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Caring For Your Aging Dog – 8 Common Health Conditions You Should Know

by | Nov 17, 2020 | Dog Training & Care | 34 comments

When November rolls around each year we take time to celebrate the many blessings we’ve enjoyed including our old dogs. Pet people, of course, give thanks for their animal companions, and November traditionally is Adopt A Senior Pet Month.

Do you share your life with an old fogey dog? My current doggy companion, Shadow-Pup, has reached teenager status. Bravo-Dawg lost his life to cancer before becoming a senior doggy. But his predecessor, Magic, still lives on in my heart. During his final years, we battled several old dog health conditions.

aging dogs

Magic at age 10 doesn’t know he’s a senior, but the gray muzzle offers a clue.

Dealing with Old Dog Health

Thirteen years ago, I had the great joy to meet a moma dog and her litter of newborn puppies. One of those baby-dogs became my Magical-Dawg. And I have to say, the first couple of years were the most challenging, and the last few the most joyful of all. Senior dogs ROCK! Of course, eleven years were not enough,

German shepherd with puppies

Do you love a senior citizen canine? Join the crowd! Fifty percent of owners share their heart with pets aged seven or older. Modern veterinary care helps many dogs stay healthy a decade or more, and Toy dogs sometimes double that and age gracefully well into their twenties. Learn more about what is considered old in dogs here.

A longer life increases the odds dogs develop “old fogie” problems, though. That’s why I wrote the book Complete Care for Your Aging Dog because medical help is important–but the book also explains how you can keep your old-timer happy and healthy.

Heck, I am so much a believer in the fact that senior dogs can still have fun and remain engaged in life, that Bruno (a senior citizen tracking dog) plays a featured role in my thriller LOST AND FOUND (which, by the way, is free for joining my mailing list).

8 Old Dog Health Conditions

Here’s a quick sample of some of the simple and/or inexpensive tips for dealing with these 8 common aging dog issues.

  1. Arthritis can affect all dogs but large breeds are most prone. Extra weight puts greater stress on the joints. Achy joints cause limping, difficulty climbing stairs or getting up after naps. A heating pad placed under the dog’s bed soothes creaky joints. Gentle massage, as well as OTC supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine-type products, also helps. Low impact exercise—walks or swimming—and slimming down pudgy pooches delays problems. Provide steps—even a cardboard box—to help old dogs navigate stairs or hop onto the sofa. You can also offer supplements that help with arthritis.
  2. Dogs suffer from cataracts more than any other species, but blindness rarely slows them down. They compensate by relying more on the sense of smell and hearing. Owners may not notice vision loss unless the dog visits unfamiliar surroundings. Avoid rearranging furniture so blind dogs can rely on their memory of familiar landmarks. Baby gates placed near stairs protect blind dogs from falling. Avoid startling blind dogs by announcing your presence before walking near or petting. Blind dogs enjoy games with noisy toys they can hear or hide-and-seek with strongly scented objects.
  3. Constipation affects many old dogs. When they stop moving on the outside, the inside movement slows down, too. A treat of a half cup milk, or 1 to 3 teaspoons of nonflavored Metamucil twice a day (depending on the size of the dog), or high fiber foods like raw carrot or canned pumpkin help keep things moving. Most dogs like the taste of pumpkin or squash. That can also help control canine flatulence (gassy dogs).
  4. Is he ignoring your commands? Sleeping too much? He could be deaf. Hearing naturally fades with age, but you can compensate by using vibration and hand signals. Stomp your foot to get his attention. Then use a flashlight switched on/off to call him inside, or the porch light to signal dinner is served. Vibrating collars also work well to communicate with deaf dogs.
  5. Eighty percent of dogs have dental problems by age three, and the risk increases 20 percent for each year of the dog’s life. Enzymes in special “dental diets” and meat-flavored pet toothpaste helps break down plaque. Offer dental chews, rawhides, a chew-rope covered with dog toothpaste, or even apples and carrots for healthy tooth-cleaning chews.
  6. Does she leave a wet spot where she sleeps? Incontinence refers to a loss of bladder tone, and it mostly affects old lady spayed dogs. Prescription drugs may help, but management is equally important. Increase her potty breaks, and pick up water bowls two hours before bedtime. Toddler “pull up” pants work for some dogs or choose doggy diapers to help contain the urine.
  7. Forty to 50 percent of dogs aged five to twelve are overweight. Obesity often affects aging dogs because they exercise less but eat the same amount. Extra weight makes arthritis worse. Feed smaller meals inside puzzle toys so that the dog takes longer to eat and feels more satisfied as she works to earn her kibble.
  8. Thirty percent of dogs aged 11 to 12 show one or more signs of senility—canine Alzheimer’s. Affected dogs act confused, forget to ask to go outside, cry, and may not recognize you. This heartbreaking condition often causes owners to put dogs to sleep when symptoms develop. A prescription of Anipryl from your vet temporarily reverses signs in about 30-60 percent of dogs, but the supplement Cholodin also works pretty well. Two commercial foods (Hill’s Prescription b/d, and Purina Pro Plan Senior 7+ Original) also reverse signs for a while in some dogs. The saying “use it or lose it” also applies to dogs, so delay the onset of senility by exercising the doggy brain with obedience drills, interactive play, and puzzles.

What are some other “home care” tips that have worked well for YOUR “golden oldie” dog? Have you discovered some awesome care product that makes life easier for you, and more comfy for your pet? What are the “old dog” issues that you deal with? It’s never too late to spoil your dog. Please share!


