Below you’ll find the most common illnesses that affect the older dog. Just like us, as our dog’s age, they too become susceptible to certain problems and diseases.
While it is important to provide your dog with routine veterinary care at any age, it is critical and even more IMPORTANT during their twilight years.
Early detection often prevents larger problems down the road.
Watch the Weight
It’s important that you regulate your older dog’s weight by not over feeding at meal time and by limiting the amount of treats you feed. Avoid giving your dog a little of everything you eat.
The Right Food and the Right Amount of Protein for Your Older Dog
One vital component of senior dog health is that your dog eat a high quality protein source. It wasn’t so long ago that it was believed that older dogs required less protein. This led to total confusion as to what we should be feeding our geriatric dogs. For years, dog owners were led to believe that once the dog becomes a senior, it’s time for one of those low fat, low protein formulas. NOT TRUE! Don’t reduce the amount of your dog’s protein just because of his age.
It’s critical that you DO NOT DECREASE your older dog’s protein.
Like us, dogs are different and they are indeed individual. We’ve had senior dogs that could easily become obese if we weren’t careful with their diet and on the other hand, we’ve had older dogs who lose muscle and appear very skinny even though they eat well. The bottom line is that your dog’s individual needs may differ from another senior dog.
We now know that older dogs don’t need less protein, but better protein sources. By feeding a superior quality protein source and all natural dog food, you can help your dog to remain strong and healthy while satisfying his hunger at the same time. Any of the brands on our food list are good choices.
Keep in mind that the federal guidelines (if any) are very relaxed when it comes to pet food labeling, so don’t assume because the food says “Senior Formula” that it’s everything your old friend needs. Good quality meat is very important for senior dogs.
There are several supplements that can prevent many problems and restore good health if given on a regular basis. Something as simple as a nutritional supplement can make all the difference in the world for your old friend:
A good multi vitamin can really give your old dog a boost and there are two that we recommend for your senior.
1. We love, love, love this vitamin. If your older dog has problems due to cancerous tumors of any kind, knee surgery, back problems, cataracts, knees, back issues, warts or any other issues; this is an excellent supplement that works at the cellular level. However, it is a BIG PILL, so if you can’t pill your dog, then we don’t recommend it. You can however crush and add to the food, but we all know how that goes; the dog might or might not eat it! Read the reviews here.
2. Dr. Harvey’s multi vitamin powder for seniors is another great choice. We use this for one of our senior dogs in the family. You can view it here.
Fatty acids such as salmon or flaxseed oil. – Critical to your old friend. Dogs of all ages should be given fatty acids with their meal and they should come from a good source that is guaranteed free of heavy metals and toxins.
Dogs with diseases such as kidney, liver and heart disease must have omega 3 fatty acids in their diet. DO NOT RELY ON THE DOG FOOD REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE PACKAGING SAYS! BUT, giving a junk fish oil can do more harm than good for your dog, especially if the dog has liver disease or cancer, whether you know it or suspect it. When buying fish oil, keep in mind that salmon oil should NOT smell like fish or be masked by any other scent such as lemon or lime. It should also be CLEAR in color. Here’s a brand that we recommend.
Arthritis And Hip Dysplasia
Both are common and affect all breeds, yet hip dysplasia usually impacts the large and giant breeds. For many breeds, both diseases are hereditary. Unfortunately, there is no cure for either and it’s a matter of reducing the pain for our older dog.
A hard time getting up or walking stairs; trouble getting around on hardwood, tile or linoleum floors and restless nights are all symptoms of arthritis. Stiffness in the morning, bunny hopping, altered gait (dog keeps back legs close to one another) and again difficulty with steps are symptoms of hip dysplasia.
Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease
Dental disease is such an unnecessary, but huge problem facing geriatric dogs. Veterinarians indicate that dental disease in dogs is actually the largest health issue facing dogs of all ages. Gingivitis or inflammation of the gums is a very painful condition which causes inflammation around the gum line and causes the gums to bleed.
Deep chambers develop around the gums causing pieces of food to get trapped leading to bacteria under the gum line. This bacteria is believed to contribute towards much larger health problems such as heart, liver and kidney disease. Again, this is a health issue that dog owners can control with a little TLC and effort. We’ve been using this formula for years. You have to use it like the bottle says in order to get the results that they guarantee!
