Health problems are more likely to arise in our senior dogs as they age. In this post, our Pleasant Hill veterinarians discuss common health issues in senior dogs and how diligent geriatric care can help.
Common Health Issues in Geriatric Dogs
Routine preventive veterinary care and early diagnosis become critical to your dog's health and well-being as they reach their golden years. Many of the same conditions that affect humans affect senior dogs, including arthritis, dementia, cognitive dysfunction, cancer, blindness, and others.
Geriatric dog care, including regularly scheduled wellness exams, can allow your vet to detect these issues early and develop a treatment plan to manage the condition.
Common health issues in senior dogs include:
Similar to their human parents, many dogs experience arthritis as they age. The most common type of arthritis seen in aging dogs is osteoarthritis (also known as Degenerative Joint Disease). The condition primarily affects weight-bearing joints such as the elbows, shoulders, knees, and hips, causing cartilage erosion, abnormal bone growth, and fluid loss.
These joint changes result in pain, stiffness, and a reduced range of motion. The condition is progressive, which means it will deteriorate over time. Although there is no cure, it can be treated to slow progression and alleviate pain.
Dementia & Cognitive Dysfunction
Many developmental changes and dementia symptoms may appear in dogs as they age, including confusion, wandering or pacing, standing in corners as if lost, urinary/fecal accidents, shifts in sleeping patterns, withdrawal or lack of interaction with family, and others.
Because many of these symptoms can be indicative of other diseases, it's best to consult your veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis. While there is no cure for dementia or cognitive dysfunction, medications and supplements may be beneficial in some cases.
Kidney disease is a common health problem in older dogs, as aging takes its toll on the body. Chronic (renal) kidney disease is typically a progressive process that begins with renal insufficiency and progresses to full kidney failure. While there is no cure for the disease, there are many ways to manage and treat its symptoms to extend and improve your pet's life.
The sooner your veterinarian detects the disease, the more steps they can take to slow its spread. A urinalysis may catch early changes in the kidneys. Lethargy increased thirst, urination, nausea, and loss of appetite are all symptoms of kidney disease. A prescription kidney diet may be very helpful in managing symptoms.
Diabetes in dogs is caused by a faulty glucose-insulin connection, and it can take one of two forms: insulin-deficient diabetes (when the dog's body does not produce enough insulin due to a damaged or non-functioning pancreas) or insulin-resistant diabetes. The pancreas produces some insulin in this case, but the dog's body does not use it properly. This type of diabetes is more common in older, obese dogs.
Insulin-deficient diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in dogs.
While diabetes can become an issue for dogs of any age, it mostly occurs in middle-aged or senior dogs and results in abnormal blood chemistry that causes damage to multiple organs, including the heart, nerves, blood vessels, eyes, and/or kidneys.
Increased appetite, excessive thirst, increased urination, and weight loss is all symptoms. Blood and urine tests can assist your veterinarian in diagnosing the disease. The veterinarian may recommend a combination of injections, diet, exercise, and other measures to monitor and manage your dog's disease.
Cancer is a common and frequent health issue in senior pets. Because different cancers cause different symptoms, it's critical to bring your pet in for wellness exams as they age, so your vet can detect early signs of the disease and potentially save your dog's life.
A routine wellness exam, lab work panel, or diagnostic imaging can detect subtle signs that the naked eye may miss. Treatment will differ depending on the type of cancer and its stage in your pet.
What might easily be interpreted as simple changes due to old age could be early symptoms of cancer, so ensure you stay up to date with wellness visits as your pet enters its golden years.
Due to degenerative changes in the eye or an eye disease such as cataracts, many dogs experience a gradual loss of vision as they age. There are no treatments available to reverse blindness caused by aging. However, dogs' senses can help them adapt to the loss of vision — you just need to be aware of their lack of vision and take your time walking them around, keep them on a leash at all times if outside, and avoid moving furniture around in your house. It should be noted that sudden blindness can be a veterinary emergency.
Our knowledgeable veterinary staff is here to assist you as you navigate your pet's senior years. We are here to answer your questions, identify emerging health issues, and provide proactive geriatric care treatment while problems are still effectively and easily managed.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.