Common Health Problems in Senior Dogs

Common Health Problems in Senior Dogs

As your dog grows older, it’s important to keep an eye out for any potential health problems or conditions that arise so you can help improve his quality of life. You may notice a general ‘slowing down’, where your dog will experience a decrease in mobility, activity or exercise. It’s also common to see an older dog lose some of their senses, like hearing or eyesight. This slower pace, loss of senses as well as a greying coat are all outward signs of aging.

It’s essential to recognise when your dog starts to age, so you can adapt their lifestyle to fit their needs, Here, I will discuss the signs of aging, some common health issues, and how you can make your dog as comfortable as possible in his golden years.

Dr Carol Doyle Veterinarian

Carol Doyle, BSc VN DVM

Carol DoyIe is a small pet veterinarian in a practice in Ashbourne, Co. Meath and is the human companion to her cats, Nala and Donal, two horses - Indie and Bella, and her dog Phoebe.

As a guest blogger and advisor, Carol shares her professional advice with pet owners, answering many of the questions that she gets asked regularly in-clinic.

The Signs of Aging in Senior Dogs

There is no ‘one age’ when your dog is considered ‘old’, as it depends on the breed. Smaller dogs are seen as senior when they are around 10 years old, whereas bigger breeds are senior when they’re around 7-8 years old. Giant breeds can reach senior status as early as 5-6 years.

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from age-related health issues, such as;

  • Vision loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Energy loss
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Toilet accidents in the house
  • Memory loss (forgetting commands/cues they once knew)
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle/joint pain
  • Organ-related issues (kidneys, liver, heart)
  • Teeth loss
  • New lumps/bumps around the body

Aging is a gradual process, and you may not recognise all the signs right away. If you do notice any, it’s important to take them to your local vet to be inspected so they can provide the best treatments and advice going forward.

Health Issues in Senior Dogs

If you notice any of the below diseases, symptoms or behaviours in your dog, it is essential they are taken to a vet so they can begin treatment. Your vet will be able to give you advice and if need be, prescribe medicine to help your dog.

1.Loss of Hearing & Vision

Losing one of these senses can be frightening for your dog, as the world they knew begins to change. Senior dogs are also prone to developing cataracts, where the lens of the eye is covered in a cloudy layer that can lead to partial or even total blindness. However, dogs who have poor sight or even total blindness can still get around in familiar environments. Avoid moving around furniture if your dog’s eyesight is failing, as this could throw them off their course and turn into an obstacle.

If your dog isn’t responding to your commands like he once did, this may be a sign of hearing loss. Degeneration of the nerves in older dogs typically leads to gradual hearing loss. Little  can be done to prevent deafness, but it is possible to help your dog adapt. They can feel vibrations on the floor as you approach as well as being able to interpret hand signals for communication.

When out on walks, be extra careful with dogs who cannot see or hear well, as they can get easily get lost and wander into trouble!

vet inspecting a senior pug's ears

2. Arthritis

As with people, dogs can suffer from arthritis as they grow older. He may no longer be interested in playing fetch or has trouble jumping onto the sofa or in the car. Arthritis can also cause a dog to be depressed or irritated when you attempt to pet him.

Osteoarthritis is perhaps the most common cause of joint pain and stiffness in dogs. Also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), it is a disease that causes loss of lubrication and the deterioration of cartilage in the joints. The weight-bearing joints (hips, knees, elbows, shoulders) are mainly affected by this condition. These joint changes can cause pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in your dog.

A healthy, suitable diet with adequate nutrition and an orthopaedic or memory foam bed which they can get in and out of easily can help play a strong role in supporting dogs with joint issues. Consult with your veterinarian for advice on the best treatment for your dog.

senior dog looking ill

3. Organ Problems

Your dog’s organs can suffer as aging takes its toll on his body. It is common for senior dogs to develop heart and kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease and the exact cause can be difficult to pinpoint due to the slow onset of symptoms. They are often mild in nature, making them easily overlooked. Symptoms include blood in urine, decreased appetite, drinking more/less water, dental disease, less interest in playing or exercise and vomiting/diarrhoea.

If you notice your dog coughing, has trouble breathing, is no longer interested in exercise, falling out of consciousness or has unexplained vomiting, he could be suffering from heart disease.

There are different types of heart disease your dog may be suffering from, such as Congestive Heart Failure (the heart has trouble pumping the correct amount of blood through the body), Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (affects the cardiac muscles and the heart’s ability to produce enough pressure to pump blood throughout the vascular system), and Pulmonic Stenosis (a heart defect that obstructs blood flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery). Heart disease can be treated or managed through prescription medicines and supplements, adjustments to their diet, and sometimes, depending on the level of severity, surgery.

4. Obesity

The weight of your dog has an important impact on their overall health, especially as they age and become less active. Dogs carrying more weight are more prone to mobility and joint issues as well as diabetes and heart disease. It is important your dog gets regular exercise and is on an appropriate diet to prevent obesity from developing.

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