Part of caring for your old dog is to keep an eye on your old friend’s eyes. :o) Just like people, a dog’s eye sight usually worsens with age. Common dog illnesses affecting the eye are Cataracts and Keratoconjunctivitis (Dry Eye). A cloudy eye is and indication of Cataracts while inflammation on the inner eyelid could be a symptom that your dog’s eyes are dry. For cataracts; one of our favorite animal herbalists makes and guarantees a product that reverses cataracts. You can check it out here. Talk to your vet about drops if your dog’s eyes are dry. He can recommend an over the counter brand or prescribe something for you.
Cognitive Dysfunction AKA Canine Senility
There is treatment for this older dog illness once your Veterinarian diagnoses it. The standard treatment is an oral prescription medicine called “Anipryl” which is the brand name aka “Selegiline” – the less costly generic version. If the medicine works for your old friend, then he will most likely need to stay on it the rest of his life. We wanted to share the warnings with you from the manufacturer’s website.
Please read carefully:
Warning: Dogs being treated for external parasites (flea medicines, etc.) should not be given Anipryl. Also, dogs being treated with anti-depressants for separation anxiety, etc. should not be given Anipryl. It is imperative that conditions such as brain tumors and any other abnormality be completely ruled out before treating your dog with Selegiline aka Anipryl.
A much safer option is to try MELATONIN which often helps dementia in dogs. Here’s a brand that’s labeled for dogs; but it’s no different than any other Melatonin brand. Follow this guide for dosage:
0.5 to 1 mg for small, 1 to 3 mg for medium and 3 to 9 mg for bigger dogs. Should be given every 8 hours.
Here are the symptoms:
- Dog is clearly confused. These dogs often find themselves stranded behind a chair or sofa and lose their way around familiar areas such as their backyard.
- Night walking. They often walk back and forth in the same area.
- No longer house broken. Dogs with CDS will often relieve themselves in the home which is out of the ordinary behavior for the dog.
- Blank staring.
- Not recognizing you or other members of the family.
- Reduced activity.
- Acting more aggressive.
- Forgets how to go up and down the stairs.
The membranes that line the skull and vertebrae column are called “Meninges”. Meninges tumors are slow growing and compress the brain.
More often than not, these tumors are benign and do not spread to other areas of the dog’s body. The problem is that as the tumor grows, it causes inflammation of the brain tissue and this leads to nerve damage in the brain. Surgery is the traditional method of treating any type of brain tumor, but not all types tumors can be removed.
As you can see the symtoms for Meninges Tumors differ from that of Cognitive Dysfunction:
- Circle walking
- Loss of eyesight (blindness)
- Dragging Feet
- Breathing problems
- Weak legs
- Eye symetry (eye shifting)
- Abnormal mental state
- Head bobbing
Kidney Disease is a Metabolic disease and all too common in older dogs. With early diagnosis, many dogs can live comfortably with diet change and medications. Should your dog be diagnosed with kidney disease, we urge you to talk with a holistic veterinarian who will use a much different protocol in treating your dog renal disease.
Our dog Jenna was diagnosed with kidney failure in August 2010 and as of January 2012, Jenna’s kidney values have remained stable. Through diet (not that disgusting Hills food that most dogs won’t eat) and natural supplements, her holistic vet has stabilized her. If your dog has any of the following symptoms, see your Vet immediately. Don’t procrastinate:
- Consuming excessive amounts of water
- Constant urination
- Throwing up
- Loose stool (diarrhea)
- Does not want to eat
- Little color in urine
- Sluggish (lethargic)
- Weakness with lack of coordination
Liver Disease can occur for a number of reasons including if your dog already has an existing health problem. Chemicals such as topical flea treatments are other factors that contribute to crashing your old dog’s immune system inviting kidney/liver problems. Older dogs MUST have bloodwork done twice a year in order to evaluate enzyme levels and catch liver disease early and possibly reverse it.
The most common type of Heart Disease in dogs is Chronic Valvular. This happens when the heart valve thickens. Learn more on our blog about chronic heart failure in dogs. Symptoms to watch for include:
- Breathing problems
- Doesn’t want to walk like he used to and avoids exercise
- Fainting spells
This is a very serious older dog illness. It’s important to have the necessary diagnostic testing done in order to get an accurate diagnosis of CVD. Treatment usually includes the use of several medicines along with a salt restricted diet. Your Vet will want to monitor your dog on a regular basis. Idiopathic Vestibular Disease affects older dogs and it’s symptoms are very similar to a stroke in dogs including confusion and head tilt. Other symptoms include rolling and rapid eye movement.
Here’s a product for dog’s with heart issues that gets very good reviews. Check it out for yourself.
Bladder Stones AKA Canine Urolithiasis – Urine Crystals
Older dogs are at a high risk for developing bladder stones and they are more common in females than males. Be sure your older dog has water available at all times. Traditional treatment of bladder stones largely depends on where the stones are located within the urinary tract.
