Senior dogs health needs

Senior dogs health needs

Ruby in Lewis, England. Photo: Jacqueline Clay

In senior dogs health needs:

  • Aging
  • Behavioural changes
  • Common diseases on older dogs
  • Veterinary care
  • Golden oldies


Certain changes will occur in an animal’s body as the animal ages. These changes may not be the same in each animal species. In some animals for example, toy breeds of dogs, changes in the heart are common, whereas the kidneys may be one of the first organs to show signs of aging in cats.

We can help older animals to adapt to these changes in a variety of ways: diagnosing problems early, use of appropriate medications and supplements, modifying the dog’s environment, and changing the way in which we interact with our older friends.  (Source:

Behavioural changes

In many cases, it is not that older doggies do not understand your house ‘rules,’ it’s that they may be unable to follow them.

Many of the behavioural changes we see in older dogs can be due to medical conditions. If your dog’s behaviour is changing, have your dog examined by a veterinarian. Your older dog is more easily stressed.  You can reduce stress by making any necessary changes in routine gradual, and decreasing the exposure of your dog to stressors. With patience, understanding, and treatments recommended by your veterinarian, you can help make your dog’s older years a quality time for you and him.

Behavioural changes include:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Aggression
  • House soiling
  • Noise phobias
  • Increased vocalisation
  • Nocturnal restlessness
  • Cognitive dysfunction


Common diseases in older doggies

Senior dogs health needs

14 year old Rosie. Photo: Annabelle O’Keefe

As a dog ages, the immune system does not function as effectively and the older dog becomes more prone to develop infectious diseases.  The infection in an older dog is usually more severe than a similar one in a younger dog. It is important to keep your older dog up to date with vaccinations.

The more common diseases seen in older dogs include:

Cancer, Dental disease, Arthritis, Kidney disease/failure, Prostate disease, Cataracts, Hypothroidism, Cushing’s disease, Urinary incontinence, Dry eye, Epilepsy, Gastrointestinal disease, Inflammatory bowel disease, Diabetes mellitus, Obesity, Anemia, Heart disease, Liver disease and Bladder stones.  (Source:

Senior dogs health needs veterinary care

Old dogs need regular veterinary care to prevent disease and/or diagnose it early in its course. Many veterinarians have special programs to monitor senior dogs health needs in their later years of life. Cold weather may worsen some medical conditions such as arthritis. Have a check-up in winter to make sure your senior dog is ready and as healthy as possible for cold weather.  Some older dogs may need major veterinary procedures to give them a better quality of life in their later years.

Good communication between the owner, dog, and veterinarian can keep the dog healthy and make his senior years be wonderful years.  (Source: was developed by Drs. Foster & Smith.  The information provided by is not intended to be used to provide a diagnosis or treatment plan for individual pets. Please consult with your veterinarian for regular exams and in situations where your pet may be exhibiting signs of illness.

Golden oldies

According to the UC Davis Book of Dogs, small-breed dogs such as small terriers become geriatric at about 11 years; medium-breed dogs such as larger spaniels at 10 years; large-breed dogs such as German Sheppards at 8 years; and giant-breed dogs such as Great Danes at 7 years.

The two longest living dogs on record (unverified), “Bluey” and “Chilla”, were Australian Cattle Dogs that lived to the age of 29 years and 32 years respectively.  This prompted a study of the longevity of the Australian Cattle Dog, which concluded that Bluey and Chilla were uncharacteristic exceptions to the average life span.


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