How to Keep Your Senior Dog Safe This Holiday Season by Devin Morrissey

    This article has been republished for exclusive use by The Grey Muzzle Organization with the permission of original author, Devin Morrissey. 

    Our senior furry friends bring a whole lot of joy into our lives, especially around the holiday season. Nothing beats the excited tail-wags of an old dog getting new toys and treats, the long sighs when they settle down by your feet, or the often-adorable aversion to the fresh snow on the ground. But as we all know, senior dogs can require an extra bit of care, especially during the holiday season.

    Keeping your senior dog safe and happy over the holidays isn’t too difficult, you just have to keep in mind that they may need more or different help than a younger pup. Making sure your best buddy is happy and healthy should always be a priority, no matter what time of year. Give your dog the best years of their lives no matter the weather with these helpful tips.

    Holiday Safety Tips

    Whether you plan to take your senior dog on a holiday trip or cozy up with them at home, the cold winter months pose some unique problems. You will want to make sure that the cold doesn’t harm your friend, as they are much more susceptible to damaging temperatures. People often think that protecting your pup’s paws is only a summertime issue, but extended exposure to snow or slush can harm your dog’s paws as well. There can be hidden objects beneath the snow that can damage the pads of your dog’s paws, and investing in some inexpensive booties can make a world of difference for them.

    Senior dogs need to stay active, and that means heading out on brisk walks in the neighborhood. Not only will booties help protect their paws from the cold and from sharp hidden objects, but they will also help greatly with traction on icy sidewalks. Icy conditions don’t just affect your dog, but traffic as well, so it is especially important to pay attention to vehicles on the road when you are walking your old friend to make sure that there are no tragic accidents.

    Be extra watchful of your senior dog when visiting friends and family as well, as during the holiday season chocolate and other dangerous foods are more abundant than throughout the year. While certain foods can cause mild reactions, older dogs digestive systems are even less capable of digesting hazardous foods than their younger counterparts. No one wants a happy family dinner to turn into an emergency trip to the vet!

    Be Careful With Your Gifts

    The holidays are a time for gift-giving, both for your kids and your senior dog! Watching your family freak out over whatever cool new toy or dog chew you got them is always well worth the price of the gift. But, even though giving gifts to your family and furry friend is a blast, there are some serious risks that come with the gifts you give.

    When shopping for your little ones, make note of the size of all parts of the gift. Like children, dogs are very curious, and any toy that poses a choking hazard to your child can also pose the same risk to your senior dog. If your kid is absolutely in love with toys that have tiny pieces or components, make sure to let them know that they need to be careful when playing around the dog, and to clean up every piece of their playset when they are finished.

    When it comes to buying gifts for your dog, there are also some guidelines you should follow when considering what to get them.

    • If your dog happens to still be an aggressive or destructive chewer in their old age, avoid gifting them stuffed toys, as they can tear into them and ingest the stuffing which can lead to blockage of their digestive tract.
    • Another thing to be mindful of is natural chew toys like horns, antlers, and bones that can shatter leaving dangerous shards that your dog can ingest.
    • It’s also a good idea to avoid rawhide chews for dogs of any age, as they can be a choking hazard and, if ingested, can also block the digestive tract.

    While you need to avoid the same risks at your home as you do at a friends — making sure they don’t get ahold of any chocolates or turkey bones, et cetera — there are plenty of other risks you need to be aware of. From the decorations you choose to the fire that keeps you and your friend toasty, the home poses many risks. It doesn’t take a lot to help prevent injury to your senior dog inside your home as long as you remain mindful and vigilant.

    Decorating your Christmas tree is a cornerstone of the holiday experience and can be a fun activity for the whole family. However, it is important to exercise a bit more safety around the holidays, especially in the presence of children or animals. Small ornaments and garlands of tinsel can pose a choking hazard to your senior dog, so it is important to either hang them higher on the tree or forgo the smaller ornaments all together for the sake of safety.

    Senior dogs can often have difficulty regulating their body temperature, especially in colder climates. Because of this, the holidays are the best time of year to snuggle up with your dog in front of a roaring fireplace to stay toasty. It is important to engage in fireplace safety, making sure that your chimney is swept before lighting the first fire of the season, utilizing a mesh screen to prevent embers from bursting out of the fireplace, and keeping fire starting materials and dry logs well away from the lit fire. Do all this, and you and your senior dog can enjoy the warmth of a fire safely.


    Now that you are aware of the risks your dog encounters during the holiday season, you can work to help them avoid injury. With so much going on during the holidays, it can be easy to forget the special needs of those who depend on us most, but with these tips you can keep your furry friend happy and healthy. So grab your dog, cozy up next to the fire, and enjoy the season together!

    About the Contributor: 

    Devin roams the Pacific Northwest, bringing his dog, Scrummy, whenever possible. He is a strong believer that nothing can compare to a dog's unconditional love.

     You can follow him and Scrummy on Twitter.