The Most Common Health Problems in Senior Dogs & How To Deal With Them

health problems in senior dogs

Dogs are truly man’s best friend. They’re one of the most cheerful, loyal, and smart pets humans could ever have. Although we want to spend our lives taking care of them, we always outlive our dogs. Towards the end of their lives, they may encounter illnesses that could decrease their quality of life. It is now up to us as their pet parents to make sure we give them the best support they could have during this time. Keep on reading to find out some of the most common senior dog health problems your dog could experience. 

When do I consider my dog a senior dog? 

Before anything else, figure out whether your dog is already on his senior days. On average, dogs have a lifespan of 10-13 years. A dog is a senior depending on their breed, which means their size as well. You can perform a Google search to figure out the exact, senior age for your dog’s particular breed. However, in general, seniority starts at 7-9 years old. 

What are the common health problems in senior dogs?

No one can live forever. Even our furry best friends. Over time, your dogs may encounter some health problems. Don’t fret, though. With the right knowledge and information, you may help your dog go through any disease. Here are some of the most common health issues in senior dogs.

  1. Cancer
  2. Arthritis
  3. Kidney Disease
  4. Vision Loss
  5. Mental or Cognitive Dysfunction
  6. Brain Tumor
  7. Heart Disease
  8. Diabetes
  9. Hearing Loss
  10. Obesity
  11. Dental Disease

Cancer In Dogs

Cancer is one of the most common causes of death among senior dogs. It might seem like there is a higher incidence of cancer in dogs nowadays. However, it’s only because dogs receive the optimum care these days, which allows them to live longer lives – long enough to get cancer. In the past, there were no vaccinations against fatal diseases in dogs. Thus, they end up dying prematurely. 

There are different types of cancer that your senior dog can get. Lymphoma or cancer of the lymph nodes is a common form of cancer in elderly dogs. Other types of cancer include colon cancer, liver cancer, bone cancer, and many others.

Some breeds are said to be more prone to developing certain types of cancers. Based on the gathered data, Golden Retrievers have a high incidence of getting cancer. Other breeds such as Rottweiler, Great Dane, Bichon Frise, and even Labrador Retrievers. 

Signs of Cancer In Dogs

Cancer is a chronic, progressive disease. Some cancers don’t manifest with any signs or symptoms that would tell you there’s something wrong. Thus, you might spot some types of cancer when it’s already at an advanced stage. That’s why you have to be more observant of your dog’s behavior during his senior years.

Weight loss is the most common sign of cancer among dogs. Apart from this, you may also notice a loss of appetite or anorexia, which adds to the weight loss. Another sign is the presence of a non-healing wound. Do you constantly find unusual wounds that won’t go away? It might be a sign of cancer in your dog. 

You may also notice swollen or enlarged lumps all over your dog’s body. It might be indicative of lymphoma or other types of cancer. Bleeding is also a common sign. It could be nose bleeding, gum bleeding, or presence of blood in the stool or urine. When you see this, it’s imperative to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Lastly, you should always watch out for lethargy or weakness in your dog. It is not a specific symptom. However, it’s always better to be sure. Most likely, it’s not cancer. But at least, you were able to spot another type of illness early. 

How to Prevent Cancer in Dogs?

Cancer is one of the most common health issues in senior dogs. As a pet parent, you want to do everything possible to prevent your dog from having it. While cancer is mainly based on genetics, some dogs just have bad genes, and some don’t, there are a few ways you can do to prevent it.

Firstly, avoid administering food or supplements that may contain toxins. These include burnt meat or vegetables. Make sure you’re giving your dogs toxin-free and organically produced dog food as much as possible. Avoid giving processed food too much, as this might not be ideal for your dog’s overall health.

You may also neuter or spay your pet. According to studies, this decreases the chances of your female dog from developing breast and uterine cancer. Likewise, it also decreases testicular cancer incidence in male dogs.

Arthritis in Dogs

Arthritis is a relatively common health issue in senior dogs. It is a condition wherein joints become inflamed. Unlike cancer, it’s a degenerative disease. It means that, over time, all dogs will eventually experience this health issue. Thus, it’s important to spot it early to give the appropriate treatment and support to your dog. 

