9 Common Health Problems in Senior Dogs & How to Treat Them | CeeBeeDoo
It can be heartbreaking to see your once vivacious dog succumb to old age, but sadly, it happens to us all.
That being said, there is no reason why your four-legged friend can’t enjoy a happy and healthy life in their later years. As long as you, as their owner, remain vigilant when it comes to their overall physical health and wellbeing, they should live a long and happy life.
When it comes to dog health, there are many common conditions and ailments that your dog may develop as their age. Many of which are also typical in humans of a certain age.
From heart disease to hearing loss, kidney disease to joint health issues, keep reading to discover the most common dog health problems in aging dogs. Plus, how you can help to treat them.
How old is a senior dog?
Before looking into the main elderly dog health problems, it can first be a good idea to determine the answer to “what is a senior dog?”
Although most people believe that one human year equates to seven dog years, it is not that simple as some breeds age faster than others.
As a general rule, large breeds age faster than small dog breeds.
Small breeds are considered to be seniors between the ages of 10-12.
Medium breeds are considered to be seniors between 8-9.
Large breeds are considered to be seniors aged 6-7.
1. Heart Disease
Roughly 75% of older dogs will experience some form of heart disease, and like with humans, this condition can be caused by a variety of underlining health problems. There are two main heart conditions that your senior dog may suffer with: chronic valvular disease and myocardial disease.
Chronic valvular disease is a leaking of the heart valve that results in a reduction in the quantity of blood that can be pumped around your dog’s body.
Myocardial disease is a condition where the heart is weakened or thickened, resulting in the heart pumping less efficiently.
Signs of heart disease in dogs
- A persistent cough that does not go away
- Fainting or collapsing
- Difficulty breathing
- An inability to exercise
- A change in behaviors such as a lack of appetite, a reluctance to play, or a desire to isolate
- Swelling in the abdomen
Causes of heart disease in dogs
- Particular breeds
Small breeds such as miniature poodles and Pomeranians are more prone to chronic valvular disease. In contrast, larger breeds such as Great Danes are more susceptible to myocardial disease.
Treatments for heart disease in dogs
Sadly, there is no treatment that can reverse your dog’s heart condition, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot adopt certain practices to help them be able to continue to lead a healthy and happy life.
- Nutrition: If your dog has been diagnosed with a heart condition, now more than ever, you need to ensure that they are eating the right foods. Aim for a low sodium diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals and always choose healthy dog treats.
- Weight: Being overweight puts even more strain on your dog’s heart, so you need to make sure that they are maintaining a healthy weight.
- Exercise: Being physically active is crucial for all aging dogs but even more so for those with heart disease.
2. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
In terms of senior dog diseases, canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, or CDS, is extremely common. This condition manifests itself in behavioral changes that seem a little bit more noticeable than the usual signs of aging.
Signs of CDS in dogs
- Dog anxiety
- Prone to accidents in the home
- Disturbed sleeping patterns
- Restlessness at night
- Fatigued in the day
Causes of CDS in dogs
This condition is purely down to the effects of aging and is caused by chemical and physiological changes in the brain that affect overall brain function.
Treatment of CDS in dogs
You do not need to worry if your dog develops CDS, as it is a natural part of the aging process. That being said, there are steps that you can take to help manage their symptoms.
- Keep a routine: A common side effect of CDS is confusion, so it can be a good idea to establish a fixed daily schedule so that your senior dog knows that to expect.
- Treat dog anxiety: If CDS has caused your dog to become stressed or anxious, you may want to try giving them some anxiety treats for dogs that will instantly calm their nerves.
- Avoid stressful situations: Try not to place your dog in a kennel if you are going on vacation, as this can disorientate them greatly.
- Risk assess your home: Be vigilant of potential dangers in your home, such as steep backyard steps that your dog could fall down.
- Ask your vet about medication: Your dog may benefit from prescribed medication for CDS.
3. Kidney Disease
Chronic conditions such as kidney disease are also fairly common in aging dogs but can be quite hard to identify as they can develop slowly over time.
