How To Keep An Elderly Dog Warm

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Sagan doing her impression of a babushka.

Many of us who live in northern climates who own short-haired dogs, know it’s a challenge to keep them warm. We learn to read their body language, and know when they’re cold, they curl up in the tightest ball possible or attempt to burrow under our covers. When you live in the Pacific Northwest and your dog has short fur AND is elderly, keeping them warm is even more of a challenge.

In this article, I’ve listed some of the ways that I’ve attempted to keep my senior dog warm and comfortable during the cold and damp Seattle winter (and spring and fall). I’ve also included some ideas that my special needs boarding clients have used to keep their short-coated seniors dogs snuggly in cool weather.


You can never have too many dog blankets! My dog liked to be completely covered in them, sometimes piled under several. If your dog is elderly and has mobility issues, make sure the blankets don’t cause tripping. If they drag their feet when walking or turning around in bed, blankets can be problematic. Blankets also fall off during the night as the dog moves around, and having a restless dog, who wakes you up when her blanket falls off, can be a problem.

Covered Soft-Sided Crate

To keep as much of a dog’s natural body heat from escaping, consider covering a soft-sided crate with comforters. If you pile enough thick blankets over and totally cover the crate so that no heat escapes, it can get nice and toasty inside.

Heating Pad

They make heading pads for dog beds, but I encountered a few issues. They don’t auto-shut off, which means they run all the time. This can be a fire hazard or burn your dog. If your dog is elderly or has mobility issues, I would avoid a heating pad. I tried several models and some actually dog discolored after using for extended periods because they were too hot.

Space Heater

If the dog is under supervision, say in a crate next to you, you can use a space heater blowing on the dog. You just need to make sure the wire sides of the crate don’t get too hot. Don’t leave a space heater running without supervision.

Oil Heater

A safer and less noisy solution to a space heater, oil heaters provide constant radiant heat. Use behind a barrier to prevent contact with the dog: Dog in a crate or oil heater behind a baby gate. Great way to heat up an enclosed room or warm a dog in a crate.

Infrared Lamp

Breeders use infrared lamps to keep puppies and moms warm. I haven’t tried this method, but have seen photos of dogs sunning themselves indoors and it looks like it works.


You could always try letting your dog sleep in a coat or pajamas. You’d need to make sure the garments are able to be work for long periods of time without causing rubbing or skin irritation. For elderly dogs or dogs with mobility issues, you have to make sure the coats don’t hamper movement, or cause the dog to trip or get caught or tangled.

Thick bedding (memory foam/orthopedic)

Use thick bedding, preferably orthopedic memory foam type mattress that’s several inches think to elevate the dog off the floor and provide insulation for their own body heat.