I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. NOTE: Bling, Bitches & Blood sometimes shares affiliate links to products that may help you with your pets, but we only share what we feel is appropriate.

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34 Comments

    • amyshojai

      You’re very welcome!

      Reply
  1. Tiffany A White

    You pretty much just described my Shadow with every condition. She’s getting up there and she’s on so many medications that we call her our geriatric dog. She definitely has the leaky bladder problem–that’s one pill. And she’s on a thyroid meds. Allergy meds. Breathing meds. And vitamins. I’m going to do everything I can to keep her with us as long as we can. Her cataracts are getting worse, so luckily I’m a bit OCD and don’t like moving things around… everything has it’s place. This will benefit her when she can’t see anymore. She’s already lost her hearing. She can’t hear anything. But she’s sooooo happy and that is all that matters!!

    Reply
    • amyshojai

      Doggy happiness is the furry trump card in all of this, true. So glad your Shadow still enjoys life! and has a caring ‘mom’ to look out for her.

      Reply
  2. prudencemacleod

    Amy, I have four aging dogs, so this advice is very timely. One is going blind, another deaf, so I now have a better idea of what to watch for. I’ve got them all on the Blue Wilderness grain free diet for senior dogs. Do you know it?

    Reply
    • amyshojai

      Hi Prudence. I don’t have first-hand experience with Blue Wilderness but it has a good rep from what I hear. The “grain free” stuff seems to be more of a marketing issue, though. Doesn’t hurt but probably not the huge help that’s claimed, according to the vet nutritionists. Proof is in the pet–if dogs eat it and thrive, then that’s a good thing!

      Reply
      • prudencemacleod

        Yep, the boys love it and it seems to be working.

        Reply
  3. Lisa Hall-Wilson

    My black lab is 12 and doesn’t seem to show any of these signs. She’s slowed down, but still runs and plays. She sleeps more. She was a working dog until she came to be with me 3 years ago for her retirement, so she’s always been trim. I like to to walk alot, so maybe all those things combined have helped?

    Reply
    • amyshojai

      Hi Lisa–blog didn’t eat the comment after all, I was just late in approving it, LOL! Slim athletic dogs do seem to age more gracefully. There’s less stress on the joints, and some studies have shown keeping dogs slim or even underweight can prolong their life by up to 2 years!

      Reply
  4. nichole

    Those are all good things to watch for! While we haven’t encountered too many of the typical “old aged” issues, we have had our fair share of less common ones.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Oh yes…the less common ones, when our dogs have to be an individual and special and “challenge” the vet. *snert*

      Reply
  5. Joely Smith

    Thank you so much for this informative article. As our Lyla ages I will keep my eyes out on those issues and pray none come up.

    Reply
  6. hbethp

    Lots of great information for anyone sharing their lives with a senior dog.

    Reply
  7. raisingyourpetsnaturally

    Great tips. The deaf dog comes up a lot with my dog training clients. It’s definately something I’m looking for when working with dogs, particularly senior dogs. Thanks again for the article.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Pretty much all old dogs lose SOME degree of hearing so that’s a big issue for trainers dealing with owners of aging dogs.

      Reply
  8. It's Dog Or Nothing (@ItsDogOrNothing)

    These are definitely good things to be aware of. Having Great Pyrenees, I worry about arthritis and mobility issues as they age. I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell if they’re going deaf because they don’t listen to me anyway! 😉

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Hahahaha! Magic also has “selective hearing” but sure can detect the opening of the treat drawer from 5 rooms away!

      Reply
  9. Rebecca at MattieDog

    Definitely a great post Amy – finding out ways to keep aging pups healthy and happy, and thriving, are so important to us. Your article is chuck full of helpful tips for caring for senior dogs!

    Reply
  10. Kim

    What a great article. Thank you so much

    Reply
  11. dustydesertdogs

    Its been our struggle keeping our old boy happy during his golden years, but arthritis has been are constant struggle.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      We’ve been using Cosequin with Magic and that seems to help his achy joints.

      Reply
  12. christycaplan (@christycaplan)

    Such great tips. I live with two seniors and try to keep their weight down and honestly we really focus on Bruisy now as he’s 13 while Sherm is nine. He’s starting to age now but he’s killing it. We do acupuncture every three weeks and have GI meds on board and now Prilosec. It’s a day by day routine but he seems to be doing well.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Acupuncture helps enormously especially with arthritis. Sounds like you’ve got a great plan and routine.

      Reply
  13. Sadie

    This is great information. I have had senior cats but this is my first time with senior dogs.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      There’s a lot of similarity between aging dogs and cats…and of course, quality of life trumps everything for both!

      Reply
  14. FiveSibesMom

    Excellent tips. Just Pinned! I have one Husky who is 11.5 and three who are 8, so we are all about senior dogs here! Arthritis affects three of them from previous CCL tears and blown meniscuses. My furangel Chelsey began her decent into Canine Alzheimer’s and it was so sad to watch. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Awww….of all the “aging” issues, the memory loss is probably the most heart breaking.

      Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      That’s great…keeping dogs on the thin side actually increases longevity.

      Reply
  15. Cathy Armato

    This looks like a great book – would make a good holiday gift for someone with an older dog. These 8 things are definitely common in Sr. dogs, good things to watch out for. I agree, Senior Dogs ROCK!

    Reply
  16. Franklin Steele

    One of the best blogs. Thank you for telling me what to look for as time goes on for Coco.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks Frank, I hope Coco won’t need the tips for many more years.

      Reply

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