Vet Patrick von Heimendahl champions these 6 simple lifestyle changes for older dogs

November 18, 2022

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As our pets get older their needs change. Head Vet Patrick von Heimendahl advises that dog owners will need to adapt their pet’s home environment, lifestyle, and routine to reflect these changes and give their pet the best quality of life in their senior years.

Our veterinary team at Clarendon Street Vets are very used to treating senior pets and are here to help if you have noticed your dog struggling with mobility or parts of their usual routine.

If you have concerns about age-related changes in your dog, Book a senior health check so that our vets can assess your pet and offer you practical advice.

Home & lifestyle changes for senior dogs

Adapting your senior dog’s home environment and routine is important to ensure their comfort and wellbeing. Patrick recommends a few changes to help make life easier …


Simple environment and lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on your senior dog’s comfort levels, as well as their mental health. Exercising regularly can help to keep their joints moving and give their minds regular mental stimulation. However, it’s important the exercise is little and often to avoid over-stressing their joints. High impact exercise such as frisbee and catch should be limited or avoided completely depending on the age and health of your dog. Smaller dogs may struggle with steep stairs and high curbs so bear this mind both at home and whilst out and about.

Traditional exercise can be replaced with other activities (remember, mental exercise is just as important as physical) such as training sessions, accompanying you on errands in the car or visits to friends houses. These all help your dog stay active and interested in the world around them, without putting too much pressure on muscles and joints.

Swimming can be a great exercise for senior dogs as the warm water supports their joints and helps to strengthen muscles, whilst having a positive impact on their overall wellbeing. Talk to one of our experienced vets or nurses at Clarendon Street Vets about how to get a vet referral for canine hydrotherapy.


Modern day houses often have laminate and tiled flooring which can be a slip hazard to many dogs. Slips can cause injuries, such as sprains to muscles and ligaments, and some pets can develop anxiety about walking across hardflooring. Using non-slip rugs and runners across larger areas of hard flooring is a great way of helping to give your dog grip and stability so that incidents can be avoided. Anti slip tape to go under rugs is also available.

Food & water bowls

Many dogs eat and drink from a bowl off the floor. This can put a lot of pressure on their front legs. Raising the bowls up helps to relieve the pressure and makes eating and drinking more comfortable. This is very important in older dogs as they will often have higher hydration needs so anything that encourages them to drink more is beneficial.

Impactful activities

As well as impactful exercises, Patrick advises that it’s also important to consider other day-to-day activities that may be a concern. Activities such as going up and down stairs, jumping on and off the bed or settee, and in and out of the car, all put pressure on a dog’s joints. Using ramps is a great way of enabling your pet to do these activities but without the stress on their joints that can cause discomfort. You could also reduce access to stairs using stair-gates or carry smaller dogs up and down stairs if possible.

Comfortable bedding

As our pets age their activity levels decrease and they spend more time resting and sleeping. Appropriate bedding can really make the difference between a comfortable or uncomfortable rest. Avoid using beds with high sides or with bedding that is very soft and unstable. Memory foam beds usually give good support whilst being comfortable and are a great option for arthritic dogs. They are often also slightly raised from the ground, which keeps your dog out of any cooler floor-level drafts. For pets showing signs of incontinence, the use of toddler mattresses can be a great way of giving them comfort whilst keeping their bed hygienic.

Many of these simple changes really can make huge improvements to your dog’s comfort. However, different dogs have different needs based on their health, size, and activity levels.

Discussing your pet’s needs with one of the vets or nurses at our Cambridge practice can help you identify further simple changes that can really benefit your older dog’s wellbeing.

Senior dogs & arthritis

Should your dog be suffering from this chronic condition (which affects the majority of older dogs to some extent) our team can help you learn how best to manage this condition. We are always very happy to chat about the resources available for arthritic dogs and the support we can offer to you and your pet

Get in touch.

You may also find the Canine Arthritis Management website helpful as it has advice and products for arthritic dogs – visit it now.

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