Just like humans, dogs undergo a series of health changes as they age. Although some of these changes are inevitable, pet parents should be aware of changing health patterns in order to help spot any abnormalities.
Most Common Health Problems in Older Dogs
As dogs age, it's not uncommon for them to experience many different health issues. Specifically, older dogs are prone to the following conditions:
- Incontinence: Incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine. It typically occurs in older, spayed female dogs and typically takes place while the dog is sleeping or resting. Fortunately, most incontinence issues can be resolved with medical treatment.
- Stroke: Dogs become more prone to stroke as they age. Common symptoms to look out for include suddenly walking unsteadily, tilting the head to one side, walking in circles, paralysis, and rhythmically flickering eyes or vision impairment. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
- Osteoarthritis: Many older dogs struggle with osteoarthritis or related conditions. Osteoarthritis causes stiffness, pain, and limited mobility. Many cases of osteoarthritis can be helped significantly by anti-inflammatory medications and supplements like glucosamine. Consult your vet for more details.
- Dental Disease: Although all dogs are prone to dental disease, this is especially true in older dogs. Over time, the buildup of plaque on a dog's teeth can contribute to dental disease, which can lead to heart issues if left untreated.
- Dementia: Just like humans, older dogs are prone to dementia. Dementia may cause dogs to become anxious or confused about where they are, often pacing, panting or barking excessively for no reason. In some cases, they will become very withdrawn.
In addition to these conditions, older dogs may be susceptible to kidney or heart disease, diabetes, and thyroid problems. While some of these disorders are easy to spot, others will require a trip to the vet to diagnose fully.
Keeping Your Older Dog Healthy
As your dog ages, there are many things you can do to keep him or her healthy. First, older dogs should see the vet on a regular basis. This will help maintain an older dog's health and ensure that any emerging health issues are spotted early on — when they are easiest to treat.
Additionally, older dogs should be dewormed and treated for fleas and ticks on a regular basis. Although these may seem like simple steps, these important preventative measures can help dogs avoid the health problems caused by complications related to worms, fleas, or ticks.
Finally, pet parents should be extra vigilant about spotting health-related warning signs, such as excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, coughing, or behavioral changes. These symptoms may indicate dangerous health conditions and should warrant a trip to the vet immediately. Although older dogs are susceptible to many health problems and ailments, many of them are rendered easier to treat by early prevention and appropriate medical attention.
All pups age differently; however, pet parents can help their older dogs live a happy and healthier life by being aware of the warning signs of age-related health disorders.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.