6 min read

Common Ailments in Senior Dogs


Save on pet insurance for your pet

You don't have to choose between your pet and your wallet when it comes to expensive vet visits. Prepare ahead of time for unexpected vet bills by finding the pawfect pet insurance.

Like with people, as your dog ages and becomes a senior dog, he could experience common ailments many older dogs have. As your dog ages, his immune system may become weaker than it was when he was an active, younger dog. You may even see his behaviors begin to change, his tolerance begins to decrease, and his patience dwindle. If you ever think your dog has a serious condition, no matter his age, do not hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian for care. Remember there are several conditions your senior dog may be susceptible to simply because he is a senior dog.


The bones carrying your dog's body for his entire life begin to show their age as well, especially if your dog is a large or giant breed. If your dog has spent some years overweight or obese, arthritis may set in even earlier. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage located between the joints, which keeps the bones moving smoothly, begins to deteriorate or is damaged. This damage creates inflammation in the joints, which causes pain, stiffness, and swelling. You can help provide relief for your senior dog’s arthritis by adding certain supplements to his diet. Glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids, and green vegetables can help with pain and inflammation. Talk to your veterinarian about these supplements, diet changes, and medications that can be prescribed to help ease the pain of arthritis in your dog’s senior years.


Diabetes occurs when insulin naturally found in your dog's body is lacking, or your dog's body no longer responds properly to the levels of insulin. Much as in humans, as food digests, glucose is carried throughout the system by insulin. If insulin is not working properly within your dog's body, glucose is not distributed and eliminated correctly or efficiently. If you have noticed the symptoms of diabetes in your senior dog such as incredible thirst, weight loss, or fatigue, talk to your veterinarian about how to diagnose and treat diabetes.


Cataracts and other eye conditions are common in senior dogs simply because eyesight degeneration and deterioration is common as the eyes and body age. Cataracts appear in the dog's eye with a white appearance. If your dog has cataracts, you may have noticed he has new fears. He may bump into walls doorways or furniture. His eyes may appear red, irritated, or cloudy. Your older dog may become listless and unwilling to move around. Even without cataracts, your senior dog has the potential of losing his vision completely, simply because as the eyes age they stopped working with as much efficiency as they did when your dog was younger.


Cancer occurs with abnormal cell growth. Cancer is common in senior dogs and less common for younger dogs. There are many kinds of cancer your senior dog could potentially develop. Cancer can affect any organ and can be fatal. Indications of cancer for your senior dog include areas of swelling or lumps under the skin, loss of appetite and sudden weight loss, lameness or listlessness, or wounds or sores which don't go away. If you suspect your dog has cancer, please see your veterinarian for treatment

Gum Disease

Hopefully, you have provided teeth and gum care throughout your dog’s life, both at home and through your veterinarian. Even with the best of preventive treatments, senior dogs can develop periodontitis or gum disease. As your dog ages, his gums can become inflamed as bacteria grows in his mouth and under his gum line. These bacteria turn into hard and difficult to remove plaque on the teeth, spreading under the gums and causing discomfort, pain, and swelling. Over time, gum disease causes tooth loss as well as bone loss. If your senior dog has gum disease, you will notice gums that are tender, red, and swollen. Your dog may even show signs of disinterest in eating meals, especially foods which are hard and crunchy

Kidney Disease

Your senior dog may show signs of kidney disease or kidney failure as he ages. The kidneys are imperative parts of your dog’s endocrine system. Your dog's kidneys are responsible for maintaining balance within his body and removing waste. Though kidney disease can affect younger dogs, it is more common in senior dogs as the body ages and organs begin to deteriorate. You may notice your dog drinking more water, be unable to control his bladder while in the house, or urinating more frequently. Your senior may experience a loss of appetite, he may vomit frequently, and appear listless. As with any condition, it is imperative to see your veterinarian for diagnosis.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

As your dog’s system begins to age, his body becomes more inflamed throughout. When the intestines suffer inflammation, there is a chance of inflammatory bowel disease. Senior dogs with a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits may be more susceptible. You will notice signs such as weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea if your dog has inflammatory bowel disease or intestines that are irritated to the point of discomfort. Your veterinarian can talk to you about a senior dog food and diet which is not only healthy for your dog's age, but also for the conditions of sensitive stomachs and irritated intestines. Talk to your veterinarian as well about anti-inflammatory medications that may make your dog more comfortable.

Senility and Dementia

You may notice changes in behavior as your pup grows old. He’ll need more sleep. He may have less interest in remaining active. He may also appear lost and confused at times. He may look at you as if he does not know who you are or even appear fearful in surroundings he has been comfortable with his whole life. Changes in brain activity are common for senior dogs. Your dog may suffer senility or dementia,causing his personality to change. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome in dogs is very like Alzheimer's in humans. Unfortunately, if your dog is suffering senility, there is no cure. However, there are things you can do to make your dog comfortable. Don't stop providing your dog with the wonderful life you have offered. Keep him social and active and begin to recognize the signs of discomfort and fear so you can provide comfort. Talk to your veterinarian about supplements and medications that can help with your dog’s cognitive decline and brain activity during these senior years.


As your dog ages, he may not be as active as he used to be. You may find his activity levels declining as well as his interest in doing things such as playing games of fetch or going for long walks or runs with you. As his body ages, his digestive system and his endocrine system will not work as efficiently as they may have when he was younger. As a result of these things, your senior dog may begin to gain unnecessary and unwanted extra weight. As your dog ages into his senior years, you may need to talk to your veterinarian about switching to a senior diet and be sure, within your dog's limits, to keep him as active as possible to maintain a healthy weight.

Knowing What to Expect

Owning a dog is an extreme joy, hopefully for many years. Unfortunately, as with all pets, there is a time when your dog's life begins to change, and you realize they are not as young as they used to be. Your dog may never enjoy some of the same activities he enjoyed in the past.

Watching your dog age and suffer the ailments of getting older can certainly be difficult and emotional. Knowing how to care for your dog during this time is crucial and beneficial to your dog. He still needs love and understanding, veterinary care, and for you to educate yourself on how you can better care at home during his senior years. The time to say goodbye to your beloved best friend is inevitable, but these senior years can still be fun and rewarding and filled with life if you can offer your dog the best care even as his body ages, changes, and isn't functioning in the exact ways it used to function.

Wag! Specialist
Need to upgrade your pet's leash?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.