The Ultimate Checklist for Adopting an Older Dog

Adopting a senior dog is a fantastic way to give an older dog a second lease on life. While many people are drawn to adorable young puppies, older dogs don’t need to be trained as much and are a great fit for a more sedentary lifestyle as long as you’re prepared to deal with their potential health problems. Here are nine things that you need to do before bringing your older dog home — from healthy dog chews to orthopedic dog beds:

Secure their medication.

Most older dogs have at least some kind of medication they have to take regularly, and often more than one. If they have to take a lot of different pills, you might find a weekly pill box helpful to keep everything on a schedule. Store the medicine in a secure cabinet far out of your dog’s reach. If your dog is very curious and/or adept at opening drawers, you might need to dog-proof your kitchen and bathroom to prevent them from getting into trouble.

Adopting an Older Dog

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Create warm, comfortable beds.

Older dogs tend to run cold, and warmth will also soothe arthritis aches and pains. Unfortunately, they may struggle to climb up on the couch or bed, so it’s a good idea to create snuggle spots just for them directly on the floor. We recommend choosing cushy orthopedic beds that will cushion their joints from the floor. The bigger and heavier your dog is, the thicker the bed will need to be.

Set up elevated food dishes.

Many older dogs who are very tall have trouble bending over to drink and eat from bowls that are directly on the floor. All that leaning over can exacerbate their arthritis and put a lot of stress on their spine, neck, and back. If your dog is pretty tall, then you might want to consider elevated food dishes so they don’t have to lean over as much whenever they need to eat or drink.

Get age-appropriate food and treats.

Speaking of eating, many senior dogs have special dietary needs. Whoever you are adopting the dog from should be able to fill you in on what they can and can’t eat, and you can always consult your vet as well. You should also be careful with what treats you give them since older dogs’ stomachs can be irritated by too much rich food. Instead of puppy chews, choose treats for senior dogs that are specially created with their dietary needs in mind. Older dogs are especially prone to dental issues, so you’ll also want a supply of bully sticks for dogs or other dental treats to keep their teeth healthy.

Adopting an Older Dog

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Put up baby gates.

While most people associate baby gates with rambunctious puppies, many older dogs have mobility issues that can also make it prudent to fence off certain areas of the house. If there are areas where you don’t want your senior dog to go, such as the stairs or the kitchen, use a sturdy baby gate to fence it off. We recommend choosing a large, strong gate that will deter a large senior dog. Flimsy gates that are tall enough to stop a puppy may be no match for a lumbering older dog.

Removing obstacles to walking.

Old dogs are sometimes prone to walking into things, especially if they have impaired eyesight or mobility issues. We recommend doing a “safety audit” of your home and removing or mitigating any possible tripping hazards. For example, you can relocate loose rugs and attach felt bumpers to the sharp corners of coffee tables to protect your dog from them. If there are fragile or sentimental items that you don’t want to be destroyed, we recommend moving these to more secure locations in case your dog bumps into the furniture.

Consider installing pet ramps.

If your older dog struggles on stairs, and you have the budget for it, installing pet ramps in your home can help increase their mobility and reduce the odds of an accident. Full sets of stairs are generally too steep to use a ramp, but you can use ramps for small sets of stairs or for elevated furniture such as couches and beds (assuming you let your dog on the furniture). These ramps come in many different styles, including telescoping ramps, folding plastic stairs, and stairs made of high-density foam. Make sure to choose a strong enough ramp to support your dog. Larger dogs will need sturdier ramps.

Adopting an Older Dog

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Make the floor non-slip.

Slick, hard floors are a hazard for dogs of any age, especially for older dogs with already shaky mobility. If you have a lot of hardwood or tile in your house, consider ways to make the floor less slippery. A lot of people like to use rugs, but they need to be attached to the ground in some way so they can’t get wrinkled and cause someone to trip. You can also get anti-slip strips that attach to the floor with adhesive if you want an alternative solution.

Put out pee pads if necessary.

Some older dogs struggle with incontinence or may have mobility issues that make it difficult to go outside often. If your dog can’t get outside in time, then consider setting up pee pads in different rooms of the house. These disposable, leak-free pads give your dog a place to use the bathroom inside that isn’t your carpet or furniture. It may take some training to get them used to the idea of peeing inside on the pad, but it can be a saving grace for both you and your dog (not to mention your house).

Have you adopted an older dog, or are you thinking about it? Have you already welcomed a senior dog into your home and have more suggestions for adopting them? Let us know in the comments below!
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