As your dog grows older, there are many conditions that he will become more prone to. Knowing of most common senior dog health problems can help you keep an eye on the symptoms and take him to the vet in a timely manner to get the necessary diagnosis and treatment, and possibly even prevent some of these ailments in the first place.
The definition of “senior dog” depends on your pet's breed and size. Small dogs are classified as seniors at 8 years old and large dogs at 5 or 6 years of age. Studies have observed that this is the time when canines begin to experience serious health decline, and most common senior dog health problems will start to show their signs. Further research also pointed out that externally visible changes of your dog is the easiest and best way to determine when your geriatric dog's health is going through changes.
According to Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie of Colorado State University, many of senior dog health problems can be alleviated and some even prevented if pet owners take proper care before, during and after the symptoms show up. Ways you can help are already known to every pet owner: exercise, proper diet and weight control, parasite prevention, environmental control, mental stimulation, eye and oral care. So here are seven senior dog health problems you should keep an eye out and be prepared for.
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7 Most Common Health Problems of Senior Dogs
Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease and it is one of the most common senior dog health problems, according to research. Some of the most obvious symptoms of canine arthritis include weight gain, indifference, more sleep and changes in attitude. The most obvious symptom of arthritis is actually pain and stiffness, but this won’t always be clearly seen by a pet owner, at least in the early stages.
If your dog gets diagnosed with arthritis, you should be aware that there are many anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers available that can improve your dog’s comfort and quality of life; stronger ones will be prescribed by your vet. It is important that you try to keep your dog’s weight on a normal level and to provide some sort of exercise on a regular basis in order to improve joint flexibility and movement.
Diabetes is a disease that usually occurs when dogs get to 8 or 9 years of age. It is often hereditary and female dogs are more prone to diabetes. Some breeds are more likely to get diabetes too, like Pugs, Miniature Schnauzers, Samoyeds and Toy Poodles. It is caused by poor insulin production, which is a hormone that assists in moving glucose from the blood to the cells of dog’s body and it's produced by the pancreas.
It's one of the most common senior dog health problems, and its known symptoms include increased urination and frequent thirst, fatigue, weight loss, blurred vision, chronic skin infection and cuts or bruises that are slow to heal.
Your senior dog’s treatment will depend on the severity of the disease and it usually must be tailored for every dog specifically. Insulin injections scheduled at the same time every day, are one of the necessary things for the majority of dogs with diabetes. You should also feed your dog regular meals and avoid treats since they are often high in sugar. Spaying your female dog can also help because female sex hormones often affect blood sugar levels.
Kidneys are one of the most vital organs in the dog's body because they remove waste from it and maintain balance. When they don’t work properly, toxins and waste can build up in the body and cause a lot of problems. This is called kidney failure, and kidney disease is one of the more common senior dog health problems.
This disease can be caused by many reasons, one of which is normal aging of the dog's kidneys, which is why senior dogs are more susceptible to kidney problems. If you notice that your dog is vomiting, loses weight or if you notice changes in urine production or water intake, take him to the vet.
Depending on the stage of kidney disease and the cause and type as well, the therapy can include drugs that encourage production of urine, medication for gastrointestinal issues, dialysis, dietary changes, correction of anemia and high blood pressure, etc.
There are many dental issues that affect older dogs, but the most common ones dental senior dog health problem is gingivitis, which is a name for gum inflammation and periodontitis, a gum disease. Usually, gingivitis precedes periodontitis, especially when it is left untreated. It's important to treat gingivitis before it advances to gum disease because the infection can then spread to the bloodstream and cause serious issues and damage to dog's other organs.
In the early stages, the focus is on controlling plaque and on preventing attachment loss. Daily brushing with proper dog toothpaste and toothbrush, as well as professional cleansing and polishing with the application of fluoride can help with this. In the more advanced stages of dental problems in senior dogs there might be a need for the application of antibiotic gel or even bone replacement procedures or periodontal splinting as suggested by a veterinarian.
Older dogs are more prone various types of cancer, which is not only the most common senior dog health problems but also the leading cause of death in geriatric dogs. In fact, more than 50 percent of all dogs older than 10 years develop some type of cancer.
Since blood tests are usually unable to detect canine cancer at the earliest stages, it is important to pay attention to any unusual bumps or lumps on your dog’s body, any slowly-healing sores, mouth, ears or nose bleeding or weight changes. Other symptoms to look out for include vomiting, diarrhea, mucous and blood in the stool, coughing and lethargy.
The treatment of cancer in senior dogs will depend on the stage in which cancer has been diagnosed and some of the most common therapies include radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery. Studies proven that spaying or neutering your dog can help in the prevention of cancer. Good dental care, as discussed above, can also improve chances of your dog's recovery or even preventing cancer altogether.
There are numerous different eye disorders that old dogs will suffer from, like glaucoma, cataract, nuclear sclerosis, dry eye and, in many cases, blindness. It's one of the less discussed serious senior dog health problems that pet owners often overlook.
Blindness comes as a consequence of cataracts and glaucoma in dogs, which means that it is very important to treat these conditions in a timely manner. Pay attention to symptoms like blinking of the eye, redness of the blood vessels in the eyes, cloudy appearances of the eyes, dilated pupils and vision loss as well as other dog eye related problems. Some of the most common treatment options for eye disorders include drainage of the fluid and surgery.
Dementia in dogs is also called canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) and it is a medical condition that can cause memory loss, confusion, disorientation and personality changes, which is extremely similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Another similarity comes from the fact that there is no known cause for dementia in senior dogs.
If you notice that your dog is forgetting familiar toys or seems to forget who you are, it is possible that he has dementia. There are ways to recognize cognitive dysfunctions in dogs, but little you can do to reverse the condition. Some dogs also forget their names, housebreaking rules or tricks, while others stare into space for a long time. It's one of the common senior dog health problems and you must take your pooch to the vet if you notice these symptoms. The dog may experience incontinence problems and you'll need to go back to using dog pee pads while addressing this health issue.
Some of the treatment options for geriatric dogs with dementia include the use of CBD oils, essential oils, herbs and natural supplements. There is no cure for dementia, but you can slow down the progress and relieve some of the symptoms.