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  • Writer's pictureMary Puppins

10 Top Tips For Caring For Your Older Small Dog

Updated: Feb 22

Chihuahua older small dog living healthy long life

Tips to help your older small dog enjoy a healthy long life

If you have an older small dog, you might wonder how to best care for them in their golden years.

Older dogs have different needs than younger ones, requiring special attention to ensure a healthy long life.

In this blog article, we'll share 10 suggestions for caring for your older small dog: vet check-ups, diet, exercise, living spaces, grooming, cognitive health, hydration, joint health, dental care and emotional well-being.


"As dogs get older their dietary requirements can change. In old age, dogs tend to be less active and have lower energy needs, which can potentially lead to weight gain. Excess weight and obesity can lead to heart disease and can also contribute to problems with joints, such as arthritis." - Guide Dogs


Following these tips can help your older small dog enjoy their senior years.

1. Regular Vet Check-ups For Your Older Small Dog

One of the most important things you can do for your older small dog is to take them to the vet regularly.

Older dogs are at risk of developing health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer and more.

By taking your older small dog to the vet at least once a year, you can catch any potential problems early and get them the needed treatment.

Your vet can also advise you on the best preventive care for your older small dog, such as vaccinations, parasite control, supplements and more.

2. Balanced Diet For Your Older Small Dog

Another key factor in caring for your older small dog is to provide them with a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs.

Older dogs tend to have lower metabolism and less energy than younger ones so that they may need fewer calories and less fat in their diet.

However, they still need high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support their immune system, muscle mass and organ function.

Think about supplementing your elderly little dog's food with things like probiotics for digestive health, omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health and hair.

Always consult your vet before changing your older small dog's diet or adding any supplements.

3. Tailored Exercise For Your Older Small Dog

Exercise is essential for keeping your older small dog fit and healthy.

However, as your older small dog ages, they may not be able to handle the same level or intensity of exercise as they used to.

You may need to adjust their exercise routine according to their physical condition and limitations.

For example, you may need to reduce the duration or frequency of their walks or switch from running to walking or swimming.

Additionally, they may need to avoid activities that strain their joints, such as stair climbing and leaping.

The key is to balance keeping your older small dog active and avoiding overexertion or injury.

4. Comfortable Living Spaces For Your Older Small Dog

As your older small dog ages, they may become more sensitive to temperature changes, noise levels and other environmental factors.

You can make their living spaces more comfortable by providing a warm, cosy bed that supports their joints and spine, a quiet place where they can rest without being disturbed by loud noises or other pets or people, and easy access to food, water and litter boxes.

Consider adding ramps or stairs to help your older small dog reach higher places, such as sofas or beds.

5. Mindful Grooming For Your Older Small Dog

Grooming is not only a way to keep your older small dog clean and neat but also a way to monitor their health and well-being.

By regularly grooming your older small dog, you can look for any signs of skin problems, infections, parasites, lumps or bumps that may indicate a health issue.

You can also massage their muscles and joints to improve blood circulation and reduce stiffness or pain.

When grooming your older small dog, be gentle and use products suitable for their skin and coat type.

You may also want to trim their nails more often to prevent them from growing too long or curling into their pads.

6. Monitor Cognitive Health For A Healthy Long Life

Cognitive health is another aspect of caring for your older small dog that you should pay attention to.

Older dogs can experience cognitive decline as they age, affecting their memory, learning ability, attention span and behaviour.

Some signs of cognitive decline in older dogs include confusion, disorientation, anxiety, restlessness, aggression, changes in sleep schedule/ loss of interest in activities or people.

If you notice these signs in your older small dog, consult your vet for diagnosis and treatment options.

You can also help your older small dog maintain cognitive health by providing mental stimulation through games, puzzles, toys and social interaction.

7. Maintain Hydration For A Healthy Long Life

Hydration is vital for keeping your older small dog healthy and happy.

Older dogs are more prone to dehydration than younger ones due to reduced kidney function, medication side effects or decreased thirst sensation.

Dehydration may lead to complications such as urinary tract infections, kidney stones or organ failure.

To prevent dehydration in your older small dog, you should always ensure they have access to fresh water and motivate them to drink regularly.

