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Common Health Concerns for Senior Dogs

No matter how much we all try and pretend otherwise, our dogs get older every year. Here are the most common health issues for senior dogs and some tips for addressing them

When are dogs considered “seniors?”

On average, dogs are considered to be seniors at around seven years of age, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA.) Larger dogs tend to age more quickly than smaller breeds. A giant breed may reach old man status as early as six, while a toy breed may not show signs of aging until his eighth or ninth birthday. It’s important to remember that genetics and environmental factors can play a role in the aging process, so these numbers are just general guidance. Below are some common health issues that may affect older dogs.


Problems senior dogs can face

  1. Vision or Hearing Loss.

Most vision or hearing loss in senior dogs is due to tissue degeneration in their eyes and ears. Older dogs are also prone to cataracts, which can cause partial or total blindness. While they can be surgically removed, dogs generally rely more on their sense of smell rather than their eyesight when it comes to getting around. As a result, dogs often adjust relatively well to vision loss, making surgery unnecessary. Hearing loss generally becomes permanent as a result of the aging process. Cleaning your dog’s ears and checking them for infections on a regular basis may help slow the progression of hearing loss.


  1. Joint Problems

Osteoarthritis is by far the most common joint issue affecting our senior dogs. This is a progressive disease that causes the loss of lubrication in the hips, elbows, and other joints. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that has no cure. However, there are a number of treatment options available. Nutrition can play a significant role when it comes to managing joint problems in dogs. Feeding a healthy diet and controlling your dog’s weight can help slow the progression of arthritis. Your veterinarian may suggest either OTC supplements or prescription medications to help manage pain, as well.


  1. Dementia

Just like people, dogs can lose cognitive function as they age. Common symptoms include disorientation, confusion, barking and whining for no particular reason, and accidents in the house. While there is no cure for this condition either, there are medications that can help slow its progress. OTC supplements may be used in order to calm dogs with dementia who exhibit these symptoms. Be sure to also consult your veterinarian about special prescription diets designed to help dogs with cognitive or neurological disorders.


  1. Cancer

Lumps and bumps are rather common in senior dogs. While not all of them are cancerous, it’s a good idea to get any strange growths checked out by your veterinarian because cancer is more prevalent in senior dogs. Sometimes, removing the lump will also get rid of cancer, but if not, there are a number of cancer treatments for dogs available now. If your senior dog does get cancer, be sure to discuss all treatment options with your veterinarian.


  1. Obesity

Weight management is important for dogs of all ages, but obesity especially affects senior dogs. Older dogs who carry too much extra weight are more prone to serious illnesses, like heart failure and diabetes, than their younger counterparts. Giving your senior dog regular exercise and keeping an eye on his caloric intake can help him live up to two and a half years longer, on average! Obesity can also contribute to other common health problems like arthritis and some types of cancer. Managing your senior dog’s weight will greatly increase his over all quality of life while helping him live longer, making it worth the extra effort!


  1. Intestinal Issues and Incontinence

A number of issues can cause gastrointestinal issues in senior dogs. While not always serious, GI issues can sometimes point to deeper problems, such as kidney disease. It’s a good idea to check out any ongoing diarrhea or vomiting just to be safe. Ongoing GI issues can also be a symptom of dementia, so keep an eye on your older dog if he’s having ongoing tummy troubles.


Getting older is as hard on your dog as it is on you. Once he reaches senior status, be sure to visit your veterinarian every six months, rather than every year, for a wellness check. Your vet may do more extensive bloodwork and other tests to screen for these common health problems. Make sure also to keep an eye on your dog and report any unusual behaviors or health issues to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Catching illnesses early will drastically improve your dog’s chances at a long, active life! He may be getting older, but early intervention will allow him to be your best friend for years to come!


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