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7 Senior Dog Health Problems

woman standing at the counter of a  vets office with her dog.

It doesn’t matter how fit your senior dogs are, age is going to take a toll on their bodies. Owners will instinctively notice the decrease in agility, endurance, and stamina of their pups as they grow old. It’s also important to know about age-related diseases and disorders to detect them early and manage them properly. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common senior dog health problems that can affect your pooch.

Senior Dog Health Issues

Large breeds age much quicker than smaller pups because of their massive body structure. However, environmental conditions and genetics also play an important role in determining the speed of aging. When a dog starts showing signs of age-associated problems, he/she should be considered old (irrespective of age) and must be given appropriate care. The following are some major health problems that a senior dog can encounter.  

Arthritis

Illustration of an arthritic hip joint in a dog

Osteoarthritis is probably the most common health problem among senior canines. It is also called a degenerative joint disease because it is caused by the continuous wear and tear of joints. Although arthritis can affect any part of the body, it usually targets the weight-bearing joints, like knees, elbows, and hips. This progressive condition will go from bad to worse over time.

Arthritis is caused when the lubricating fluids dry up and the cartilage between the joints is damaged. It can also result in abnormal bone growth that will intensify the misery of your older pup. Dogs suffering from this problem will have stiff joints and experience a lot of pain and decreased movement. There is no cure for arthritis, but you can slow its progression and minimize the discomfort of your pup. 

Dementia

Black dog with a gray face laying on a bed

Some aging dogs will also exhibit marked changes in their behavior, like disorientation and memory loss. If that’s the case, your senior dog could be suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction, which is similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Some other symptoms of this condition include inappropriate elimination, barking for no reason, and unusual pacing.

The signs of dementia are quite subtle in the beginning and it’s easy to ignore them. However, they can progress quickly and will affect your dog’s quality of life. This is because the pooch will forget all the trainings, including house training. Bathroom accidents will cause even more confusion and embarrassment to your senior dog.

Many symptoms of dementia are common with some other medical conditions. Therefore, you must visit your vet to determine whether it is cognitive dysfunction or some other disease. There is no cure for this condition, but some medications can be prescribed to keep the dog comfortable.

Cancer

Yellow dog with a tumor on top of it's head

Although it can affect canines of all ages, cancer is more common among older dogs. This is because they are more prone to lumps and tumors than young pups.

Many symptoms of different cancers are similar to general signs of aging. For this reason, it is easier for owners to neglect these symptoms if they are not careful. Therefore, a routine screening test is necessary to ensure that everything is fine. They will be able to detect any potential dangers that were not visible to the naked eye or couldn’t be found during the physical examination of a dog.

The treatment of the cancer is dependent on the type and its stage. The chances of survival are directly proportional to the timeline of the diagnosis. If a cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, your senior dog has better chances of surviving.

Obesity

Overweight dog laying on patio tiles

Optimal body weight is critical at all stages of life, but it becomes even more important in old age. Senior dogs often gain weight even if they are not consuming too many calories. It is because their physical activity has reduced and this imbalance will make your dog obese. The change in metabolism (slower in senior canines) also plays a vital role in weight gain.

Obesity is considered the mother of all illnesses because it leads to several other problems. For example, it will worsen arthritis and make it even more difficult for your pup to move around. This creates a vicious cycle of inactivity and weight gain that can be quite difficult to break. It can also result in diabetes, which is another hurdle in ensuring a healthy life for your canine friend.

Therefore, it’s highly recommended to consult a professional (vet or canine nutritionist) to keep your dog in good shape. They will analyze your dog’s current health, age, and dietary needs to come up with a suitable diet plan.

Tissue Degeneration in Eyes and Ears

Close up of the eye of a boxer dog

Many senior dogs become frustrated because they are experiencing hearing and vision loss. Many reasons can be responsible for impairing the hearing of a dog. For example, chronic ear infections can cause permanent damage, resulting in deafness. Similarly, the genetics of your pup can cause hearing loss.

Eye cataracts are also quite common among older canines. This cloudy layer covers the lens of your dog’s eyes to cause partial or complete blindness. In most cases, surgical intervention is needed to resolve this problem.

Kidney Disease

Golden retriever laying on a tile floor recieving an IV

Just like other parts of the body, kidneys are also affected when a dog grows old. Chronic renal disease begins as a small insufficiency but can result in kidney failure if left untreated. Therefore, it’s important to observe your adult dog carefully and consult your vet as soon as the symptoms appear.

Although kidney disease can’t be cured completely, it can be treated to prolong the life of your senior companion. However, early diagnosis is necessary and that’s why senior dogs must get a medical check-up every 6 months.

Incontinence

Butt of a brown dog wearing a diaper with it's tail through a hole in the diaper

It is one of the most frustrating senior dog issues for owners as well as the canines. It happens when the sphincter muscles of the bladder become weak and the dog can’t control his/her urge to pee. This will cause unwanted accidents that can be quite embarrassing for housetrained pups. There is no cure for this condition, but it can be managed with certain medications.

Incontinence can also be a symptom of an underlying medical problem. If that’s the case, treating the main disease will solve this problem, too.

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