Health Issues of Older Pets

As your pets get older, he may face certain health issues. Much like your own, every stage of your pet’s life has its rewards and challenges. These challenges may include hearing or vision loss, arthritis, cancer, cognitive disease, kidney disease, heart disease, hypothyroidism and periodontal disease.

Hearing loss is common in older dogs. The most common type of deafness is age related. If you suspect your dog suffers from hearing loss, it is important to determine whether it is temporary or permanent. A visit with your veterinarian to assess whether your dog’s deafness is age related or due to some other cause is recommended. This is important for her overall health. If the deafness is permanent, it is important to find other ways to communicate with her. One option is to teach your dog hand signals. Another option is to change the way you communicate. For example, perhaps you physically walk over to her food dish to  communicate it is time to eat. There are many options available to help pets who suffer from hearing loss.

Vision loss from cataracts, dry eye or nuclear sclerosis may occur in older dogs due to the eye’s natural aging process. If you notice a white cloudiness in your dog’s eye, this could be cataracts. Redness, discharge or eye infections may indicate dry eye. A bluish haze in a dog’s pupil could be caused by nuclear sclerosis which usually does not affect vision. Your veterinarian may recommend medications or surgery depending on the diagnosis and its severity.

While most dogs develop some arthritis as they age, large and giant breeds are at a higher risk of developing this disease. Arthritis is a degenerative disease which can be quite painful. If you notice your dog is having difficulty going up or down stairs, jumping in or out of the car, or seems painful or stiff while trying to stand after lying down, he may suffer from arthritis. Treatment options such as medication or management strategies including weight loss for overweight dogs may be appropriate.

Older dogs have higher rates of cancer. The most common types of cancer are lymphoma, bone cancer, soft tissue cancer, oral cancer and breast cancer. Warning signs may include significant weight loss, loss of appetite, skin lumps which grow larger over time, non-healing sores, or bleeding from the mouth, nose or anus. Dogs who have cancer may have difficulty urinating or defecating. Their energy level often decreases. Eating or swallowing can become difficult or they may develop difficulty ambulating.

As dogs get older, they can experience cognitive decline. If your older dog seems confused, anxious or forgetful, she may suffer from cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Other potential signs your dog is experiencing cognitive decline include urinating or defecating in the house, wandering around without a purpose, or sleeping more often. While there is no cure, it is possible to manage cognitive decline with medication. You can also make environmental and behavioral modifications to help your older dog age with dignity.

Kidney failure is common in older dogs. Therefore, it is important to schedule regular geriatric exams with your veterinarian to increase the chances of catching this condition in its early stages. While kidney disease is not reversible, it may be managed through diet, fluid therapy, medication or supplements.

As your dog ages, his chances of developing heart disease increases. Signs your dog may have heart disease include tiring more easily, coughing, especially at night, or difficulty breathing. Depending on your dog’s diagnosis, your veterinarian may prescribe medication or a special diet to help manage his heart disease. If your dog’s gums or tongue have a bluish appearance, immediate attention by a veterinarian is necessary as this could be a sign of a severe breathing issue.

Hypothyroidism is another condition dogs may develop as they age. This is caused by inadequate levels of thyroid hormone. Signs of possible hypothyroidism include skin and coat issues, unexplainable weight gain, loss of energy and less mental alertness. Blood tests are necessary to measure your dog’s thyroid hormone levels. If your veterinarian confirms your dog has this condition, she will likely require prescribe daily medication.

When plaque and tartar build up on your dog’s teeth and gums, periodontal disease often occurs. Regular brushing and routine dental cleanings offer protection from this painful disease. Signs of periodontal disease include picking up then dropping food or difficulty eating. Regular dental cleanings by your veterinarian will help prevent your dog from developing dental disease as she ages.

While your dog will likely face some health challenges as he ages, staying vigilant, proactive and scheduling annual wellness exams with your veterinarian will help protect him. Providing your pet with proper wellness care will help her lead a healthy, happy, comfortable and wonderful life.


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