Signs of Arthritis In Dogs

The good thing with arthritis is that the signs and symptoms are quite easy to spot. Arthritis is a very symptomatic disease. Thus, when your dog has it, it will most likely manifest with symptoms that you could easily observe. Among the signs are limping, difficulty walking, and refusal to move from one place to another. Initially, you might notice a change in personality in your dog. It includes the refusal to play or walk with you. You might think your dog has a psychological issue, but it could be a physical illness that’s hindering your dog.

When you observe this health problem in your senior dog, you should bring it to the vet. Your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs that will help with the swelling of your dog’s joints. Furthermore, your vet may also prescribe some joint supplements to help with your dog’s joint mobility and strength.

How to Prevent Arthritis in Dogs?

Arthritis is a problem of the joints. With the regular and right exercise, you may be able to prevent your dog from developing this health issue. However, it’s also important not to overdo the exercise. You don’t want to cause wear-and-tear injury to your dog prematurely. 

Exercise in dogs is not a one-size-fits-all activity. For some dogs, running along with a bicycle may be an ideal form of exercise. Meanwhile, for other small dogs, this might not be suitable. To be safe, a simple walk around the neighborhood is a good example of exercise. You may ask your vet for a list of suitable exercises you could perform with your dog.

Along with exercise, you should also keep your dog fit. Obesity or the presence of excess fat is a major cause of arthritis in dogs. The excess weight coming from their fat may put a lot of strain on your dog’s joints (especially hip and knees). Thus, you should never overfeed your dog and allow him to be sedentary. Make sure you’re also giving him proper nourishment through a healthy balanced diet.

Lastly, there are plenty of joint supplements you could give to your dog. These supplements usually contain ingredients such as chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and tons of healthy fatty acids. Omega fatty acids found in fish are particularly helpful in arthritis. They are excellent antioxidants that help to calm down existing inflammation.

Kidney Disease in Dogs

A kidney is a vital organ in dogs. It’s responsible for regulating fluid balance in their bodies. Also, it’s responsible for filtering out wastes so your dog’s blood remains as healthy as it should be. Moreover, it also has a function in blood cell production. No one can argue the importance of the kidney in maintaining your dog’s health and well-being.

Because the kidney is so complex and responsible for so many things in the body, there are plenty of things that could go wrong with it. Kidney failure is a common health problem in senior dogs. There are two types of kidney failure: acute and chronic. It is usually an aggressive disease that greatly impacts your dog’s body systems. 

Glomerulonephritis is another common health issue in senior dogs. Kidneys have tiny blood vessels called glomeruli (glomerulus – singular). Sometimes, they get inflamed and damaged. When this happens, your dog’s kidney won’t function properly. 

Kidney stones are one of the many senior dog health problems you could encounter. Typically, most dogs would have kidney stones, but they are relatively small and easy to pass. However, the problem arises when they are too large and become obstructive. These stones are harmful because they impede normal fluid or urine flow in the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. When these stones break apart and lodge in the tubes, they could be very painful for your dog. 

Causes of Kidney Disease In Dogs

Kidney diseases don’t just pop out of nowhere. Often, kidney failure is caused by certain medications. If you’ve been giving unprescribed medications to your dog, they could be injuring your dog’s kidney. Meanwhile, other kidney problems may be congenital. Anatomic abnormalities may have been present in your dog early in life but are just manifesting at old age.

Unfortunately, some dog breeds are just susceptible to developing certain types of kidney disease. Bull terriers and German Shepherds have been found to have a high incidence of kidney disease. 

Signs of Kidney Disease In Dogs

Edema or swelling is a common sign of kidney disease in dogs. However, this may not be very visible in dogs because of their fur. You may notice this instead of abdominal enlargement. If you’re noticing a gradual increase in your dog’s abdomen’s size, it could indicate swelling underneath the skin. Furthermore, if you can palpate some organs in your dog’s abdomen, it could indicate edema.

When it comes to kidneys, watch out for your dog’s urine. The urine is the end product of the kidney’s waste filtration. Changes in the volume of your dog’s urine may indicate that there’s something wrong with your dog’s kidney. Moreover, also check for the color, transparency, and presence of blood in the urine. You may also notice a change in the odor of your dog’s urine.

Blood in the urine could usually signify kidney stones. Too little urine (assuming intake is unchanged) could mean that your dog’s kidneys are shutting down. Meanwhile, other kidney problems may only be definitively diagnosed via urine analysis. 

Lastly, fever, vomiting, and loss of appetite may all be present in kidney disease. When any of these symptoms present, don’t hesitate to bring your dog to the vet.

