Caring for Older Dogs Certificate Level 3

Key Information

Key Information


CPD Points

Study Time

Start Date

Study Mode



10 hours



Assessment Method

Short answer questions to confirm your knowledge

Course Fees



Unit 1

The signs of aging and recognising pain in dogs.

Learn how to utilise a multi-modal approach when considering health and nutrition for older dogs. This unit explores how to provide high standards of care for older dogs, ensuring suitable mental stimulation and mobility. This unit also studies alternative therapies available for pain relief in the older dog.

Unit 2

Nutraceutical Products and Pharmaceutical Drugs

Learn about the latest diet supplements that can assist in treating or preventing disease, as well as medication commonly used for older dogs. This unit includes information about various joint problems and canine cognitive disease.

Caring for Older Dogs Course


The  Caring for Older Dogs course is relevant for canine professionals including Veterinary Nurses, Animal Hydrotherapists, Dog Behaviourists and those working hands-on with dogs in kennels, dog day care, dog walking etc.


The course is also suitable for dog owners who want to learn more about the care of older dogs.



Caring for Older Dogs 


According to the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the term “senior” can describe an ageing pet, but the number of years a dog is considered to be “senior” varies. Identifiers such as weight, breed and the state of their organs can also help determine whether an individual is considered a senior. For example, small dogs are generally considered as senior when they reach the age of 7. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans and are considered to be seniors when they are approximately 6 years of age. Middle age for most dogs is now generally considered to be above seven years of age - however, there is considerable breed variation. 


Senior dogs will exhibit many subtle changes physically and behaviourally. Dogs can become less mobile and therefore more reluctant to exercise; however it is essential to keep an exercise routine in place for older dogs.


Here are some general signs of ageing in dogs, as some of these signs can be indicative of underlying pain, it is essential to have changes checked out by a Vet:


·        eating less
·        drinking more than normal
·        unpleasant smelling breath
·        significant weight loss
·        stiffness, a limp or difficulty in rising after sleeping
·        lumps or bumps, especially if they are rapidly getting bigger
·        getting tired when out for a walk
·        onset of coughing
·        trouble passing urine or faeces, or urinating indoors
·        disoriented or is having trouble with balance
·        discharges from orifices
·        behaviour changes
·        excessive grooming

Recognising pain in Older Dogs

Pain is often described as acute or chronic. Acute pain is abrupt in onset and often severe but may be relatively short in duration.

Chronic pain persists beyond acute trauma and is difficult to diagnose. It is characterised by nonspecific signs such as reduced level of activity, depression, anorexia, character change and or anxiety. Pain can be debilitating and may cause weight loss or muscle loss. Examples of chronic pain include osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease, medical or cancer and their related conditions spinal or nerve pain.

Pain is a subjective and individual experience. As in humans, different individuals may express their feelings differently in respect of pain. Monitoring and communication are central to a proper care plan. Medications are usually used to treat pain. Some dogs will communicate that they are in pain; others can be very stoic and make that determination difficult. However, often dogs will hide their pain as a natural survival mechanism.

The most obvious sign of pain is limping. If a leg is causing pain, the dog is less likely to use it. Dogs in pain will typically move around less – which is often put down to the ageing process rather than being in pain.

Other mobility changes may be noticed, such as having trouble getting up, particularly after a period of rest or moving around more slowly. Hesitance to go up or downstairs, run or jump can be a sign of pain – not just a sign of ageing.