12 Tips To Caring For Your Senior Dog’s Coat

Your elderly canine friend might be a little grumpy about being brushed as she ages. Here are some tips to keep grooming sessions stress-free while taking a few extra steps to ensure her day-to-day comfort.

Keep Sessions Short

Older dogs may not be able to stand comfortably for more than a few minutes at a time due to arthritis. Lying down might put pressure on hips or spine. Let your dog move around a bit during the grooming session. She might try to leave or start panting because she is stressed or sore, so let her tell you when she’s had enough.

Groom More Often

You don’t want to tug on your dog’s skin while pulling at heavy mats, so brush more often to prevent small problems from developing into big projects.

Use A Nonslip Surface

Let her stand or lie down on a bath mat or rug that gives her some traction while you brush her.

Use Soft Brushes

Elderly dogs have thin skin and may cut or bruise easily. Choose a brush with plastic pins that have knobs on the ends. A slicker brush with metal pins might be too harsh; as you brush, you could nick a wart or fatty lump.

Give Your Dog A Massage

Combine your grooming session with a comforting massage. Take frequent breaks from brushing and just stroke or pet her. You’ll both enjoy spending this quality time together.

Reinforce Good Behavior

Reinforce your dog with pea-sized food treats periodically throughout the grooming process. Letting her know she is doing an excellent job will make the experience even more enjoyable.

Check The Body For Health Problems

Look for mats, lumps, foxtails, and hot spots as you groom. Don’t forget to check between the toes, in the mouth, under the tail, and behind the ears. You might find pressure sores on her hips or elbows where she has been lying on hard surfaces. Maggots can lay eggs on open sores, so get immediate veterinary attention.

Trim Long Hair On Feet

If your senior has hair growing on the bottom of her feet between the pads, she might slip on hard floors. Using blunt-tipped scissors, trim the sides and bottoms of her paws so she’ll get better traction when she walks.

Trim The Face

Longhaired breeds such as Lhasa Apsos and Yorkies often have trouble seeing through their facial hair. An older dog might have cataracts or other vision problems, so be sure to trim bangs and the muzzle in front of her eyes so she has an unobstructed view of the world.

Trim Excess Body Hair

If you don’t already keep your dog in a short hairdo, you might want to do a sanitary cut around her rear end and tummy. Old dogs aren’t as flexible, and it’s hard for them to bend around and clean themselves as well as they used to.

Remove Mats

Moisten a mat with vegetable oil, mayonnaise, or hair conditioner and pull it apart with your fingers. Try to avoid pulling on your dog’s skin as much as possible.  If you have to cut it, use blunt-tipped scissors to avoid nicking the skin.

Should You Shave Your Dog?

Breeds such as Collies and Samoyeds are not traditionally clipped short. Their thick undercoats protect them from extreme heat and cold. But if your dog is heavily matted and it is painful for her to endure brushing, it might be kinder to have a groomer body-clip her. Leave a few inches of hair to protect her skin from sunburn. She’ll still need regular brushing to remove undercoat and prevent mats as the coat grows out, which could take six months to a year.

Visit A Groomer with Fear Free Certified Professional Status

Older dogs, especially those with long coats, can benefit from professional grooming, but you might worry about the extra stress it causes. A groomer, who has completed the Fear Free Certified Professional program, will work with you to ensure the experience is the best it can be for your beloved canine buddy.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT