As your dog gets older, it is best to keep an eye out for his health, no matter how healthy he may seem. Health problems in senior dogs are quite common as their immune system weakens, leaving them more vulnerable to mobility problems and other diseases. Early detection can lead to longer and happier lives and even improve your older dog’s quality of life.
When is a dog considered senior?
A dog is generally considered senior when he reaches 7 years of age but it still depends on the size and breed. Large breeds age quickly compared to smaller ones. A Great Dane, for example, is considered senior when he reaches 6 years old while a small Chihuahua can only be considered a senior when he reaches 9 years of age.
Aside from the size and breed, genetics and environmental factors also play a big factor in how a dog ages. But the most obvious indicator that your dog has entered his senior years is the appearance of age-related health issues.
Symptoms of a Sick Dog
Dogs are good at hiding pain, often showing their owners nothing is out of place. Aside from that, they also can’t directly tell us how they are feeling and so the only way to truly tell how your lovable pooch is feeling is by paying attention to the signs.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of a sick dog:
- Decreased energy levels
- Sudden changes in habits, behavior, or personality
- Changes in urine and stool
- Pain while walking or running
- Excessive salivation or thirst
- Excessive vomiting
- Dry and itchy skin
- Unhealthy weight loss
- Loss or decreased appetite
If you notice any of these signs on your dog or they are behaving unlike themselves, it is best to take them to the vet.
Common Health Problems in Senior Dogs
Older dogs are more vulnerable than ever. Due to their weakened immune systems, they are prone to illnesses and age-related health problems might also start emerging.
In this article, we’ve listed down the most common health problems in senior dogs that you need to look out for.
Hearing and Vision Loss
Because of tissue degeneration in the eyes and ears, older dogs are likely to develop hearing and vision loss problems.
Cataracts, one of the common health problems in senior dogs, is a cloudy layer that forms over the lens of the eye that can cause partial or total blindness. It requires surgery to remove cataracts, however, even without one, dogs are still able to navigate around because of their good sense of smell and hearing.
Vision loss is caused by several issues, including genetics and chronic ear infections. Deaf dogs won’t be able to hear you anymore but their other senses make up for it. They will be able to feel vibrations on the floor to know you are approaching them and are also smart enough to understand simple hand signals.
Take note to always take precautions when you are outside with a dog who has hearing or vision loss issues.
One of the most common causes of joint pain in dogs is osteoarthritis, a progressive degenerative disease. This is when there is a loss of lubrication and the cartilage in the joints wears away and can render your dog disabled. Unfortunately, there is no cure, however, there are treatments that can help reduce pain and slow down the disease.
Nutrition is also a huge factor that’ll help your dog with joint issues, especially omega-3 fatty acids.
Dementia or Cognitive Dysfunction
Similar to humans, dementia and other cognitive disorders are also common among senior dogs. A few signs of cognitive dysfunction are:
- Confusions and disorientation
- Whining or barking for no reason
- Getting lost in familiar surroundings
- Bathroom accidents
These signs can also indicate other health conditions so it is best to visit your veterinarian the moment you see your dog displaying the mentioned symptoms. There is no cure for dementia in dogs just yet but medications and healthy food can help improve your dog’s quality of life.
As they age, dogs become less active. It could be because of joint pain or decreased energy levels. This could result in obesity because of the lack of physical activity. Overweight senior dogs are more vulnerable to illnesses such as diabetes. Aside from regular exercise, also feed older dogs age-appropriate meals to make sure they are getting a balanced diet and the daily amount of needed nutrients.
As your dog gets older, his kidney might lose its functions. Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease has no cure but it can be managed with proper treatment that can prolong your dog’s life. In the early stage, routine blood work is needed as this can improve your dog’s chances of surviving. Balanced nutrition is also important to maintain the organs.