Signs of kidney disease in dogs
Watch out for the below signs in your dog:
- Changes in water consumption
- Changes in the amount of urine produced
- Anxiety or depression
- Loss of appetite
- Chemical-smelling breath
- Weight loss
- Blood in urine
- Mouth ulcers
- Pale gums
Causes of kidney disease in dogs
- Dental disease
- Hereditary or congenital conditions
Treatment of kidney disease in dogs
If your dog displays any of the above symptoms, you should visit your veterinarian as soon as possible for a full diagnosis. If they are suffering with kidney disease, there are several steps that you can take to help your dog manage their condition.
- Diet: If you have been thinking about when to switch to senior dog food, then now is the right time. Your dog’s diet should be low in protein, sodium, and calcium but high in omega 3’s. They should also have access to fresh water at all times.
- Medication: Depending on the stage of your dog’s kidney disease, your vet may prescribe medication. You should supplement this medication with vitamin D that can be used to reduce some of the secondary effects of renal failure.
- CBD products: Although CBD oil cannot directly help with kidney disease, it is known for stimulating appetite and reducing pain, both of which are common side effects of this condition.
- Kidney dialysis: When all other treatment options have been exhausted, your vet may suggest kidney dialysis.
4. Breathing problems
All breeds can experience dog breathing problems old age, although respiratory issues are more common in brachycephalic breeds or dogs that have short noses such as Pugs, Boxers, and Shih-Tzus.
Signs of breathing problems in dogs
- Excessive panting
- Labored breathing
- Excessive sneezing
- Nasal discharge
- Blue gums
Causes of breathing problems in dogs
Breathing problems could be a sign of many different dog health issues, including:
- Congestive heart failure
- Nasal tumor
- Foreign object in your dog’s nose
- Fluid on the lungs
- Laryngeal paralysis
- Kennel cough
Treatment of breathing problems in dogs
- Medication: Depending on the cause of your dog’s breathing problems, your vet may prescribe a number of medications to treat their condition.
- Surgery: If your dog has fluid on their lungs, you may be advised that they have surgery to drain the fluid.
- Diet: If heart disease is the cause of your dog’s breathing problems, they may be prescribed a special diet.
5. Joint problems
As your dog ages, they become much more susceptible to painful joint issues such as arthritis and other mobility problems. In fact, 4 out of 5 older dogs will develop canine arthritis.
Signs of arthritis in dogs
- Limping or lameness
- Stiff gait
- Change in posture
- Weight gain
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Sleeping more often and for longer
- Difficulty moving
- Loss in muscle mass
- Loss of appetite
- Aggressive or irritable when touched
- Accidents in the home
Causes of arthritis in dogs
- The size and breed of your dog. Larger dogs usually display more symptoms than a small breed
- Being overweight
- Trauma such as a joint injury
- Abnormal joint growth
- Bacterial infection
- Lyme disease
- Immune system issues
Treatment for arthritis in dogs
- Medication: Your vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory.
- Dietary changes: As your dog’s mobility is limited, you want to focus on a high quality diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Natural supplements: One of the CBD benefits, as in natural hemp, is the anti-inflammatory properties. It might also help to relieve any pain your dog is experiencing.
- Maintaining a healthy weight: If your dog is overweight, there will be even more strain on their joints, so helping them to reach and maintain a healthy weight is crucial.
- Regular exercise: Focus on low impact exercises that can help loosen up their stiff joints.
- Physical rehabilitation: Physical therapy is great for dogs with arthritis, and you can choose from muscular massage, motion exercises, and even warm water hydrotherapy.
6. Hearing Loss
It is extremely common for older dogs to gradually lose their hearing. This is most often caused by nerve degeneration, and their hearing is likely to get slowly worse over time. Hearing loss is often mistaken for dementia, as some of the symptoms are the same.
Signs of hearing loss in dogs
- Inability to hear commands
- Sudden disobedience
- Excessive barking
- Sleeping more often and more deeply
Causes of hearing loss in dogs
- Old age
- Repeated exposure to loud noises
- Foreign object blockage
- Injury or trauma to the ear
- An infection
- Drug toxicity
Treatment for hearing loss in dogs
A natural part of the aging process, you cannot treat hearing loss in dogs. However, you can make their life easier by adapting the below techniques:
- Use hand signals or gestures to communicate with your dog
- Purchase an emergency dog whistle that emits a very loud noise
- Use a vibration collar which gently vibrates when you press a remote control
- Practice desensitization techniques so that your dog does not fear unexpected touching
- Keep them on their leash when walking
- Stick to familiar places and people
As your dog ages, they will understandably be less active, and this can lead to weight gain. Unfortunately, being overweight or obese is even more dangerous for older dogs than their younger counterparts, increasing their risk of joint damage, heart disease, and respiratory decline.