You may also add wet food or broth to their diet to maximise their water intake.

8. Support Joint Health For A Healthy Long Life

Joint health is another essential factor in caring for your older small dog.

Older dogs are likely to suffer from joint problems like arthritis, that can lead to pain, inflammation, stiffness and reduced mobility.

To support your older small dog's joint health, you should provide them with a diet that contains adequate amounts of glucosamine and chondroitin, which are natural substances that help repair and protect the cartilage in the joints.

You can also give them supplements containing these ingredients and anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric or ginger.

Additionally, you should avoid activities that put too much pressure on their joints, such as jumping or climbing stairs, and opt for low-impact exercises such as walking or swimming.

9. Dental Care For A Healthy Long Life

Another crucial aspect of taking care of your elderly tiny dog is dental maintenance.

Dental issues like plaque, tartar, gingivitis, and periodontal disease, which can lead to foul breath, tooth loss, discomfort, and infection, are more common in older dogs.

Dental issues might also impact the general health of your elderly small dog since oral germs can enter the circulation and harm the kidneys, liver, or heart.

Brush your older small dog's teeth once a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste made for dogs to avoid dental issues.

Additionally, you may provide them with toys or dental chews that will aid in keeping their teeth and gums clean.

Taking your older small dog to the vet for regular dental check-ups and professional cleaning would be best.

10. Emotional Well-being For A Healthy Long Life

Last, caring for your older small dog's emotional well-being would be best.

Older dogs can experience emotional changes as they age, such as depression, anxiety, loneliness or boredom.

These changes can affect their life quality and happiness.

To help your older small dog cope with these changes, give them plenty of love, attention and affection.

Keep them engaged and entertained with games, toys and social interaction.

You should also be mindful of any changes in their behaviour or mood and consult your vet if you have any concerns.

These ten tips can help your older small dog live a healthy, long life full of joy and comfort.

Remember that your older small dog is still your loyal companion and deserves your respect and care.

Cherish every moment with them and make their senior years the best they can be.


"As with people, dogs slow down with age. They may want to take less exercise and start to put on weight. Some dogs become friendlier, and want to spend more time with their owners while others become grumpier. Some become more anxious because they may not see or hear as well as they used to and are slower at getting away from danger. Changes in personality can also be a sign of pain or illness so, if in doubt, contact your vet." - Blue Cross


Older small dog being cuddled and living a healthy long life

Older Small Dogs: How to Help Them Live a Healthy and Long Life

If you have a small dog, you may wonder how long he will live and how to keep him healthy and happy in his senior years.

In this blog, we will delve into common questions relating to older small dogs and give you some tips on caring for them.

Is ten old for a small dog?

The answer to this question depends on the breed and size of your small older dog.

Small pooches can live up to 16 years or more on average, compared to the typical lifetime of medium or big dogs, which is closer to 10 to 13 years.

Nonetheless, as dogs mature at varying rates, there is no set age at which a dog is considered old.

Research including 5663 dogs found that 13.8% of dogs passed away from old age.

In a different study involving 74,000 dogs, cancer was the main cause of death for older dogs, while endocrine diseases were the main killer, particularly for little dogs.

A rough guide to when dogs are considered senior is as follows:

- Small dogs (under 20 lbs): between 7-10 years old

- Medium dogs (21-50 lbs): from 7 years old

- Large dogs (51-90 lbs): from 6 years old

- Giant dogs (over 90 lbs): from 5 years old

However, these are only averages, and your dog may show signs of ageing earlier or later than these ranges.

Factors affecting your dog's longevity include genetics, nutrition, exercise, health conditions, environment and lifestyle.

Caring for a 15 year old dog

If your dog is 15 years old, he is likely in his late senior stage and may need more attention and care than before.

Here are some things you can do to make him comfortable and happy:

- Keep up with regular veterinary trips.

Your veterinarian may evaluate any health concerns affecting older dogs, such as arthritis, dental problems, kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer or dementia.

Your vet can also advise you on the best diet and supplements for your senior dog and any medications or treatments that can help him manage his symptoms.

- Monitor his weight and appetite.