How To Prevent Kidney Disease In Dogs

Some kidney diseases are due to your dog’s old age, as most senior dog health problems. Thus, some may not be preventable. You may only treat them as they arise. Thankfully, for most kidney problems, there are things you could do to prevent them.

Firstly, hydration is key to a healthy kidney. You want your dog’s kidney to have as many clear fluids in the body to ensure the filtration of wastes is efficient. However, make sure it’s clean. You also want to make sure your dog’s dental health is excellent. You might be wondering why. Periodontal diseases have been linked to kidney diseases.

Keep any medications out of reach of your dogs. Most human medications, even vitamins, may be harmful to your dog’s kidney. Remember that your dogs are only small. Thus, their organs are smaller, too. If they ingest any medicine, their concentration in your dog’s body would be a lot higher. It will lead to higher chances of toxicity. It also applies to chemicals such as antifreeze, bleach, cleaning agents, and other toxic substances. Sometimes, your dog will only intake minimal amounts of these harmful agents. Thus, you won’t notice they even ingested them at all. It’s important just to keep them away from these substances.

Vision Loss in Dogs

Just like humans, when the dog’s age, they often suffer from eye problems. Vision loss is one of the common senior dog health problems you may encounter. We all know how important vision is. It’s only understandable that we want to do everything to help our dog restore his vision.

Causes of Vision Loss in Dogs

It might not seem like it, but the eye is a very complex organ. There are plenty of things that could go wrong with the eyes, especially those of a senior dog. 

A cataract is the most common cause of vision loss in dogs. It is a condition wherein their clouding of the cornea or formation of white substance over the eye. This disease occurs later on in a dog’s life due to the deposition of proteins in the eye. However, it could also be due to diabetes. 

Hypertension or high blood pressure that is long-standing may have detrimental effects on your dog’s eyes. It may cause a plethora of problems such as retinal detachment, retinopathy, or optic neuropathy, among many others.

Just like with other common health issues in senior dogs, vision loss may be due to genetics. Certain breeds are prone to developing eye diseases. These include Siberian Huskies, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, and Beagles. You may ask your dog’s vet for a list of dog breeds susceptible to vision loss.

Signs of Vision Loss in Dogs

Vision loss in dogs is very easy to spot compared to other senior dog health issues. You may notice your dog bumping on corners and furniture because of impaired vision. Furthermore, your dog may also take time to recognize people or objects in front of him. They may have difficulty locating food or toys. 

Moreover, dogs with vision loss may be less active than usual. It’s not because they are weak or tired but because they cannot see what is in front of them. Some dogs may also exhibit aggression. 

In the case of cataracts, pet owners can easily perform an inspection. Simply shine a light over your dog’s eyes and look for white or opaque substance in the middle of the eye. Often, the cataract is advanced, and you may see the opacity without any light. 

How To Prevent Vision Loss in Dogs

Vision loss or blindness doesn’t just occur all of a sudden in dogs. Typically, this occurs gradually. Moreover, they also indicate an underlying disease that should be treated. As previously mentioned, hypertension is a health problem in senior dogs that could lead to vision loss. Thus, preventing high blood pressure by regular exercise and a balanced diet helps prevent vision loss.

Furthermore, diabetes is a health issue in senior dogs that causes blindness. Also, other metabolic diseases can cause this. These are all preventable through adequate nutrition and regular exercise.

With vision loss, the earlier you spot it, the better. Thus, it’s essential to bring in your dog for regular check-ups to the vet. Your vet will perform a thorough physical exam every check-up. In vision loss, you want to catch it early to administer the right medication or management as soon as possible to avoid progression. 

Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

Dementia or cognitive dysfunction is one of the devastating senior dog health problems your dog may get. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome or CCDS is a common issue experienced by most senior dogs. It’s simply disheartening to see your best friend dog have changes in personality and behavior. 

Causes of Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

Unfortunately, a decline in brain function and atrophy of nerve cells and nerves is part of the aging process. These are non-preventable degenerative processes of most animals. 

Although genetics plays a huge role in cognition and other brain functions, few studies link any certain dog breeds to cognitive dysfunction. Usually, the determining factor is old age instead of genetics. 

Signs of Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

It is Alzheimer’s Disease in dogs. Thus, dogs will present similarly to humans with Alzheimer’s. Your dog will typically manifest with disorientation, confusion, and changes in personality. Your dog may also start isolating himself from other people and start wandering. 

