As our dogs get older, they become more susceptible to health issues. Here or Boulder County vets express some common health problems affecting our senior dogs and explain how proper geriatric care can help.
Common Health Issues in Geriatric Dogs
Routine preventative care and early diagnosis become increasingly important as your dog gets older. Senior dogs experience many of the same conditions humans do like arthritis, cancer, blindness, dementia, cognitive dysfunction, and more.
Geriatric dog care including regularly scheduled wellness exams can allow your vet to detect these issues early and develop a treatment plan to manage the condition.
Common health issues in senior dogs include:
Just like humans, dogs can experience arthritis as they age. Osteoarthritis (also known as Degenerative Joint Disease) is the most common form of arthritis seen in older dogs. This problem usually impacts wight-bearing joints such as hips, knees, and elbows leading to cartilage erosion, loss of lubricating fluids, and abnormal bone growth.
These changes in the joints cause a decreased range of motion, pain, and stiffness. This condition progresses over time and there is no cure, the good news is that it can be treated in a way that slows the progression and helps your pet live a more comfortable life.
kidney Disease Dementia & Cognitive Dysfunction
Kidney disease is a common health issue in older dogs as aging starts to affect your dog internally. Chronic (renal) kidney disease is typically a gradual process that appears as renal insufficiency and progresses gradually into full kidney failure. While there is no cure for the disease, many of the symptoms can be managed to lengthen your companion's life and improve the quality of their remaining time.
The sooner your vet detects the disease, the more measures they can take to slow its progression. A urinalysis may catch early changes in the kidneys. Symptoms of kidney disease include lethargy, increased thirst and urination, nausea and loss of appetite. Your vet may suggest putting your dog on a prescription kidney diet to help manage symptoms.
Dementia & Cognitive Dysfunction Kidney Disease
As dog's age, many developmental changes and symptoms of dementia may appear, such as confusion, wandering or pacing, standing in corners as if lost, urinary/fecal accidents, shifts in sleeping patterns, withdrawal or lack of interaction with family, and more.
Because many of these can indicate other diseases, it's best to see your vet for a definitive diagnosis. While there is no cure for dementia or cognitive dysfunction, medications and supplements may help in some circumstances.
A faulty glucose-insulin connection causes diabetes in dogs, which can take one of two forms — insulin-deficient diabetes (when the dog's body doesn't produce enough insulin due to a damaged or non-functioning pancreas) or insulin-resistant diabetes. With this type, the pancreas produces some insulin, however the dog's body doesn't use the insulin as it should. This form of diabetes is especially common in older, obese dogs.
Insulin-deficient diabetes is the most common form of the disease overall in dogs. While diabetes can become an issue for dogs of any age, it mostly occurs in middle-aged or senior dogs and results in abnormal blood chemistry that causes damage to multiple organs, including the heart, nerves, blood vessels, eyes and/or kidneys.
Symptoms include increased appetite, excessive thirst, increased urination and weight loss. Blood and urine tests can help your vet diagnose the disease. The vet may recommend a combination of injections, diet, exercise and measures to monitor and manage the disease in your dog.
Cancer is a common and frequent health concern in older pets. Since different cancers cause different symptoms, it's imperative to bring your pet in for wellness exams as they age, to allow your vet the opportunity to detect signs of the disease early and potentially save your dog's life.
A routine wellness exam, lab work panel or diagnostic imaging can pick up subtle signs that may not be visible to the naked eye. Depending on the type of cancer your pet is diagnosed with and its stage, treatment will vary.
What might easily be interpreted as simple changes due to old age could actually be early symptoms of cancer, so ensure you stay up to date with wellness visits as your pet enters their golden years.
Many dogs will experience vision impairment as they grow older due to degenerative changes and diseases affecting the eye such as cataracts. unfortunately, if blindness has occurred due to aging, there is not way to reverse it but much like in humans, your dog's other senses will heighten to make up for the lack of eyesight - you'll just have to be mindful when walking around your blind dog, keeping them on a leash will allow them to stay safe while outdoors and try to avoid moving furniture in the house. Note that sudden blindness can indicate a veterinary emergency.
Our experienced veterinary team is here to help you navigate your pet's senior years. We are here to answer your questions, identify emerging health issues and offer early proactive geriatric care treatment while problems can still be effectively and easily managed.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.