Saturday, November 19, 2011

Grooming Considerations For Older Dogs

by Louis Liem

Dogs are the most adorable companions. They fill a void and provide unconditional love and friendship. They are sweet and cuddly when they are young and just beginning to grow and maintain that demeanor until full growth.

It is important to remember all that when they get older and require special attention and care.

When it comes to grooming your older dog, certain considerations need to be taken. 

When they're young, you don't have to worry too much how you groom your pet. An older dog, however, needs more careful and definitive treatment because of the older dog’s special needs.

When your dog gets older, certain changes occur. 

Foremost among the many changes is how the skin has developed.

Older dogs tend to have thinner, more delicate skin. 

Because of this, you cannot just use any brush or comb to groom them. Their skin is susceptible to breaking and chipping. Not to mention, flaking and getting dry. Hence, being careful is crucial.

When grooming your older dog you may also notice lumps or bumps. 

The first thing to do when you do find a bump or a lump on your dog, have it checked by your veterinarian. Even if they are harmless, though, be careful so you don't nick them when grooming.

Elbow callus. Photo Natra-Pet
Another growth in the skin that may appear are pressure sores (calluses or hygromas). These growths occur as a response to pressure in certain areas, especially the elbows.

That is why sometimes you see older dogs that possess something resembling tennis balls on their elbows. The best prevention is to provide your dog with a comfortable bedding.

When trimming their fur, allow some fur to cover the joints. This will, at the same time, act as natural protection.

When you are shampooing them, lather them up very slowly and carefully so that no tearing or pulling will happen. Remember that an old dog’s skin is more sensitive so you have to avoid deep massaging. If your dog has an aversion to water, there are several waterless shampoos for dogs in the market that can be your workaround.

Elbow hygroma. Photo Dog Leggs
Papilloma. Photo Organic Pet Digest
The next thing requiring special consideration when grooming older dogs are their nails. 

Trimming the nails of older dogs is a pain in the back. Some dogs even resent the idea the moment you handle their paws. To complicate things further, the nails that grow are thicker and more brittle.

You might also need to trim the nails more often. Older dogs walk differently and their nails don't wear down as easily as they used to.

Trouble will arise if you do not trim your pet’s nails because it will be harder for them to walk around. 

Talk to your dog and give them a belly rub if you have to so that they will stay calm and comfortable. It will make the chore easier and faster to do. Place them in a soft padded surface as you trim their nails, this will allow your senior dog to relax and lay as you trim its nails. Older dogs have a harder time to stand for long periods, so why not give them a break and at the same time provide them with grooming that is perfect for them.


  1. Also remember that your older dog's grumpiness about trimming his nails might be a sign of arthritis in the feet and legs. Buddy was reluctant to let us dremel his front paws as he got older--and we later found out that his front paws were arthritic. Eventually, as he got sicker and less able to tolerate "messing," we had to let his nails get longer than I care to admit.

    Buddy's skin also got pretty sensitive. He used to love the scratchiest brushes we could find, but no more. What I found to be REALLY great for him was a set of my old horse brushes. I massaged lightly with a rubber curry comb, then brushed slowly with a "hard" bristle brush for a good long while, and finished with the "soft" bristle brush. If your dog ever has problems with normal dog brushes, I HIGHLY suggest getting a set of horse brushes. He wanted me to sit down twice a day to brush him with these. For reference, he was a Golden Retriever.

  2. Hi Serissime,

    yes, good point, there is usually a reason behind a dog being grumpy, and it is usually pain.

    Great job on understanding your dog's needs :-)

  3. On another note, do you have any ideas to help elbow calluses to go away? Coco already had them at age 4 when we got her. She probably lived outside a lot before we had her, but Buddy had them most of his life too. There are plenty of padded dog surfaces in our house, but about half the time cold tile gets used instead. I have tried moisturizing the calluses, but it seemed to inflame them more than soften them.

  4. Well, the calluses don't really hurt anything unless they crack or get infected ... very much like calluses in humans it's a hardened protective surface that develops.

    Soft surface certainly helps, our late rescue had huge ones and after living with us they softened and got smaller on their own.

    I have seen elbow protectors, which provide padding regardless what surface your dogs decide to lay on.

    I think the reason they often choose the tile is to cool themselves. So if you got them on the the cooling beds (which are also orthopedic at the same time) they would happily lay on those. I know Jasmine did.

  5. Hi, serissime

    thank you for adding the valuable tips. I used to think that only dog products can be used for dog problems.
    I also glad to know that you found the right tool to treat Buddy.