Caring for Your Aging Dog: 8 Health Issues to Watch For And Which Breeds Are Most Susceptible

Olivia Salvatore
By Olivia Salvatore

As our dogs enter their golden years, they undergo many of the same health changes as humans. Just as we need to pay extra attention to our own health as we age, it’s crucial to monitor our senior pets for signs of potential health issues. An early diagnosis can make all the difference, improving both the quality and duration of your beloved pet’s life.

In this article, we’ll discuss several common health problems in older pets, highlighting the symptoms associated with each along with the most statistically susceptible breeds.

Please keep in mind that the breeds listed for each issue is just a matter of data. It doesn’t preclude your dog’s breed, so make sure to keep an eye out and communicate with your veterinarian as your dog gets older.

8 Most Common Health Issues In Older Dogs

1. Cancer

Cancer is prevalent in older pets. While the exact causes vary, age is a significant risk factor.

Symptoms to watch for:

    • Unusual lumps or bumps that grow or change shape
    • Sudden weight loss or loss of appetite
    • Wounds that don’t heal
    • Difficulty breathing or chronic cough
    • Persistent lameness or stiffness
    • Odd-smelling discharge or odor

Certain breeds are predisposed to specific types of cancers, including…

2. Kidney Issues

The kidneys play a vital role in filtering toxins. As pets age, their kidney function can decline, leading to various issues.

Symptoms to watch for:

    • Increased thirst and urination
    • Decreased appetite and weight loss
    • Vomiting or diarrhea
    • Dry coat or flaky skin
    • Lethargy

While any dog can develop kidney issues, some breeds have a genetic predisposition such as…

3. Incontinence

Diapering senior dogs helps prevent accidents, which benefits both the dog and owner.

Incontinence, or the inability to control urination, can be a problem in senior pets due to weakened bladder muscles or other underlying health issues.

Symptoms to watch for:

    • Dribbling urine or wet spots where the pet was lying down
    • Frequent licking of the genital area
    • Urine odor in the pet’s sleeping areas

This issue can be seen in many breeds, but is more common in some due to size and anatomy, like…

4. Dementia and Cognitive Dysfunction

Just like humans, older pets can develop cognitive disorders that affect their memory, perception, and learning.

Symptoms to watch for:

    • Confusion or disorientation, even in familiar places
    • Changes in sleep patterns (e.g., restlessness at night)
    • Repetitive behaviors, such as pacing
    • Forgetting commands or trained behaviors
    • Decreased interest in play

All senior dogs can experience cognitive decline, but the following breeds are more at risk:

5. Heart Disease

As pets age, the risk of heart disease increases, especially in certain breeds.

Symptoms to watch for:

    • Coughing, especially at night
    • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
    • Reduced desire to exercise
    • Swollen abdomen or weight loss
    • Fainting or collapsing

Certain breeds are more predisposed to heart conditions, including:

6. Diabetes

Diabetes results from an inability to regulate blood sugar levels properly. This condition is manageable with early diagnosis and appropriate care.

Symptoms to watch for:

    • Excessive thirst and urination
    • Increased appetite but weight loss
    • Cloudy eyes (in dogs)
    • Thinning, dry, or dull coat

Some breeds have a higher risk of diabetes due to genetic factors like…

7. Arthritis

Arthritis, or inflammation of the joints, is common in older pets due to wear and tear over the years.

Symptoms to watch for:

    • Limping or difficulty moving
    • Stiffness, especially after resting
    • Swollen joints or a hunched back
    • Reduced activity or reluctance to play

While arthritis can affect any dog, especially with age, some breeds are more prone due to their size and build including the following:

8. Vision and Hearing Loss

Notice the cataract in the dog's left eye (circled).

With age, pets may lose their sharpness in vision and hearing, affecting their daily routines.

Symptoms to watch for:

    • Bumping into objects or furniture
    • Startling easily or not responding to calls
    • Cloudy or hazy eyes
    • Excessive earwax or debris in the ears

Age-related vision and hearing loss can affect all breeds, but some are genetically predisposed to early or more severe issues, such as…

Our pets have been loyal companions through many of life’s ups and downs. As they enter their twilight years, it’s our turn to ensure they’re comfortable, happy, and healthy.

By knowing the signs of common ailments that affect senior pets, you can take prompt action, giving your beloved furry friend the best possible care in their golden years.

Regular check-ups and consultations with your veterinarian are crucial, as they can provide personalized advice and treatments tailored to your pet’s unique needs.

Remember, the love and care we show our senior pets today will echo in the joyful moments we share with them tomorrow.

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