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Dog Care - Health Issues in Senior Dogs

Updated on January 7, 2015

Senior dogs are truly special. I love everything about them - the slowly wagging tails, the gentle eyes, the greying muzzles, the way they snore and twitch in their sleep. As our dogs age, though, there can be some health issues that may require us to put in a little extra dog care to make sure our faithful friends remain healthy as long as possible.

  • Dog joint problems. Many older dogs have arthritis, sometimes mild, sometimes more extreme. One thing we can do to help alleviate pressure on their joints is to keep them at a lean and healthy weight. Extra weight puts additional stress on the joints which can make mobility problems worse.
  • Loss of sight. One of my dogs, while still perky and active, has had a slight loss of vision. Occasionally he'll spot a clump of grass and think it's another dog, and he'll go bouncing over to say hello! If you notice that your dog may be losing his sight, it may be best to keep him leashed and close to you so that he doesn't accidentally bump into something or get lost. Just like with people, vision loss often affects night vision first: you might notice that your dog can't see as well as night as he does during the day time. To make it easier for your dog to see while on his nightly bathroom breaks, turn on the lights for him or install some solar garden lights to help him find his way.
  • Hearing loss. My friend always jokes that her dog has "selective hearing" since he can hear food being prepared 500 feet away, but he can't hear her calling him for his bath when she's 10 feet away. However, as dogs age they may not be able to hear as well as they used to (he isn't just being contrary, or trying to test your patience!). You might find you have to give you dog a tap to get his attention, or just call him a little louder. If your dog starts to show signs of hearing loss, you will also have to re-consider whether or not to let him run off-leash (where allowed) -- it can potentially be dangerous if he can't hear you call him back.
  • Skin problems. Lots of older dogs develop lumps and bumps under the skin. As you brush your dog or pet him, gently feel for any changes in his skin. Lumps should be promptly checked out by your vet, especially those that have changed in color or size. Don't panic - many lumps are completely benign!
  • Heart murmurs. As dogs age their heart valves may weaken and cause abnormal blood flow. Vets can diagnose heart murmurs initially by listening to your dog's heart with a stethoscope, and may follow up with a variety of tests to determine the cause of the murmur. Some of the symptoms to watch for include exercise intolerance and coughing (particularly when the dog is sleeping).
  • Changes in behaviour. Maybe you've noticed that your previously rock-solid, housetrained dog is now having accidents in the house. Or perhaps your dog has developed a reluctance to take the stairs. Behavior changes sometimes have a medical reason, such as canine diabetes, Cushings disease, thyroid issues, or other health problems that can become more common as dogs age. Consult with your vet - medical tests can help to rule out certain diseases or conditions.
  • Lesser need for exercise. You might find that your older pup no longer craves those long runs or endless sessions of fetch. Instead, adjust your dog's exercise as needed. Perhaps a couple of shorter walks every day or every other day may be more appropriate than one long session. Do not stop exercising your dog completely unless advised to do so by your vet - fresh air and exercise is still good for senior dogs and helps to keep them healthy and active.

Visit your veterinarian to discuss the changes you see in your senior dog. If he or she prescribes medications, make sure you do some research into the medication and ask questions. Although medications can improve the life of your dog they often have side effects as well. You can also consider alternative treatments like acupuncture that have helped improve the quality of life for many dogs, without the need for drugs.

With a little extra care and adjustments, you can help your furry pal enjoy his or her retirement years to the fullest.


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      Alexandra Maricle  7 years ago

      This is good people need to take care of there pets health and not let it get bad at all so be kind and sweet and nice and love on them play with them feed and give them water and shelter and just take good care of them I love dogs and I what them to be health

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      Veronica 7 years ago

      I agree. I keep my older dog active and he is doing just fine.

    • dogsdogsdogs profile image

      dogsdogsdogs 7 years ago

      Elsa, so sorry to hear about your dog. I hope that whatever time he has left is happy, and he keeps enjoying his food. We have elderly dogs too and we enjoy every day we have with them. Best of luck to you.

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      Elsa Hahn 7 years ago

      My golden retriever is almost 17 but 2 days ago he no longer can walk well. It happened over night, he collapsed outside and I had to carry him in with some help although you can see his rib cage because he is so thin. The only pain killer that has helped him get up and walk again is Tramadol. However, I don't know how long he can be on this med. He has accidents in the house so I have wewe pads all over. Is it time? I love him dearly and I cannot leave his side. He still eats great...chicken breast, filet and his dog food. He was always a good eater!

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      Dog Sneezing 7 years ago

      Yes , exercise is key for dogs of any age. We found our dogs would finally get to the point where their joints were determining how much exercise they got.

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      humahub 7 years ago from pakistan

      great hub for dog lovers

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      Caylan Kowalski 8 years ago

      I have a dog named Shana and she's 12! She is a golden retriever and she is a great dog. I just love golden retriever's!

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      Dave Schmidt 9 years ago

      I have an older pitbull male who has a large bump to the left of his rectum. I don't have money to take hil to the vet and well I was wondering if i could do something to help him, please help me if you can thank you!!!!!!!!

    • FitnessDog profile image

      FitnessDog 9 years ago

      I especially echo your point about not stopping exercise. Your dog still needs it. Many dogs with joint problems and arthritis still need movement--light regular exercise will actually help, but always confer with your vet.