Aging Dogs: Key Health Signs to Watch and Essential Care Tips

Author: Dr. Jeremy, Veterinarian and Co-Founder of Jope

Getting old isn't easy—just ask my back! It didn't appreciate my morning run today, but like I always say for our pets: stay active 😊

As our best friends age, their risk of developing health issues increases. Did you know that 80% of dogs over seven years old suffer from joint problems?

Today, I'm here to help pet parents brace for their pup's senior years with some practical advice.


Schedule Regular Veterinary Checkups

My number one piece of advice is to consult your vet. Forget Dr. Google and discuss your concerns with the professional who knows your dog best. 

I often recommended to pet parents that they schedule senior or pre-senior check-ups. Many clinics offer these, although not all vets might suggest them for fear of appearing to upsell.

However, this isn’t about profit; it’s about proactive health management. For larger breeds, these check-ups should start around age five, and for smaller, longer-lived breeds, around age seven or eight. These visits help establish baseline health metrics like blood counts and biochemistry (think liver and kidneys) and allow for early detection markers like SDMA, especially crucial for early kidney disease detection in pets.


Monitor and Maintain Mobility

Most dogs face mobility issues as they age, with many developing arthritis, so it's vital to catch these signs early. Regular vet visits are crucial for physical exams that assess your dog’s mobility and spot early signs of arthritis. To keep your dog's joints healthy, I recommend:


Check Vision and Hearing Regularly

Simple checks during vet visits can reveal if your dog’s sight and hearing are declining, significantly impacting their quality of life. Vision loss might lead to your dog bumping into objects, and hearing loss might explain why they don’t come when called. 

Early detection means timely management, such as cataract surgery, which is generally safe and effective.


Be Vigilant About Lumps and Tumors
While some cancers aren't immediately visible and only present symptoms like lymphomas, others, such as mast cell tumors, can be spotted on the skin. 

Early detection means treatment options like surgery might still be viable, significantly reducing the risk of metastasis and the growth of the tumor. Regular self-checks and vet exams are crucial for spotting these early. With time and veterinary support, you'll become better at distinguishing between benign lumps and potential tumors.


Be Vigilant with their Cardiac Health
The heart, like other organs, gets tired with age. Certain breeds, like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Dobermans and others, are especially prone to heart issues like murmurs for CKC or dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) for Dobermans. Monitor their response to exercise and watch for symptoms like syncope (fainting), which can occur during physical activity.

Dental Care for Aging Dogs

As dogs age, dental health is crucial for overall well-being. Regularly check your dog’s teeth and gums at home for signs of tartar or gum inflammation, and ensure these are discussed during vet visits. Tartar is probably one of most visible signs you can assess by yourself.

While daily tooth brushing is ideal, high-quality dental chews or specialized diets and supplements (including probiotics) can also help maintain oral hygiene if regular brushing proves challenging.


Everyday Signs of Health to Watch in Your Senior Dog

Keep an eye on several general health indicators:

  • Appetite: Are they eating well?
  • Weight: Any significant changes?
  • Bathroom habits: Any changes in urination or stool?
  • Behavior: Do they seem sadder or less energetic? These signs can help your vet piece together a comprehensive health picture.

Maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, high-quality food, and lots of love will go a long way in keeping your senior dog in good shape. Stay proactive about their health, and they’ll continue to thrive even in their golden years!


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