Common Diseases of Older (Senior, Geriatric) Dogs
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith

senior bassett on bedIn The Aging Process and How We Can Help Older Dogs Adapt, we explain some of the more common and normal changes we can see in the function of the various organ systems in an older dog. Many of these changes are expected. Disease can occur, however, if these changes become severe and the organ or system is no longer able to compensate. The more common diseases seen in older dogs and the signs of these diseases are listed in the table below. Most of the diseases are discussed in detail in separate articles, just one click away.

Common Diseases in Older Dogs Signs and Symptoms of Disease
Cancer Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
Sores that do not heal
Weight loss
Loss of appetite
Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
Offensive odor
Difficulty eating or swallowing
Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating
Dental disease Bad breath
Difficulty eating or swallowing
Weight loss
Arthritis Difficulty rising
Difficulty climbing steps and/or jumping
Behavior changes - irritable, reclusive
House soiling
Loss of muscle
Kidney disease/failure Increased urination and thirst
Weight loss
Vomiting
Loss of appetite
Weakness
Pale gums
Diarrhea
Blood in vomit or black, tarry stool
Bad breath and oral ulcers
Behavior changes
Prostate disease House soiling
Dribbling urine
Blood in urine
Cataracts Cloudy appearance to eyes
Bumping into objects
Not retrieving objects
Hypothyroidism Weight gain
Dry, thin haircoat
Lethargy, depression
Cushing's disease Thin haircoat and thin skin
Increased thirst and urination
Pot-bellied appearance
Increased appetite
Urinary incontinence Urine in bed or area in which pet was sleeping
Dry eye Large amounts of yellow-green discharge from eyes
Epilepsy Seizures
Gastrointestinal disease Vomiting
Diarrhea
Loss of appetite
Loss of weight
Blood in stool
Black and/or tarry stool
Inflammatory bowel disease Diarrhea
Vomiting
Mucous or blood in stool
Increased frequency of defecation
Diabetes mellitus Increased thirst and urination
Weight loss
Weakness, depression
Vomiting
Obesity Overweight
Exercise intolerance
Difficulty walking or getting up
Unkempt haircoat, especially in anal area
Anemia Exercise intolerance
Very light-colored gums
Mitral Insufficiency/Heart disease Exercise intolerance
Coughing, especially at night
Weight loss
Fainting
Panting
Liver disease Vomiting
Loss of appetite
Behavior changes
Yellow or pale gums
Bladder stones Difficulty urinating
Blood in the urine
May show no signs of disease

 
References and Further Reading

Becker, M. Caring for older pets and their families. Firstline; August/September 1998: 28-30.

Bruyette, D (moderator). The brain on the wane: Roundtable on canine cognitive dysfunction. Veterinary Forum; July 1998: 54-59.

Epstein, M; Kuehn, NF; Landsberg, G; et al. AAHA Senior care guidelines for dogs and cats. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 2005; 41(2):81-91.

Fortney, WD (ed). Veterinary Clinics of North America Small Animal Practice: Geriatrics. W.B Saunders Co, Philadelphia, PA; 2005.

Harper, EJ. Changing perspectives on ageing and energy requirements: Ageing and energy intakes in humans, dogs, and cats. Waltham International Symposium on Pet Nutrition and Health in the 21st Century. Orlando, FL; May 25-29, 1997.

Horwitz, DF. Diagnosing and treating behavior problems in senior dogs. Supplement to Veterinary Economics; 1998; 54-63.

Hoskins, JD. Geriatrics and Gerontology of the Dog and Cat, Second Edition. W.B Saunders Co, Philadelphia, PA; 2004.

Hoskins, JD; McCurnin, DM. Implementing a successful geriatric medicine program. Supplement to Veterinary Medicine; 1997.

Landsberg, G. The most common behavior problems of older dogs. Supplement to Veterinary Medicine; 1995 (August): 16-24.

Landsberg, G; Ruehl, W. Geriatric Behavior Problems. In Hoskins, JD (ed.) The Veterinary Clinics of North America Small Animal Practice: Geriatrics. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA; 1997; 1537-1559.

Ogilvie, GK; Moore, AS. Critical Issues in Senior Pets: Disease Prevention, health and wellness. Veterinary Forum 2006 (Dec):40-46.

Overall, KL. Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals. Mosby-Year Book, Inc. St. Louis, MO; 1997.

Thompson, S (moderator). Roundtable on pediatric, adult, senior, and geriatric wellness at every stage of life. Veterinary Forum; 1999 (January): 60-67.

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