DIET CHANGE – YOU DON’T NEED PRESCRIPTION DIETS: Most Veterinarians will recommend a diet change including those disgusting prescription foods don’t always work (we know first hand), and the dogs are hungry for good food.
Symptoms of bladder stones and crystals are:
- Blood in his urine
- Obvious pain while urinating
- Short, frequent urinating tendencies
Endocrine System Disorders In Dogs
Although there are several illnesses common to older dogs that are associated with the Canine Endocrine System, Cushings Disease and Hypothroidism are the two that affect senior dogs more than any others.
Cushings Disease is a disorder whereas excessive amounts of Cortisol are released into the system causing illness. The thyroid gland is what regulates your dog’s metabolism and Hypothyroidism is the result of a lazy (underactive) thyroid gland when not enough hormone is produced.
The most common traditional treatment for Cushing Disease is a medication called “Lysodren” with stimulation tests performed on 3-6 month intervals. Symptoms of Cushings Disease include:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Ravenous, can’t get enough to eat
- Muscle weakness
- Distended abdomen
- Alopecia or thinning hair
- Thin wrinkled skin
- Calcified bumps on the skin surface
- Hyperpigmentation of the skin
- Chronic and/or frequent infections
Treating Cushings Disease with Melatonin — The University of Tennessee recommends giving Melatonin to dogs with Cushings in this dosage: Under 30 lbs – 3 mg every 12 hrs and over 30 lbs – 6 mg every 12 hours.
A daily dosage of Throxine is the most common traditional treatment for Hypothyroidism, however some dogs don’t respond to Throxine so they need another medication. Our doberman “Jenna” (who has since crossed the rainbow bridge) had Hypothyroidism and she’s one of those dogs that the typical medication didn’t work for. She took Thyrolar 1 and did well on it. Her symptoms included:
- Dry flaky skin/coat
- Heavy shedding
- Low tolerance to the cold
- Slow heart rate
- Weight gain
- Cholesterol levels are high
Diabetes (also an Endocrine System Disorder)
Diabetes is also an older dog illness with two types affecting dogs. Diabetes Mellitus and Diabetes Insipidus are both the result of the inability of the dog’s system to produce hormones. Diabetes Insipidus is brought on by the lack of Vasopressin; an anti-diuretic that controls the kidneys absorption of water. Diabetes Mellitus is characterized by the lack of insulin.
Large, overweight older female dogs are at a higher risk for Diabetes. Diabetes MUST BE controlled. If left uncontrolled the dog can end up with dangerously low insulin levels which are life threatening. Low level insulin is known as “Ketoacidosis” and can be quick and fatal.
Insulin treatment as well as a low carb, high fiber and protein diet that includes a superior fat source is necessary. Your diabetic dog MUST be exercised. These are the traditional methods of treatment for Canine Diabetes. Read more about diabetes in dogs here. Symptoms of Diabetes include:
- Very thirsty and drinking more water
- Urinating a lot more
- Very hungry, noticeable increase in appetite
- Losing weight
- Cataracts suddenly appear
- Sticky urine
Old Dog Vestibular Disease (head tilt & rapid eye movement)
The symptoms of this disease appear suddenly. One day your dog is fine and the next day his eyes are shifting rapidly back and forth and his head is tilted.
Lumps, tags and skin bumps are common in the older dog, yet owners should specifically watch for an appearance change such as size, shape and color. Fatty deposits are usually large, lumpy and very common in senior dogs. Veterinarians will usually want to check the dog to be on the safe side. If determined that it is indeed a fatty deposit, most Vet’s agree to leave it alone while keeping an eye on it. Watch for skin tags that suddenly change in color or bleed.
Geriatric dogs often leak urine when they are in a laying position. Read more on Treating Canine Incontinence.
Males who have never been neutered develop prostrate disease at a higher rate than neutered dogs. Infections, abscesses, enlargement, cysts and tumors are common for geriatric males.
Unfortunately, the number of dogs that develop cancer is staggering. Why? Poor diet, chemical poisoning due to flea and tick products and heart worm meds, vaccinations and the list goes on.
Of course cancer isn’t just an older dog illness and it also affects canines the same way the same way it affects humans. The good news is that early detection has a tremendous effect on successful treatment. We have several pages here on our site that discuss everything from the necessary supplements and diet to undergoing radiation treatment where we followed one dog through all the phases of the treatment. You’ll also find information on cancerous and non cancerous tumors.
Use our search bar to find what you’re looking for.