10 Signs Your Senior Dog May Have More Going on Than Just Aging

March 21, 2022

I’m sure you wish your dog could stay youthful and vibrant always but alas, that isn’t reality — everyone ages, including your four-legged best friend. As a pet parent, you know your dog better than anyone and you will notice when your senior dog is not acting normally. 

You may think your beloved pooch is just naturally slowing down due to the typical aging process. However, sometimes other things may be going on. So, if your senior dog is exhibiting any of the following signs, it’s time to consult your veterinarian.

1.    Loss of interest in activities. Your dog – who normally loves to play fetch, engage in a tug of war, or go for a romp in the park – may suddenly lose interest in these activities. If so, he may be suffering from a physical condition or even depression.

2.    Increased lameness or a sudden limp. While arthritis is a common issue for senior dogs, even aging dogs don’t start suddenly limping for no reason. The limp may result from a superficial injury (perhaps a stuck thorn or a broken toenail), deeper bone or tissue damage, a side effect of an infection, or something more serious. 

3.    Changes in sleeping patterns. Your dog may be sleeping more during the day or acting restless or agitated in the overnight hours. He may even sleep through your homecomings rather than race to you for hugs. Senior dogs do need more sleep, but sleep-related changes could result from stress or various health problems, including thyroid issues, diabetes, infections, or anemia.

4.    Lethargy or extreme fatigue. These symptoms can be vague but are common symptoms of illness in all dogs not just seniors. They may indicate various disease processes, including infection and metabolic or organic disease.

5.    A tendency to isolate. Dogs are pack animals and inherently enjoy spending time with their pack (you and your family)!  He may be distancing himself because of a mental or physical condition, including anxiety, depression, illness, or pain. 

6.    Irritability, agitation, or restlessness. An unsettled dog can’t relax. He may aimlessly pace around the house, whining, crying, barking, shaking, acting confused, licking himself repeatedly, and/or panting heavily. Reasons for this behavior can include anxiety, neurological conditions, liver disease, stomach conditions, constipation, and Cushing’s disease.

7.    Change in eating or drinking. Either an increase or decrease in appetite or water consumption may indicate trouble. Most dogs love food, so when yours refuses his favorite kibble, it may be concerning. Refusal to drink water is even more worrisome. Your dog may be unwell, in pain, or experiencing side effects from medication.

8.    Loss of bladder or bowel control. Older dogs of both sexes can struggle with control of their bladders or bowels. Common causes of incontinence in senior dogs include arthritis, dementia, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections.

9.    Color changes of the gums or tongue. Healthy dog gums are powdery pink. Pink is also the normal tongue color (except for naturally black-tongued dogs). A sick dog’s gum coloration could be pale white, blue, black, or bright red. A sick dog’s tongue may be yellow/orange, red, white/pale, or purple/blue. These color changes can mean anything from gum issues to congestive heart failure and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. 

10.  Change in breathing patterns. A change in how fast or hard your dog is breathing may be considered an emergency. Dog breathing problems can affect all breeds and ages and can quickly become life-threatening. If your dog is having a hard time breathing, he should be seen by a veterinarian ASAP.

Aging of Senior Dogs – Conclusion

Old age is different for different dogs. Most large-breed dogs tend to have shorter lifespans and are considered seniors when they’re about seven or eight years old. On the other hand, small-breeds tend to live longer and are considered elderly at about ten or eleven years. 

If you spot any of the changes mentioned above in your older dog, it’s best to check in with your veterinarian. Even if your pet doesn’t need immediate medical attention, your vet can help you understand what is happening and how to best prepare for the future. 

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