Signs your dog is overweight or obese
- Abdominal sagging
- You cannot see or feel their ribs, spine, or waistline
- Reluctance to go for walks
- Excessive panting
- Reduction in stamina
Of course, many of the above are also consistent with old age, so it can be a good idea to take your dog to the vet to have them weighed and see if they are overweight or obese.
Causes of obesity in dogs
- A lack of exercise
- The misconception of the canine body
- Genetic predisposition – some breeds are more likely to be overweight such as terrier breeds, spaniels, and Labrador Retrievers.
Treatment for obesity in dogs
If you are not sure what is the best dog food for senior dogs, then now is the time to find out as overfeeding is the leading cause of weight gain in dogs.
- Focus on high protein, low-fat foods.
- Eliminate table scraps and treats that are designed for humans.
- Introduce natural hemp dog treats that might help to lower cholesterol, support heart health, and promote overall wellbeing.
- Enjoy at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
- Offer the correct portion sizes based on your dog’s breed, age, and size.
Statistically, 50% of all dogs over 10 years of age will develop some form of cancer, and this horrible disease is the leading cause of death in older dogs.
Signs of cancer in dogs
- A lump or bump
- A wound that won’t heal
- Swelling or enlarged lymph nodes
- Abnormal bleeding
- Pigmented sores
- Persistent coughing
- Rapid weight loss
Causes of cancer in dogs
- Some breeds are more prone to cancers than others
- Not being spayed
- Bad oral hygiene
Treatment for cancer in dogs
To put it simply, all the options that are available to humans who have cancer can also be used to treat dogs. You can try:
- Radiation therapy
You may also want to look into ways to manage the symptoms of both cancer and any treatment that they have to ensure. CBD products might help reduce pain and stimulate appetite, both of which your dog may be suffering with as a result of their illness.
There are even ongoing studies that suggest CBD could even lead to a process called cancer apoptosis, which is effectively the death of cancer cells. Although, this research is still in its early stages and has not yet been proven.
9. Vision Loss
Much the same as hearing loss, deteriorating eyesight is a natural part of the aging process and is nothing for you to worry about. Particular age-related vision loss conditions include senile retinal degeneration and age-related cataract development, which is caused by aspects of everyday life such as sunlight, UV exposure, and time.
Signs of vision loss in dogs
- Bumping into walls or furniture
- Trouble locating their food
- Becoming anxious
- Becoming clingy
- Reluctance to go outside at night
- Reluctance to jump off the bed or out of the car
- Stunned in the sunlight
- Not recognizing you from a distance
- Change in the look or color of your dog’s eyes
Causes of vision loss in dogs
- Macular degeneration
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Untreated infections
- Old age
Treatment for vision loss in dogs
If your dog’s vision loss is purely caused by old age, there is not much that you can do to help improve their eyesight. That being said, there are ways in which you can support them with their vision loss.
- Use scents: Mark important places in your home and your dog’s toys with a flavor extract, such as vanilla or essential oil like lavender.
- Be vocal: Speak to your dog before you approach them so that they are not taken by surprise.
- Background noise: When you go out, leave the radio or TV on so that your dog is not scared by loud noises from outside.
- Make your home safe: Block off stairs using a date and remove clutter.
- Keep food and water easily accessible: Don’t put any food or water in harder to reach places for your pooch as this might affect how often they eat and drink.
- Try an antioxidant supplement: This can help prevent age-related eye damage.
Top tips on how to keep your senior dog healthy
Of course, prevention is always better than cure, so follow the below top tips to keep your older dog fit and healthier for longer:
- Watch their weight – focus on a senior diet
- Keep them active – walk little and often
- Use supplements
- Be vigilant of their health and wellbeing
- Provide them with a quiet place to rest
- Increase the frequency of check-ups – at least twice a year
- Give them a daily massage
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