Old Dog Health Problems
- Unusual lapses in housetraining. A dog that may
have been rock-solid steady in his housetraining may start
eliminating in appropriate places. Now, housebreaking an adult or senior dog
again is possible, of course, but the first thing to do is bring
him to the vet to rule out (or treat) any underlying medical
conditions that may be causing these housebreaking problems.
Some conditions that can cause excess thirst (leading to
more drinking and more urinating) include
or canine diabetes.
Canine cognitive dysfunction ("doggy dementia") could
also cause dogs to have lapses in housetraining.
- Check your dog for lumps and bumps, particularly any that
appear suddenly or that appear to change in size, shape,
texture, or color. Check all over his body, including in between
his paw pads. Note the location and size of the lumps
and contact your vet for advice. Your vet will do a physical
exam and ask you questions about your dog's behavior. He or
she can then suggest various courses of action.
Many lumps are benign, such as fatty cysts or warts. If you or your vet believes it might be malignant, a fine needle aspirate may be possible (where they suck some cells out of the lump), or the lump may be removed. General anesthesia always carries a risk... so if the lump isn't malignant or bothering the dog in any way, perhaps it isn't worth removing. Ask your vet for advice.
- Adjust your dog's food as required. Many commercial
dog foods offer a "senior's diet" which is supposed
to be specially formulated for the older dog. As dogs age,
their metabolisms can change and they could become more
prone to obesity if their diets are not adjusted accordingly.
Some people prefer to homecook for their dog or feed them raw
diets. A holistic veterinarian and veterinary nutritionist may
be able to help you create a diet that's appropriate for your
dog and provides all the nutrients he will need.
Also look for changes in your dog's appetite. Both increases and decreases in appetite can be caused by medical conditions (for example, liver disease in dogs is one of many reasons why a dog may lose his appetite).
- Look for changes in your dog's coat. For
instance, a visit to the vet may be warranted if your
dog's fur becomes very dry or he starts to lose hair
(not merely his normal shedding, but real loss of fur).
- Is your dog drinking or urinating excessively?
This is known as polydipsia/polyurea, and there
are could be several medical reasons behind it. A complete
check-up and bloodwork can help determine the cause.
- Decreased mobility in older dogs is pretty common.
You might notice that your pet has trouble getting up
or climbing stairs, or perhaps he doesn't like to
rough house with the other pets anymore. You can ask
your vet to assess your dog for arthritis or other
With some dogs (like with some people) it's fairly mild,
and in others it can be quite painful. Doggy ramps and
elevated feeders are just a couple of useful items
that can assist older dogs.
If your pet's mobility is on the decrease, make sure you likewise adjust his exercise routine (shorter walks, swimming, etc). Exercise is still important to keep him healthy. Likewise, try to keep him at a healthy weight as it will put less stress on his joints.
- Are there changes in hearing or vision? If you
notice that dog doesn't come on command anymore, starts
reacting as if he's startled when someone approaches,
or begins bumping into things, take him to the vet for
assessment. Dogs usually start to experience a decrease in
both vision and hearing as they age. Unfortunately, there's
not a lot that can be done other than making changes to help
dogs adjust to their decreased vision and hearing (for example,
using big gestures to communicate with your dog).
- Look for changes in behavior. This can include
confusion (even to the point where he doesn't recognize
members of the family), restlessness, separation anxiety
when none existed before, and more. Sometimes there is an
underlying physical reason for behavior changes; it could
also be dementia. Your vet will examine your dog to try to
determine the cause.
Your vet may suggest a senior's blood panel to screen for some of the more common geriatric conditions so that they can be treated, if necessary. Old dog health issues are to be expected, just like when people age, we experience health issues too. But senior dogs make wonderful pets and deserve to live out their remaining years with dignity, as happy and as healthy as possible.