Common Health Problems Senior Dogs Face

Heart Disease

An old dog’s heart is willing, but it doesn’t always tick the way it used to. Alert your veterinarian if your dog seems to tire more rapidly than normal, even with mild exercise. Other signs that are cause for concern include coughing, especially during the night, and difficulty breathing. Severe breathing issues — especially if you notice a bluish appearance to the gums or tongue — require an emergency trip to the vet. Depending on the problem, your veterinarian may prescribe medication or a special diet to help manage the condition.


As dogs get older, their levels of thyroid hormone can drop, leading to a condition called hypothyroidism. Signs you may notice include skin and coat problems, weight gain for no good reason, loss of energy and mental dullness.

To diagnose hypothyroidism, your veterinarian will run blood tests to measure the levels of thyroid hormones in the body. If your dog is running low, the treatment is easy, but long-term: a daily pill containing synthetic thyroid hormone for the rest of his life.

Kidney Disease

Kidney failure is a common problem veterinarians see in older dogs. Kidney function can be as much as 75 percent destroyed by the time signs become obvious, so it’s a good idea to schedule a regular geriatric exam, starting early in your dog’s golden years. Blood work and a urinalysis can help your veterinarian detect signs that kidney function is deteriorating. Kidney failure isn’t reversible, but in many cases diet, IV fluid therapy and sometimes, medication and certain vitamin and fatty acid supplements can help manage the condition and add months or years to your dog’s life.

Last but not least, one of the best ways to ward off disease or limit its effects is to keep your dog at a healthy weight throughout his life. In one study, maintaining a lean body condition added as much as two years a dog’s lifespan. That’s a goal to shoot for!

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