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7 Senior Dog Health Problems and Symptoms

senior dogWith aging, dog health problems and symptoms may appear in your senior dog. You should take your senior dog to your veterinarian every six months for a checkup to find any problems that may occur.

With senior dogs, you need to look for changes in your dog, such as lack of appetite, increased or decreased thirst, behavioral changes, changes in movements, weight loss or gain, and more. Below you will find 7 senior dog health problems and symptoms.

7 Senior Dog Health Problems and Symptoms

Dental Disease

Signs of dental disease can include bad breath, red or swollen gums, loose or missing teeth, yellow or brown teeth, loss of appetite, and weight loss. With dental disease, you may notice your dog having trouble eating due to pain.

To help prevent dental disease, regularly brush your dog’s teeth using a toothpaste for dogs. Visit your veterinarian regularly and have professional dental cleanings when needed.


Older dogs may develop arthritis, especially large breed dogs or dogs who incurred injuries earlier in life. Arthritis will cause stiff joints, sometimes severe, limiting your dog’s mobility. You may notice your dog having trouble climbing stairs and jumping, or a slower movement when walking.

Glucosamine and chondroitin added to your dog’s diet will support healthy joints. Most senior dog foods contain glucosamine and chondroitin, but the amount contained in the food may not be enough. I buy my senior dog healthy treats with glucosamine and chondroitin added.

Kidney Function

Kidney function can decrease as your dog grows older. There are tests your veterinarian can run to detect problems with kidney function.

Symptoms can include increased urination and thirst, weight loss, loss of appetite, weakness, pale gums, diarrhea, bad breath, changes in behavior, or you may not notice any changes in your dog.

Cataracts and Nuclear Sclerosis

dog health problems and symptomsA cataract can cause blurry vision and you may find your dog running into objects due to a lack of clear eyesight. Your veterinarian will monitor or surgically remove your dog’s cataract as they can lead to blindness.

Your dog’s eyes may have a cloudy or gray appearance with nuclear sclerosis, which occurs naturally with age. Nuclear sclerosis rarely affects vision and does not require treatment.


As your dog grows older, their activity level will slow down and they may gain weight. Being overweight can lead to health issues such as damage to joints and ligaments, heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing difficulties, fatigue, and a decreased quality of life.

If your senior dog is gaining weight, talk to your veterinarian about changing your dog’s food to a lower calorie food. Check out these healthy human foods for dogs that are low in calorie and are great to use as treats. Increasing your dog’s exercise will help to maintain a healthy weight for your dog.


Just like humans, your dog’s digestive system will slow down as they grow older resulting in constipation. If your dog is constipated, take them to your veterinarian to be checked out. You want to be sure it is not caused by a more serious condition.

Increase your dog’s fiber intake, offer plenty of fresh water, and take regular walks to help prevent constipation. Feed your senior dog a food specifically made for senior dogs that is high is fiber and low in fat.


As dogs age, their chances of developing cancer increase. You will need to pay attention to any changes in your dog’s body or behaviors as cancer is rarely detected through blood tests in the early stages.

You may notice your dog having difficulty breathing, eating, swallowing, defecating, or urinating. Lumps, persistent swelling, sores that do not heal, coughing, loss of appetite, fatigue, and weight loss are also symptoms. Veterinarian checkups every 6 months are essential for senior dogs.

Many years ago, I had a Basset Hound that developed breast cancer at 8 years old. One day I was giving her belly rubs and noticed a small lump. I immediately made an appointment with her veterinarian. A biopsy was done which revealed that it was cancer. She had surgery and lived 4 more years cancer free.

Good nutrition will help keep your senior dog healthy along with regular exercise. I feed my senior dog a high quality grain free food that is high in protein, low in fat, and high in fiber. The high fiber helps with their slowing digestive system.

Do you have a senior dog that has experienced health issues? Feel free to leave a comment or share a story. The information on this website is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian, dog trainer, or dog behavioral specialist.



  1. That is the sad part of having pets join your family. They age too quickly and we are never ready to handle and accept the declining health of our beloved pets. It is so important to catch any illness as soon as possible to have a better change of treating it effectively–just like your basset hound. You had 4 more years to spend together.

    • Alice

      October 20, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      Thank you for your comment. Dogs do age quickly compared to humans. The earlier you or your veterinarian find a problem with your dog’s health, the more successful the treatments can be.

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