How to Bathe Senior Dogs

Just like their human counterparts, dogs tend to change physically and emotionally as they age. They get arthritis. They become impatient. They experience eyesight or hearing issues. Consequently, bathing your older pooch requires a special touch.

Even dogs that once loved bath time may feel scared or show reluctance at getting a bath during their later years. For that reason, you should always prepare for your senior dog’s next bath and set aside enough time to make the bonding experience positive, successful and safe.

Planning for Your Senior Dog’s Next Bath

Before bathing your dog, map out how and where you expect the bath to occur. Many homeowners like to use their bathrooms, basements or garage areas. Others prefer to find a self-serve pet wash nearby. Either way, arrange to have the following items on hand:

  • A tub, basin or bin large enough to accommodate your dog based on the breed and size.
  • A non-skid mat or large bath towel to put at the bottom of the tub or basin.
  • A bottle of combined pet shampoo and conditioner designed with older pups in mind.
  • An extra container large enough to pour water out of for rinsing purposes.
  • Plenty of wash towels and bath towels that have been warmed in the dryer, if available.
  • Pet grooming tools, including a brush or comb and clippers.
  • A hairdryer that can be set to a cool or very low setting.
  • Plenty of the dog’s favorite healthy treats.

If your dog has mobility issues, you may also want to have a sling on hand to help get your pet’s hind area into the tub. You or another person could also take care of this detail, depending on the dog’s weight.

How to Prepare Your Aging Dog for a Healthy Bath Experience

Your senior dog has no doubt had baths before. Regardless, bring the dog into the bathing area when the water is running. The sound is soothing and will alert a dog with limited hearing that a bath is on the way.

While you’re setting up in your comfy clothes — you’re going to get wet even if your dog is well-behaved — talk to your pet in a soothing voice. You may also want to give your pet an impromptu leg and hindquarters massage to loosen any stiff joints. Brush your dog’s fur and cut out any matted bits.

Fill up the bath partway with lukewarm or tepid water. Gently lower your dog into the tub. Go slowly. Most senior dogs won’t appreciate being plunked down, particularly if they have arthritis or find it hard to stand up straight.

At this point, you can start the washing process.

How to Wash an Elderly Dog

Using a handy cup or container, or a handheld showerhead, wet down your dog’s fur and skin below the neck. Then, lather your dog with your all-in-one pet shampoo and conditioner. Take it easy and work the product into the fur. This might take a while, especially if your dog has a thick or double coat.

Avoid using soap on your dog’s head and snout. For those areas, dip a washcloth in sudsy water and use it to gently clean around the mouth, ears and eyes. Your pup may or may not find this unpleasant. Do your best to be thorough, but also conscientious about the dog’s needs.

After you’ve finished washing your dog, you can apply a lukewarm rinse of water. Make sure to get all the suds out. Soap residue can make your dog feel uncomfortable or itchy.

Post-Bath: Drying Off an Aging Dog

To finish off our senior dog bath tips, remove your dog from the tub or basin and place your furry friend on soft, waiting towels.

Again, this is a great opportunity for you to ask a friend or family member to help. That way, you can be secure in the knowledge that your wet dog can’t wriggle away and get hurt.

Cuddle him with a warm towel and dry him off as much as you can. Older dogs can get cold quickly. Use a blowdryer on the coolest setting if needed, but be very cautious — your dog’s skin is highly sensitive, and you don’t want to burn him.

At this point, your senior dog should be groomed and clean. Conclude your bath time with loads of cuddles, praising your pooch for being a trooper!