Senior dogs, like humans, are more susceptible to certain health issues due to natural aging.
These health issues can vary in severity and impact a dog’s quality of life. Senior dog owners need to be aware of these common health problems and work with their veterinarians to manage and address them. Here are some common health issues in senior dogs:
Like humans, older dogs can suffer from joint degeneration, often affecting weight-bearing joints like the hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows. Degeneration leads to a loss of joint lubrication, cartilage wear, and abnormal bone growth, resulting in pain, stiffness, and reduced joint mobility.
Joint issues are chronic and progress over time, with no specific cure. Treatment aims to slow down the process and alleviate pain.
Chronic kidney disease typically progresses slowly, starting from mild kidney dysfunction and potentially leading to complete kidney failure. While there’s no cure, there are various methods to extend lifespan and improve the quality of life. Detecting kidney disease early can help slow its progression. Routine blood tests can often identify kidney changes, so regular check-ups every six months are essential. Signs of kidney disease often include increased drinking and/or urination, reduced appetite, vomiting, and lethargy.
Aging dogs can experience gradual hearing loss due to nerve degeneration. While it can’t be prevented, you can help your pet adapt to this change. Try using hand signals instead of verbal commands for training. Gradually, you’ll find that hearing loss has minimal impact on your senior dog’s daily life.
Similar to hearing, a dog’s vision can decline with age. These changes typically occur gradually but can also be caused by eye diseases such as cataracts. If you suspect your pet is experiencing vision loss, the first step is a veterinary examination. If it’s age-related, no intervention may be necessary. Just remember to keep them leashed when outside and limit moving furniture indoors. Once your dog has learned their way around the house, you’ll be surprised at how well they can navigate.
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (Canine Dementia)
Senior dogs can develop cognitive dysfunction or dementia-like symptoms. Signs include disorientation, confusion, wandering, standing in corners, increased vocalization, reduced interaction with their owner, changes in sleep patterns, and inappropriate elimination. To distinguish between age-related changes and other conditions, consult your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is not curable and worsens over time.
Cancer is a relatively common ailment in older dogs. Different types of cancer can produce various symptoms, often mistaken for the effects of aging. Early detection is possible through regular veterinary check-ups, clinical exams, and diagnostic tests. Some forms of cancer can be treated if caught early.
Senior dogs are prone to developing benign growths like skin tags, moles, and fatty lumps. It’s essential to have your veterinarian examine these growths to rule out cancer. Often, these benign growths don’t require surgical removal unless they cause discomfort for your pet.
Old age brings changes to a dog’s muscles, organs, and nerves, making it harder for them to “hold it in” as they once did. If your dog experiences incontinence, consult your veterinarian to ensure it’s not a symptom of an underlying condition. You can also help by frequently taking your dog out for bathroom breaks.
Obesity is a common issue, particularly in senior dogs. It’s often associated with joint problems, heart disease, and diabetes. To prevent obesity, maintain a balanced diet suitable for your dog’s age, provide regular exercise (short walks multiple times a day can suffice), and monitor their weight.
Taking proactive steps in caring for your senior dog’s health can lead to a longer and happier life together. Regular veterinary check-ups and early detection of health issues are essential in providing the best care for your aging canine companion.