black Lab, and Casey, a Beagle/Golden mix, are both older dogs that are carrying some extra weight and are arthritic.
At The Grooming Studio, dogs are groomed from start to finish, one family at a time. This could be a better environment for your senior dog. Not only is it more quiet than what you might find at a retail location grooming shop, I am able to build a relationship with your dog, and they are able to know that I will take care of them each time. This could make all the difference for a pet that may be loosing hearing or sight in their senior years.
Also, countless times I have been able to point out a growth, sore, or a lump on a client’s dog that they were not aware of. This is nothing to be shamed over. As a groomer, I go over every inch of your dog, and it is very important to me to notify you of any changes I may find.
You may also need to make modifications in the style or clip that your dog may have had in the past. Many owners love longer haircuts on their dogs because of how adorable they look. When maintaining your senior dog’s coat, it may be a better decision to clip your dog’s hair in a way that is most comfortable and a will take the least amount of time to complete. It may be much shorter and not as “cute” as what they may have had in the past.
What can I do at home?
Now that your dog is aging, this may mean a bit more work for you at home. As discussed above, it is best to keep grooming sessions more frequent and in shorter sessions. While when your dog was younger, you may not have needed to do much brushing at home between grooming, it may be necessary in order to keep your senior most comfortable.
You can prebook your grooming appointments to help keep you on a regular schedule. Nail trims can be scheduled same day and, for your convenience, I provide evening hours, as nail trims only take minutes.
I hope some of this information was helpful and I would like to welcome you to contact me with any questions you may have about your senior pet.