Older dogs may lose or gain weight due to changes in their metabolism or health conditions.

Ensure your dog is eating enough and not too much and that his food is appropriate for his age and needs.

You may need to switch to older dog foods with more nutrients and less calories protein and fibre.

You may also need to feed him more diminutive and frequent meals to help him digest his food better.

- Provide him with fresh water and easy access to it.

Older dogs may get dehydrated more easily or need help reaching their water bowl.

Ensure he always has clean water and is close to his bed or favourite spot.

You can also add water to his food or give him some low-sodium broth or wet food to increase his fluid intake.

- Keep him warm and cosy.

Older dogs may be impacted by the cold more so than younger dogs and have trouble regulating their body temperature.

Provide him with a soft, warm bed away from drafts and enough padding to support his joints.

You can also use blankets, heating pads or sweaters to keep him warm, especially in winter or when he goes outside.

- Maintain his grooming routine.

Older dogs may have more trouble grooming themselves or develop skin or coat problems due to ageing or health issues.

Brush his coat regularly to remove any mats, dirt or loose hair and to stimulate blood circulation.

Check his ears, eyes, nose and mouth for any signals of infection/ irritation and clean them with a damp cloth/ cotton ball.

Trim his nails as needed to prevent them from growing too long or curling into his paw pads.

- Exercise him moderately but regularly.

Older dogs still need physical activity to keep their muscles strong, their joints flexible, and their mind stimulated.

However, they may not be able to handle the same intensity or duration of exercise as they used to.

Adjust your dog's exercise routine according to his abilities and preferences.

You can take him for short but frequent walks, play gentle games with him indoors or outdoors, or enrol him in a senior dog class or therapy program that offers low-impact exercises such as swimming or massage.

- Stimulate his brain and senses.

Older dogs may experience cognitive decline or sensory loss due to ageing or dementia.

This can affect their memory, learning, attention, perception and behaviour.

To help prevent or slow down these changes, you may give intellectual stimulation and enrichment to your dog.

You can use toys, puzzles, treat dispensers or interactive games to challenge his brain and keep him engaged.

You can also expose him to new sights, sounds, smells and experiences to stimulate his senses and curiosity.

However, be careful not to overwhelm or stress him with too much stimulation or change.

- Show him love and affection.

Older dogs may become more clingy or needy as they age, or they may withdraw and isolate themselves.

Either way, they need your love and attention more than ever.

Spend quality time with your dog daily, petting, talking, cuddling, or just being with him.

Let him know that you appreciate and cherish him and that he is not a burden to you.

Be patient and understanding with any changes in his behaviour or personality, and try to accommodate his needs as much as possible.

Best small dog for older person UK

If you are an older person looking for a small dog to keep you company, many breeds can suit your lifestyle and preferences.

However, before you decide on a breed, you should consider some factors such as:

- Your activity level and energy.

Some small dogs are more active and energetic than others and may need more exercise and stimulation.

If you are not very busy or have limited mobility, choose a more laid-back and calm breed, such as a Bichon Frise, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel or a Shih Tzu.

- Your living space and environment.

Some small dogs are more adaptable and tolerant of different living situations.

If you live in a small apartment or a busy city, choose a quiet, low-shedding breed that is easy to train, such as a Maltese, a Poodle or a Yorkshire Terrier.

- Your budget and time.

Some small dogs are more expensive and high-maintenance than others and may require more grooming, vet care or special diets.

If you have a tight budget or limited time, choose a more affordable and low-maintenance breed, such as a Chihuahua, a Jack Russell Terrier or a Pug.

- Your personality and preferences.

Some small dogs are more friendly and sociable than others and may get along better with other pets or people;

if you are looking for a companion that is loyal, affectionate and eager to please, you may choose a breed known for these traits, such as a Havanese, a Papillon or a Toy Poodle.

Of course, these are only general guidelines, and every dog is an individual with his personality and needs.

The best way to find the right small dog for you is to research, visit different breeders or shelters, meet other dogs and see which one you connect with the most.

What to look out for in older dogs

As your dog ages, he may develop signs or symptoms that indicate he is not feeling well or has a health problem.

