BSAVA PetSavers funded a major research project – the Old Age Pets (OAP) project – at the University of Liverpool aiming to help vets and owners provide the best care for their senior dogs.

The Ageing Canine Toolkit

The results of the research showed that it can be difficult for owners to know what are ‘normal’ age-related changes (signs of ageing) or whether signs indicate possible disease that would benefit from veterinary advice and treatment.

Key findings from the study were therefore used to develop a traffic light colour-coded checklist to help owners know whether to seek advice from a veterinary practice and to guide discussions during consultations. Regular discussions and veterinary check-ups can help relieve and prevent suffering, identify diseases earlier and ensure an ageing dog’s quality of life remains high and that they live longer. It is recommended that senior dogs have health checks at least twice a year.

BSAVA PetSavers has developed a leaflet for owners containing information about the more common health problems affecting aged dogs and what to look out for, as well as several copies of the checklist for owners to use at home at regular intervals to monitor their dog as they age. This forms part of the Ageing Canine Toolkit (ACT) and we encourage veterinary professionals and their clients to ACT on any areas of concern regarding senior dog care.

This evidence-based toolkit will be launched at BSAVA Congress 2023, where FREE copies will be available to take away together with FREE posters for practice waiting rooms that include a QR code for easy access of the digital leaflet.

Digital versions of the leaflet as an editable pdf, and the poster are available to download here. Veterinary professionals from the UK can request FREE printed copies of the leaflet and poster for their practices through the BSAVA Store.

Caring for senior dogs is challenging, so we have also put together a collection of resources to support veterinary professionals. These include webinars, manual chapters and Companion articles about information ranging from senior behavioural problems and cognitive decline to quality of life and end of life care. The collection is freely available until the end of June 2023.


We would be grateful to hear your thoughts on the checklist element of the toolkit:

Provide feedback here


Publications deriving from the OAP project

Jackson, Jodie (2022) Understanding the approach taken to ageing dogs in primary veterinary care using mixed-methods health informatics. Master of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

Wallis, Lisa; Radford, Alan; Belshaw, Zoe et al. (2023) ‘Just old age’ – A qualitative investigation of owner and veterinary professional experiences of and attitudes to ageing in dogs in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice, early view. 

The project and toolkit in the media

Dog getting grumpy? It could be more serious than ‘just old age’. The Telegraph 24th March 2023.

BSAVA PetSavers launches the Ageing Canine Toolkit. Vet Surgeon 24th March 2023.

Background to the OAP project

Dogs are living up to twice as long as they did 40 years ago which has implications for ageing dogs’ healthcare and wellbeing. As the life expectancy of canine golden oldies increases, so does the amount of time our dogs spend in poor health, but it may be difficult for us to distinguish between normal age-related changes and serious diseases that require veterinary treatment.

To help address this, BSAVA PetSavers funded a major research project at the University of Liverpool – Old Age Pets – to help vets and owners provide the best care for their senior and geriatric dogs.

PetSavers-funded researchers at the University of Liverpool used qualitative methods to investigate owner expectations, experiences and attitudes to ageing in dogs. Pet owners were invited to submit diaries, photographs and videos, to share their experiences of living with an older dog. There were also been opportunities for both veterinary professionals and pet owners to complete in-depth interviews and online questionnaires.

Findings and key themes from this part of the study were used to develop online surveys to gather quantitative data from veterinary professionals and owners about their experiences of caring for senior dogs.