Bathing Elderly Pets

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Bathing pets as they get older can be challenging because elderly pets often have health issues or skin conditions that can make bathing them a challenge. And taking them to the groomer may be too much of an ordeal for an older pet. All pets need to be bathed from time to time, especially if their skin becomes irritated easily or if they suffer from allergies. Following are some tips to keep in mind before you attempt to bath an elderly pet.

What you will need:

  • Wash basin or tub
  • Two to three towels depending on the size of your pet
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Cotton balls
  • Blow dryer
  • Brush and comb
  • Large paper or plastic cup
  • Helper for large pets or arthritic pets who may need assistance getting in and out of the tub

Preparing the wash area

Fill a sturdy wash basin or tub that is large enough for your pet – be sure the water is not too hot or too cold. Use the back of your wrist or your elbow to test the temperature. Fill the basin part way.

Place a dry towel on the floor and place one to two towels within arms reach to dry your pet.

Plug in a blow dryer far enough away from the wash area, but nearby so that you can reach your pet after the bath is complete.

Gather your shampoo, conditioner, brush, comb, plastic cup, and cotton balls.


Preparing your pet

Make sure that you remove your pet’s collar and anything else that should not get wet.

Escort or carry your pet over to the wash basin and gently lower him into the basin. Place one cotton ball in each ear to prevent water from getting in his ears.

Using the cup or the shower head, rinse your pet thoroughly with warm water. Be sure to test the water before you begin. Then shampoo your pet from head to toe. Elderly pets should use very mild shampoos and conditioners that are hypo allergenic. Their skin tends to be thinner and more sensitive so mild shampoos are recommended.

Completely rinse your pet with warm water and ensure that you get under his stomach and under his tail. When washing and rinsing his face, put his head back and block his nose from getting water in it.

Comb out any areas that are matted or where discharge may collect, especially around the eyes and rinse thoroughly; but be sure to be extremely careful and do not pull but rather gently come out the matted areas. If necessary, leave them and trim them later with a scissor.


Drying your pet

Take one or two towels and dry your pet as best you can being sure to rub gently and avoiding any warts or skin irritations. Gently pat his face area. Remove the cotton balls from his ears. Be sure to dry his ears with the towel and dry the outside and inside of his ears to ensure that water doesn’t collect in the ear canal and cause bacteria to grow.

Blow dry your pet with the blow dryer on the coolest setting and do not leave the blow dryer in one area for too long. Move the blow dryer with sweeping motions back and forth until the area is dry. Place your hand between the blow dryer and your pet to ensure that the blow dryer does not get too hot. Brush your pet once he is dry to ensure that all areas are dry.

Be sure to completely dry the floor with one of the towels before you and your pet exit the area to ensure that no one slips or falls.

Treat your pet to a special bone or cookie to reward him for being such a cooperative pet. Treats can be used for positive reinforcement and even an older pet will endure bath time if they know they will be rewarded with a treat.



Some articles recommend applying tea tree oil after a bath to help soothe skin irritations. This is not recommended because tea tree oil can be toxic to pets and should be avoided. Instead, if your pet doesn’t smell clean and fresh or has some minor skin irritations, speak with your vet about oral medications that can help soothe them. There are other over the counter products that are not toxic that can also be used.

Below are some useful items that may assist you when bathing senior pets. We do not endorse or promote any of these products or companies. Products are listed for demonstration purposes only based on available information at the time of publication. You should always consult your vet to determine what is most appropriate for your dog. 

This shampoo is natural anti itch oatmeal shampoo for dogs and cats; hypoallergenic soothing relief for dry, itchy, bitten or allergy damaged skin, hot spot treatment, vet and pet approved. 

This pet brush is double sided with bamboo handle for long or short hairs; removes shedding, tangles and dirt. 

A pet comb removes tangles, knots, loose fur and dirt. Ideal for everyday use. 

A portable wash basin is suitable for small to medium sized pets and should be portable and foldable. Perfect for cats, dogs or other small pets.

Waterless pet shampoo is great for keeping your senior pet fresh in between baths. Not all pets love a bath, so a waterless option is great for in between. 

Pet nail clippers allow you to keep your senior pet’s nails short so they don’t slide all over the floors. Use caution when trimming senior pet nails and be sure not to trim them too short. 

It’s a good idea to trim your pet’s fur once in a while so that fur doesn’t get in his eyes or the fur between his toes doesn’t get too long. Either of which can cause issues for your senior pet. 

With your help, we can keep senior pets out of shelters and place them in loving, caring homes. Your gift can help save senior pets from an uncertain future.

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