Senior Dog Care: Common Health Problems

As dogs get older, they become more susceptible to various diseases and ailments associated with advanced age. We understand that witnessing your dog age isn’t easy. However, it is important to appreciate the changes and make sure you are doing everything in your power to make your senior dog as comfortable as possible. Your beloved, sweet pup still has many good years left!

What age is my dog considered a senior?

Dogs are considered “senior” at the age of seven. Typically, larger breeds live shorter life spans when compared to small breeds. Conceivably, best indication of old age in your dog is the emergence of health concerns and problems. There are outward signs of aging, including a graying coat and slower pace. However, it is important to understand that the internal organs and systems inside the body are also aging. This is why senior dogs are more likely to develop arthritis, cancer, cognitive decline, disease of the heart and kidneys, and more.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a complex, and painful disease categorized by the inflammation and breakdown of one or more joints in the body. Joints connect bones and enable them to move freely and smoothly. Cartilage, a kind of tissue, plays a role in cushioning and protecting the joint and bone. However, when the cartilage is worn down from old age, the bones begin to rub together with movement. This results in discomfort, decreased mobility and inflammation. Common tell tale signs that your dog potentially has Arthritis:

  • Limping/lameness especially after exercise
  • Struggle to get up
  • Stiffness
  • Inability to walk long distances and moves slower than usual
  • Difficulty climbing stairs
  • Failure to jump and play
  • Change in personality, increased irritability
  • Yelping when touched on certain areas of the body

If you think your dog is struggling with Arthritis and you need more information, click here: Arthritis in dogs: Everything You Need To Know.


Senior dogs are more likely to develop bumps and lumps. The leading cause of death to dogs over the age of 2 is Cancer.

Common cancers in dogs include lymphoma, squamous cell carcinoma, mast cell tumors and osteosarcoma. The good thing is that most cancers are treatable, especially if they are caught and treated early on. However, we do not have a lot of effective Early screening biomarker tests for animals. Pet Cancer Research is expanding and will result in more canine cancer cases being treated effectively. Common symptoms include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Lumps, bumps, swelling
  • Discoloration of skin
  • Repetitive vomiting/diarrhea
  • Unexplained lameness
  • Bleeding from nose, mouth

Preventative healthcare is important when it comes to cancer and it is important to enforce healthy lifestyle habits with your dog. Which includes regular exercise, and proper nutrition for senior dogs. If you are inspecting your dog and find a lump it is important to understand that not all lumps and bumps are a cause for concern. Lipomas are non cancerous, benign deposits of fatty tissue that usually reside between the skin and muscle layer. If you suspect your dog has cancer, you should consult with your veterinarian for screening and possible treatment.

Heart Disease

Heart problems and disease are common in senior dogs. One of the most prevalent is congestive heart failure (CHF), which is when the heart cannot pump enough blood and results in the buildup of fluid inside around the lungs, heart and thoracic cavity. Common symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue and weight loss. There is no cure for congestive heart failure, however with proper management and medications, the progression may be slowed. Prevention is imperati

Cognitive decline

With age, dogs can struggle with the decline of mental abilities. It is common that your dog may become anxious, nervous or confused even in situations that are accustomed to.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is the decline of mental capacity and ability in dogs. It is the canine version of Dementia.

It is common that owners will report noticing small changes in their dog when evening comes, which is known as “Sundowners Syndrome”. That is a tell tale sign that your dogs CCD is in the beginning stages.

Common symptoms of CCD include:

  • Confusion
  • Not responsive to commands
  • Sensitivity to sounds or stimulation
  • Increased accidents in house
  • Pacing
  • Sleeping during the day, and not at night
  • Increased barking or whining

If your dog is struggling with CCD, there are treatments including medication and supplements. It is important to consult with you veterinarian to discuss the options.


As a result of aging, the body undergoes changes. Similar to humans, dogs also experience the decrease in metabolic rate. If not handled properly with adequate exercise and a proper diet, it can result in obesity. Not only does obesity increase risk factors for Arthritis and heart disease and even cancer it decreases the overall quality of life. If your dog is obese, immediate action should take place, including changing diet and exercise habits for your dog.

Considering euthanizing?

One of the hardest questions to face is when the right time to let go is. Dogs are strong and resilient, and you may not even know your dog is battling an illness for a prolonged period of time. Euthanasia enables us to reduce that suffering in a controlled, painless and quick manner. Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly when this is appropriate, but a quality of life assessment may help. This addresses several factors including behavior, eating and drinking, defecation habits, mobility and joy so you can grasp a better understanding of your dog’s quality of life.

Takeaway statement

Senior dogs are more likely to develop ailments such as arthritis, heart disease, cognitive decline, cancer. and obesity. It is important to understand the treatment options for such diseases, and we recommend consulting with your veterinarian for guidance on when it is appropriate to consider euthanization.

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