Furthermore, your dog may also forget his learned toilet training habits. He or she may start urinating around the house as well as pooping outside of the designated area. Your dog may also experience sleeplessness and restlessness. Along with this, your dog may generally just get lost all the time. He or she may have a hard time locating objects, food, people, and places. Sometimes, it may be difficult for your dog to find his way back home if he gets lost. 

How To Prevent Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

Canine dementia may be a prevalent condition. However, there is still much to learn about this disease, including prevention. Certain brain supplements help support healthy brain function by supplying nutrients to the brain. These may include supplements rich in healthy fats and oils.

It might sound obvious, but keeping your dog’s brain alert and active most of the time will help with their brain’s health. Interact with your dogs and play with them when you can. Also, you can teach them tricks and interactive games to help keep their brains sharp.

Of course, your dog’s brain’s journey begins even during childhood. Thus, your dog must be receiving adequate nutrition during its early years. Avoid inflammatory foods such as burnt meat, food containing trans fat, refined carbohydrates, artificial colorings, and preservatives. These put stress and strain on your dog’s brain cells.

Brain Tumor in Dogs

Brain tumors in our senior dogs are quite common. These tumors can either be benign or malignant (cancerous). The tricky thing about brain tumors is they can cause a wide array of problems, especially if the size is large. Depending on the location, they may invade important nerves and structures within the brain. It results in other symptoms like vision loss, balance loss, hearing loss, and many others. 

Signs of Brain Tumor in Dogs

If your dog has a brain tumor, he may exhibit some neurologic disturbances. An example of this is seizures. It is a product of abnormal electrical conduction within the brain. Typically, this would present as jerking, thrashing movements. Sometimes, silent seizures can occur. In this case, your dog may have a loss of consciousness. Furthermore, your dog may also have changes in their behavior and personality.

Diagnosis of Brain Tumor in Dogs

A brain tumor is definitively diagnosed through diagnostic tests like a CT scan or MRI. Usually, your vet won’t request for this expensive test without knowing about your dog’s history. Vets usually begin investigating your dog’s signs and symptoms and confirm their diagnosis through the tests. Moreover, the histopathologic exam will be done in some cases to determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant. 

Heart Disease in Dogs

The heart is the organ that pumps the blood to the body. It never stops beating at any point in a dog’s life. It’s one of the most important organs of your dog. However, as your dog ages, some degenerative changes may occur in their hearts. Their hearts may not function as well as they did when they were younger. Because the organ is so complex, there are so many diseases that could happen to it.

Signs of Heart Disease in Dogs

Most heart diseases are asymptomatic. Typically, signs and symptoms appear when the condition is already at a severe stage. Without tests, it’s simply not easy to determine heart disease in your dog. Typically, fatigue is one of the first signs that would appear. You may notice that your dog isn’t as energetic as before. It is because the heart can no longer meet the demands of the body.

Along with fatigue, senior dogs will also experience breathing difficulties. You may notice them catching for their breaths after a walk or run. The heart also supplies oxygen to the lungs. Thus, if it’s not as healthy as before, the lungs are also affected. 

Prevention of Heart Disease in Dogs

Early detection is the most effective thing you can do for a senior dog with heart disease. It will allow your vet to start the right medications to help your dog’s heart function better. Unfortunately, there are no proven studies that state any preventive measures for heart disease in dogs. Of course, a well-balanced diet will always be beneficial. However, heartworms are preventable through vaccination.

Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes is not only common in humans but senior dogs as well. It’s one of the most prevalent senior dog health problems. This disease involves the failure of a dog’s cells to utilize glucose as energy. Thus, this leads to an increase in blood sugar, which is damaging to the body. A combination of genetics, metabolic, and environmental factors contributes to diabetes development in senior dogs. 

When your dog has diabetes, most of his organs will be affected. If left untreated, it will lead to other diseases such as cataracts, heart disease, nephropathy, UTIs, as well as liver diseases. Chow Chow, Golden Retriever, Pug, Yorkshire Terrier, Beagle, and many other dog breeds are more likely to develop diabetes. 

Signs of Diabetes in Dogs

The most common signs of diabetes are thirst, increased urination, more food intake while remaining to lose weight. Once you spot these, it’s best to bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Your dog may be eating more than usual, but it cannot utilize energy from the food. Thus, this results in weakness and weight loss.