Some signs may be subtle or gradual, while others may be sudden or severe.

It is important to be mindful of your dog's health and behaviour regularly and consult your vet if you notice any of the following:

- Changes in appetite or weight.

If your dog eats less or more than usual, loses or gains weight without apparent reason, has difficulty chewing or swallowing, vomits or has diarrhoea frequently, he may have a dental problem, an infection, a digestive disorder, diabetes, kidney disease or cancer.

- Changes in thirst or urination.

If your dog drinks more or less than usual, urinates more or less than expected, has accidents in the house, has blood in his urine, strains to urinate or has difficulty controlling his bladder, he may have diabetes, kidney disease, urinary tract infection, bladder stones or prostate problems.

- Changes in activity or mobility. 

If your dog find it more difficult to move, get up or go for walks more or less than usual, he may have arthritis, hip problems, or diabetes.

We love our furry family members so let's do everything we can to help them live long healthy lives with us.

how to train older dogs?

Training older dogs requires patience, consistency, and understanding of their individual needs and abilities.

Use positive reinforcement techniques and tailor training methods to accommodate any physical limitations or behavioural challenges that may arise with age.

why do older dogs smell?

Older dogs may develop a more pungent odour due to decreased grooming habits, dental issues, skin infections, or underlying health conditions.

Regular grooming, dental care, and veterinary check-ups can help address and prevent unpleasant smells in older dogs.

how long do older dogs sleep?

Generally speaking, older dogs sleep more than younger dogs, sleeping between 12 and 18 hours daily.

However, individual sleep patterns may vary based on health, activity level, and environment.

what to feed older dogs?

Older dogs may benefit from a balanced diet formulated specifically for senior dogs. Seek out high-protein, vitamin- and mineral-rich dog food products.

It would be best if you also thought about speaking with a veterinarian to figure out the optimum diet for your senior dog's health and nutritional requirements.

what is the best pet insurance for older dogs?

When considering pet insurance for older dogs, look for policies that offer comprehensive coverage for common age-related health issues, such as arthritis, dental care, and chronic conditions.

Compare coverage options, deductibles, and premiums from reputable insurance providers to find the best fit for your older dog's needs.

what is the best dog food for older dogs?

Dog food that has been particularly developed to fulfil the nutritional demands of senior dogs is the finest option for them.

Look for senior dog food options that contain quality ingredients, are easy to digest, and support joint health, cognitive function, and overall well-being.

why do older dogs shake?

Older dogs may shake or tremble for various reasons, including pain, anxiety, fear, excitement, or neurological issues.

If your dog is shaking excessively or showing other concerning symptoms, consult with a veterinarian to rule out any health conditions and determine the appropriate course of action.

why is my dog shaking?

Dog shaking can be caused by a range of factors, including cold temperatures, fear, stress, excitement, pain, illness, or neurological disorders.

Observing your dog's behaviour and seeking veterinary attention if shaking is accompanied by other symptoms can help identify the underlying cause and address any health concerns.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for veterinary advice. For specific veterinary dog health advice, contact a veterinary pet healthcare provider.

At Mary Puppins,  we prioritise your cherished pets' well-being, offering a haven of comfort and care during their stay.

Our commitment is to ensure your small breed dogs are treated like family, receiving top-notch attention and care.

BOOK NOW  via our website. We have limited places and get booked up super fast. Give your little dog the five-star VIP holiday they deserve, while you enjoy yours.

Mary Puppins older small dog, healthy long life

Mary Puppins older small dogs living long healthy lives

Mary Puppins dog nanny expert small dog breeds uk

Kate Phillips, Chief Editor

BSc (Hons), MSc

Kate is the UK's very own Mary Puppins, a professional Dog Nanny and expert in small breed dogs. With over 30 years' experience and successfully helping high profile celebrity pet parents raise their furry families, Kate shares her top tips with you. Kate guides readers on small breed dogs, dog health, dog training, dog nutrition, dog food, dog walks, dog accessories, dog enrichment, rescue dogs, dog behaviour, dog grooming and the best products for dog mums and dog dads to create the ultimate luxury lifestyle for their small dogs.



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