Pet Portrait Artist Julie Palmer

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Older Dogs and Their Health Problems


As your dog becomes a senior citizen, you are sure to notice the different physical and mental changes. Kiley is not a young pup anymore. The spring is missing. She sleeps more than she ever used to. There is white on her muzzle. Where did all the time go?

Some dogs age more rapidly than others do. It is a fact of life. We can pamper them, feed them the best and do all we can to slow the process down. Yet, no matter how hard we try, we cannot prevent aging. What we do need to be is prepared. We need to know the most common senior health problems.

1. Arthritis is the most common health issue facing our senior dogs. We cannot cure it. We can only mitigate the effects. A dog with arthritis gets up slowly. There are clear indications of sore muscles and aching joints. Sometimes the actions of walking are obviously painful.

2. With arthritic dogs, there will be good days and bad days. Whatever you do, do not allow your dog to lie down all day. Your dog needs exercise to reduce some of the stress and pain. Your dog also needs exercise to make sure there is no extra weight. A larger girth increases the stress on the affected joints.

3. There is medication, anti-inflammatories, to ease the pain. Nutraceuticals may also help. Exercise and weight control are also at the top of the list. You may also want to consider some alternative methods such as massage, acupressure, acupuncture or hydrotherapy.

4. Incontinence. You need to realize it is not the dog's fault. Changes in bathroom habits are common. Make sure the accidents do not occur as the result of kidney problems or diabetes. Be sure the dog has easy access to the facilities. Add additional times to go out.

5. Cancer. Many people discover their dog has the big C. They notice small hard lumps on the body. While many are benign growths, some may not be. Check with your vet. If they are cancerous, you can decide whether or not an operation is feasible. In some instances, surgery can do more harm than good. Find out all the options before you decide what to do in the case when cancer strikes.

6. Obesity. This is probably the most common problem of senior dogs. What you must realize is that obesity is more than a simple problem. It is a causal factor or a contributor to other senior (and younger dog) health issues. Overweight dogs place more stress on sore joints. There are also issues of breathing problems, dental difficulties, heart problems and more.

7. Do not allow your dog to become grossly overweight. Do not even let your dog become "pleasantly plump." Senior dogs need to be in fighting weight. Do not over feed them. Do not feed them fattening junk food. Make sure they enjoy life and their food. Give them treats, but do not make them into a little porker.

8. Eye problems. As dogs become older, their eyes dim. They may become hazy or cloudy. Make sure the eyes are not suffering from any serious and correctable problems such as cataracts.

9. Hearing loss. As your dog gets older, his hearing will fail. Be sure when you notice this, that it is the result of old age and not some ear infection. Have the vet check the ears. Unfortunately, there is little to be done to improve your senior dog's hearing. You will need to adapt. This time, Kiley is not being selective in what she hears, she really cannot hear you calling.

You may discover other health issues as your dog reaches its Golden Years. These range from kidney and heart disease to dental problems and constipation. You will learn to adjust and adapt. It is all part of the life cycle. With any luck and lots of love, you and Kiley will do just fine.

Information provided by Christi Tate of, check for current discounts on dog mats


All images are copyright 2001 to 2018 Julie Palmer. Portrait images must not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of the copyright holder.

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