It’s easy to forget that your dog ages about seven times faster than you do. This means that by the time your dog is around nine years old, they would technically be considered a senior citizen if they were a human. It’s important to keep this in mind because your dog’s old age can sneak up quickly, along with many common health problems you should be aware of.
You should start taking your dog to the vet at least once per year when they reach age seven. Once they are 10 or older, you should start taking them twice per year.
While the vet can run tests to make sure your dog doesn’t have any serious illnesses, here are the most common health problems you can expect an older dog to have simply from aging.
Just as many humans have a tendency to get heavier as they get older, so do dogs. Obesity is not just a common problem for older dogs, it’s a common problem for many dogs in general, due to overfeeding and lack of exercise. Nevertheless, as dog ages, their activity levels and metabolism will drop. It’s important to make sure your dog is on the right diet and getting enough exercise, no matter how old they are.
Don’t be surprised if your senior dog seems a bit more confused and forgetful than they used to be. As a dog ages, cognitive decline is virtually inevitable. You can also expect changes in your dogs mood and behavior. For example, they may become disinterested and cranky.
Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
Poor oral health is one of the most common ailments old dogs deal with. However, tooth decay and gingivitis in dogs is actually preventable. You may not know this, but you should be brushing your dog’s teeth every day, especially after they reach adulthood – just don’t use human tooth paste!
Kidney failure is one of the most serious types of health problems older dogs face. There’s not much you can do to prevent it, or cure it after it’s gone on for too long, but if your vet detects kidney disease early on through urine tests, their are treatments your dog can go on to manage it. The best thing you can do to minimize the risk of your dog’s kidneys failing is to never give them any kind of medicine without consulting their vet.
Loss of Hearing and Vision
As dogs get older, they have a tendency to lose their hearing and/or vision. While most dogs won’t completely lose these senses, don’t be surprised if you have to start whistling a lot louder for your pooch to come back to you. If you notice your dog is becoming hearing or vision impaired, you should keep an extra eye on because they’ll have a harder time avoiding potential dangers – e.g., a car pulling into the driveway.
Tumors and Other Growths
Most dogs will develop some type of growth – or many – on their body as they age. While these growths are usually benign and nothing to be alarmed about, it’s still a good idea to have a vet look them.
Congestive Heart Failure
Like kidney failure, congestive heart failure is another serious health problem your dog is at risk for as they age. The easiest way to tell if your dog might have a problem with their heart is if they are excessively coughing and/or having a hard time breathing. If you notice your senior dog exhibiting either of those symptoms, you should get them to a vet right away so they can be diagnosed and begin treatment.
Once again, just like people, one of the most common ailments affecting old dogs is arthritis. If you notice your senior dog has a hard time getting up, lying down, going up stairs, etc… the reason is osteoarthritis. It simply hurts their joints to move around. The good news is there are anti-inflammatory supplements and medications your vet can prescribe to ease your dog’s pain.