5 Common Older Dog Diseases

Older dog with young woman

When you adopt a dog, you make a friend for life. Not only will you have a pet who will be there for you when you need the most, you can look forward to sharing so much of your life with them. As they are there for you, they will need you to be there for them as well.

Common Older Dog Diseases

Many pet owners may not know what to expect as their dogs get older and different breeds of senior dogs may come with their own health problems that will need to be addressed. In order to be prepared to handle your dog’s eventual needs, it is important to know about some of the most common older dog diseases.

Hip Dysplasia in Senior Dogs

This is perhaps one of the most common issues affecting older dogs. This is a genetic condition that occurs when the dog’s hip joint starts to deform with age. Imagine a ball in a socket. The ball is the head of the dog’s femur, and as the dog gets older, the ball starts to rattle around more with every step the dog takes.

The pain and stiffness are among the most common symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs, and bigger dog breeds are particularly susceptible to the condition. Though caused by a congenital defect at birth, the dysplasia can be managed with the right lifestyle and exercise changes.

Dog Periodontal Disease

As the most commonly diagnosed illness in aging pets, owners can look forward to receiving an immediate care regimen that can help their dogs recover from the condition. It is an entirely preventable tooth illness that occurs when tartar and plaque start to collect on your dog’s canine teeth.

Bacteria are typically attracted to the surface and they make the area extremely inflamed and infected. Once major symptoms start to arrive, it becomes too late to reverse the condition and you may need to have senior dog tooth extraction done. But taking care of the dog’s teeth before and during the development of the condition allows individuals to save themselves a lot of stress in the future.

Dog Obesity

Overweight senior dog laying in the grass

When dogs start to age, their overall activity levels and metabolism begin to slow down. This leads to obesity, as the dog begins to eat more and burn less calories. Obesity in dogs leads to health risks and the potential for pets to develop many other problems in the future. Issues like kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer can all arise from obesity.

Obese pets, especially older ones, become more susceptible to heatstroke too. In order to combat the condition, it is vital to talk to your veterinarian and figure out what types of exercise routine will provide your pet with the most benefits and the least amount of stress on their aging joints.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease and one of the most difficult conditions to deal with for a pet. Your pet will experience increased loss of mobility and cartilage as they age, and it is not uncommon for swelling to also occur, usually caused by the buildup of fluids in joints. Pay attention to excessive whining and general reluctance to move, as these are some of the most telling signs of this condition beginning to develop on the dog. Individuals should watch out for lameness or a limp as well. Speaking to a medical professional early can allow the condition to become much more manageable in the future.

Cognitive Dysfunction & Dog Dementia

Older chihuahua giving person a high five

A dog’s personality and reaction time may begin to change as they get older. Just like in humans, cognitive functions start to change with age, and it is not uncommon for some dogs to develop canine cognitive dysfunction. The most sudden changes in behavior are the most important to document and diagnose.

Sometimes there may be a reason for the change in your pet’s behavior too, such as a source of pain that has not been addressed yet. Medications and alternative therapies can provide your pet with the best results.

Changing Care for Senior Dogs

As your dogs start to get older, you want to keep the aforementioned problems in mind when you play and care for them. Your dog will not be able to keep up with their previous lifestyle, and as you enjoy different activities as your body gets older, so too will your dog.

Sometimes introducing a new dog to an older dog can also help give a senior dog more pep in their step.

Play a Little Gentler

Senior dog with a gray face with open mouth

Your dog will always need exercise, even as they get older, but the way that they get that exercise may need to change. If you have a dog that loves to wrestle and roughhouse with you in the yard or on the carpet, you may need to dial back your activities as your pet gets older.

As your dog’s skeletal and muscular system starts to change, the chance of something going wrong during rough play starts to increase. Your dog may start to have less overall energy as well, so you may need to change up your walk schedule and how you play fetch. No matter the specifics, make sure that you look for new ways to engage your dog without the activities being as strenuous.

Avoid Excess Heat

You should always avoid keeping your dog anywhere that is too hot, but as your pet starts to age, they become more susceptible to potential heat issues. In order to avoid hurting your pet’s health and risking long-term damage and death, it is important to plan ahead for their needs.

If they love to stay outside, make sure that you equip their doghouse properly to keep up with the heat. There are speciality doghouses that are designed to beat the heat, and they can be perfect for your older pup. Make sure that you protect their feet when you go out on walks as well, as concrete starts to pick up more heat during the summer.

Change Their Food                                           

Rust colored senior dog with graying face looking into the camera

As your dogs get older, it becomes important for you to change up their food to keep up with their dental health. Look into brands that focus specifically on improving the condition of your dog’s teeth. If there are any dental issues that need to be addressed beforehand, it is vital for you to have them taken care of so that your dog does not experience discomfort when they eat. Think about adding supplements to their diet as well. Things that will improve their joint health and allow them to enjoy more mobility and agency in as they get older can be invaluable for their health.

No matter your dog’s age or habits, taking a slow and steady approach towards changing your lifestyle will provide you with the best results. Make sure to always consult with a doctor first in order to make sure that you approach the changes as necessary for your pet.

About the Author:

Lindsey Harper has always been a pet lover since she got her first puppy as a kid. She is the co-founder of AvidPup.com, a pet blog where guides and tips are shared so dog lovers can raise their pups healthy and happy.

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.