Whether you just adopted an older dog, or they’ve been by your side since puppyhood, you want the best for your furry friend. As our dogs age, they require specialized care, just as we do. Different breeds are prone to different problems and age at different rates, but there are some health issues common among senior dogs of all breeds and sizes.
If your aging dog starts showing signs of discomfort or poor health, consult your veterinarian. In many cases, the signs of aging can be slowed drastically through therapies and medications that will keep your pup comfortable well into their golden years. Here are ten health issues to watch out for as your dog gets older.
1. Joint problems
If your dog acts like it is painful to walk or run and seems to have lost interest in the activities they used to enjoy, joint issues like arthritis might be to blame. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of stiffness and pain in many older dogs. It causes the cartilage to slowly wear away in your dog’s shoulders, hips, and legs. While there is no known cure for progressive joint issues, there are ways to lessen its impact on your dog.
In some cases, adding antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can slow the progression of joint pain. Other tools like orthopedic beds and dog ramps can help your pup adjust to their slower pace of life while keeping the strain on their joints to a minimum.
2. Hearing loss
If your dog doesn’t come the first time you call them or respond in the same way when you speak to them, it doesn’t mean they are ignoring you. Hearing loss is likely to blame. Hearing loss is common among older pets, and unfortunately, it’s usually permanent. The good news is that your dog relies mostly on its sense of smell to get around and can get by without perfect hearing. Be patient with your dog as they learn to use other senses to adapt to their environment.
3. Vision loss
Cataracts and cloudy vision can cause partial or complete blindness in older dogs. While sight is still secondary to their sense of smell, many older dogs become anxious when they can’t navigate their living area or yards any longer. While deteriorating eyesight is quite normal in older dogs, it’s best to take your dog to the vet to rule out any serious conditions. As your pet loses their sight, you can comfort them by keeping furniture arrangements consistent and arranged in familiar ways and staying close by when they are outdoors, so they don’t wander off.
4. Skin and coat issues
As your dog ages, it’s natural for their skin and coat to go through some changes. They may start to show gray hair. The shine on their fur might not be as bright. If your dog starts scratching, biting, or pulling out their fur, however, it’s time to get them to a vet for a skin checkup.
Fatty growths, called lipomas, are another common issue in older dogs. While lipomas are benign, it’s a good idea to get any lump, bump, or lesion checked by a professional to make sure it isn’t harmful to your pet.
5. Weight gain or loss
It isn’t unusual for older dogs to gain weight as they grow older and become less active. To keep weight in check, you can use low-calorie food that is formulated for under-active dogs. Other pups may lose weight because of a loss of appetite, painful dental issues, or because they simply don’t crave as many calories. A diet that is high in calories and nutrients can help underweight dogs maintain a healthy weight.
6. Poor dental health
If your senior dog suddenly has horrible breath, there may be an underlying dental issue that should be addressed by your veterinarian. Loose teeth, drooling, and gum inflammation are all signs that your dog’s mouth needs a tuneup. In addition to professional cleanings and extractions of rotten teeth, there are water treatments and tooth-scrubbing tools and treats that can help keep your senior dog’s pearly whites intact and pain-free.
As dogs age, their bladder muscles can grow weaker, making it harder for them to control the flow of urine or hold it as long as they could in their younger years. If your pet is suddenly having issues with incontinence, take them to the vet to make sure it isn’t a urinary tract infection or kidney issue. If it’s just a sign of aging, try training them to use a padded mat if they have an emergency before you can walk them, or use a dog diaper to keep accidents from happening overnight.
8. Memory loss
Have you noticed your dog barking at objects or people they have never been afraid of before? Just as humans can lose their memories as they grow old, our furry friends can begin to forget things about their day-to-day lives and environments too. Since smell is such a sharp sense for dogs, keep familiar blankets, beds, and toys spread around their environment for an added sense of security.
Age increases the risk of cancer and cancerous growths in dogs. Watch your dog for any unusual bulges or bumps and take them to the vet if you have concerns about their behavior or health. There are treatments for canine cancers that can prolong life and keep your pet comfortable.
10. Changing behavior
If your dog develops an unusual or annoying habit, you can likely chalk it up to the aging process. Many dogs start licking their paws, pacing the floor, or forgetting commands that were once second nature. Be patient with your dog while they navigate their advancing age, and know that their idiosyncrasies are not their fault.
If you notice any unusual behaviors or visible health issues with your pet, consult a vet first. In many cases, health issues can be addressed through medication and natural remedies to keep your furry friend healthy and feeling spry for as long as possible.