Grooming for Senior Pets

Nov 14, 2019   Tracey Aston   Grooming

As our pets get older, their bodies go through many physiological changes – the texture of their coat can change, they may become arthritic, can develop benign lumps, bumps and skin tags, will start to lose muscle mass, and their skin, like ours when we age, can become thinner.  For the above stated reasons, there are a few considerations that need to be made when grooming a senior pet. 

Senior pets will still require grooming, and depending on coat type, daily brushing.  Many dogs will start to scoff at brushing due to thinning skin, sore muscles or arthritis and pet parents will worry if brushing is causing their pets pain. This issue can mostly be rectified by changing the type of brush or grooming tool. Check all brushes and combs for bent teeth that could cause the hair to snag or scratch the skin. Avoid metal or pin type brushes as they are more apt to scratch and instead replace them with soft bristle brushes. The Zoom Groom by Kong is a rubber grooming tool with soft, bendable rubber teeth that are easier on skin and also provide the added benefit of a light massage. The Zoom Groom is extremely affordable and can be used on wet or dry fur.  If your senior pet is still making a fuss over brushing, attempt shorter intervals and concentrate on the areas that will matt or risk infection, such as around the neck, the ears, back of the legs, sanitary areas and tail.  Brushing your pet will not only make them look and smell better, this is the perfect time to look for new lumps, bumps, skin tags and moles.  While some lumps and bumps are harmless and benign lipomas, also known as fatty tumors, it's important to mention any new changes to your vet. 

If your senior pet is having problems with incontinence, can't squat as well or is simply too stiff to clean themselves, be sure to clean their sanitary areas daily. Unscented baby wipes can do the trick for a quick clean up after an accident or a fall while a pet is trying to relieve themselves.  If a long-haired pet is having problems with getting fecal matter in their fur, a sanitary trim will help keep the area clean and tidy. 

Senior pets will still need their nails trimmed. This is even more important for arthritic pets as long, overgrown nails can affect a pet's stance and gait, exasperating arthritis pain.  Stiffness and soreness may now make this simple task a bit more difficult. Be sure not to squeeze a pet's paw or allow their toe to twist while trimming their nails with nail clippers.  If a pet is fighting tooth and, well, nail, over having their nails trimmed with nail clippers, you can try using a motorized nail trimmer and will file down the nail. The sound of the motor in grinding tools can scare an unfamiliar pet, so be sure to take it slow and get your pet used to using a grinder.  As pets age, they are more prone to arthritis and will slip and slide on smooth surfaces. If you notice your pet is starting to slide more, gently check the paw pads to make sure the hair hasn't grown out over the paw pad. If it has, carefully trim the hair back to be even with the paw pad. Don't dig into the paw pad or remove hair deep between the pads. 

While grooming, check eyes and ears for signs of discharge or odor. Eyes can be gently cleaned with warm water on a piece of gauze or cotton ball if there is discharge or build-up in the corner. Gently wipe away any residue or built up wax in the pets ear with a Kleenex or cotton ball. Never insert a Q-tip into a pet's ears as they can cause permanent damage! If you notice a foul odor, redness or swelling in the pet's ears talk to your veterinarian about possible causes and remedies. 

When bathing your pet at home, the first consideration is where to bathe your pet. Some pet parents will opt to bathe their pets in their home bathtub or shower. Many older pets can no longer step into the bathtub on their own. While this may not be an issue for smaller pets who can be easily lifted, large breed, older dogs will require care and patience to help them into the bathtub. If arthritis is present, the pet may have problems standing on the slick porcelain surface. Anti-Slip Matts or even a bath towel placed in the bottom of the tub can help a pet feel steadier when bathing. If a pet can no longer stand for long periods of time, they may become fearful of a full tub of water. If possible, attach a removable, hand-held shower head to wet and rinse your pet.  Be very aware of water temperature, older pets can become chilled much easier than when they were younger. Always test the water temperature on your wrist first to make sure the water temperature isn't too hot or cold. An arthritic pet with wet paw pads has an even higher fall risk and may become apprehensive if they don't feel steady.  You can help your pet enter and exit the tub with support from you, a harness or sling. Carefully and gently dry your pet, being aware that older pets lay around more frequently and any damp fur can easily become a hotspot. 

It's a common misconception that cats clean themselves and won't need a bath – this is simply not true! Cats will still need to visit a groomer or get a home bath. As most cats don't like water, it's imperative to be as gentle as possible when helping a senior cat into water. Don't squeeze, push, or dunk a senior cat in an attempt to get them into water.  

Senior pets don't want to smell or deal with painful matts or overgrown nails, but as pets age they will require more patience and persistence to help keep them looking and smelling their best. 

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