Diagnosis of Diabetes in Dogs

Your vet will draw a small amount of blood from your dog. The veterinarian will get the glucose levels in your dog’s blood to confirm the diagnosis. Moreover, urine samples are also used. Apart from this, your vet may also get your dog’s weight to determine if he is within the normal range. 

Prevention of Diabetes in Dogs

Preventing diabetes in senior dogs all boils down to proper diet and exercise. It might seem too obvious, but these are the two sure things that will protect your dog from diabetes. This disease doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes years for diabetes to develop. Thus, its prevention is also long-term. Also, spaying your female dogs will help prevent diabetes. 

Hearing Loss in Dogs

Hearing loss in senior dogs is usually due to degenerative changes of the olfactory nerve (nerve responsible for hearing). However, other causes may include brain tumors or trauma to the ears. Dealing with hearing loss is devastating for most dog owners. However, with the help of new training tactics, you and your dog can still have the same strong bond.

Signs of Hearing Loss in Dogs

Hearing loss in dogs is quite easy to spot. Your dog may stop responding to your whistles and calls. Furthermore, he might not be as effective as a guard dog before due to the difficulty in hearing people coming through the door. Your dog will also be less responsive to commands. Moreover, they may be surprised if you suddenly barge in a room or if anyone suddenly touches them. 

Dealing With Hearing Loss in Dogs

Loss of hearing is one of the most common health problems in senior dogs. When your dog has hearing loss, it’s important to be patient and compassionate. Don’t forget to show your dog that his well-being and happiness are your priority. As previously mentioned, your dog is easily startled because he doesn’t hear people approaching. Thus, it may be helpful to stump your feet loudly when walking to your dog. The vibrations from your feet will let him know that you are near.  

health problems in senior dogs

Obesity in Dogs

Obesity is a common disease, not only in senior dogs but in all ages. Having an excess of 30% body weight above the ideal is the definition of obesity. If you’re unsure whether your senior dog is obese, consult with your vet. The vet will know how to compute for your dog’s ideal body weight and assess whether your dog is overweight or obese. Furthermore, your vet can also advise you regarding some foods to avoid to help overcome obesity. 

Dog breeds that are more prone to obesity are as follows: Dachshunds, Beagle, Scottish Terriers, Labrador, and many others. 

Prevention of Obesity in Dogs

It is in your dog’s best interest to prevent obesity. After all, obesity is responsible for lots of deadly diseases in dogs like arthritis, heart diseases, diabetes, among many others. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to prevent obesity. Depending on your dog’s size, the exercise’s intensity and duration vary. Exercise is just an overall beneficial activity for your dog. 

Your dog surely won’t grow so big without excessive food. Thus, ensure that your dog is only eating the right amount for its age. You can ask for a vet’s advice regarding the specific quantities and type of dog food. You probably can’t resist your dog’s charm when asking for food. However, remember that following a strict diet is essential for your dog to live a long healthy life. 

Dental Disease in Dogs

Dental health is quite important in dogs, too! Often, brushing in dogs saves lives. It might not seem very important for dogs to have excellent dental health. However, most dental diseases are very serious and are related to other diseases such as heart disease.

Signs of Dental Disease in Dogs

Most dental diseases are quite straightforward. They are very easy to see and sometimes smell. Bad breath is one of the initial signs of dental disease. If you haven’t been regularly brushing your dog’s teeth, bacteria will start building up. These bacteria feed on the sugars on your dog’s teeth, causing the odor. 

Often, you will see visible dental caries in some of your dog’s teeth. These are usually yellow, dark brown, or in later stages, black. 

Prevention of Dental Disease in Dogs

Dental chews are one of the easiest ways to help your dog’s teeth. They are effective in preventing tartar build-up, and they keep your dogs busy. Moreover, some dental health-friendly dog treats are also available in the market. 

You can use a dog toothbrush to help clean your dog’s teeth regularly. These usually come in long handles and wide bristles that are more suitable to your dog’s mouth. Also, avoid placing sharp objects within your dog’s reach to prevent them from chewing and getting injured. 


There are so many more things to think about when caring for a senior dog. Cancer, arthritis, kidney disease, vision loss, and cognitive dysfunction are only among the many diseases your dog is vulnerable to during his senior years. These senior dog health problems might sound daunting at first. However, it is fulfilling and rewarding at the end to know that you’ve done everything to care for your dog in his final years.