An Overview of the Most Common Old Dog Diseases

When discussing old dog diseases, it is always good to ask the question, "What exactly is an old dog?" After all, some ailments are far more commonly known as old dog diseases than others.

Depending on the breed, the meaning of "old" can vary, but it usually starts around 10 years of age. As a dog gets older, its behavior changes too. The signs of aging in a dog are very similar to those of humans. For example, old dogs have reduced energy levels. They sleep longer, they have less enthusiasm for energetic activities, and just don't play like they used to. Older dogs also experience changes in fur and skin (fur becomes matted more frequently, it takes longer for wounds to heal, and old dogs generally become more sensitive to extremes in temperature). And of course, older dogs experience changes in vision and hearing, making it tough sometimes to navigate the house.

Now, there are other, more serious diseases that old dogs are prone to. These include cancer, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders and diabetes. Let's look at each one in more detail.

Cancer is a tragic disease that can move surprisingly quickly, both in people and in pets. Symptoms include abnormal growths under the skin, as well as swellings that don't go away. Cancer may also manifest itself through bleeding or bloody discharge (from the eyes, mouth, ears, or any other opening). This, combined with difficulty eating, breathing, urinating or pooping, can be symptoms of cancer in old dogs.

Another common ailment is arthritis. Though not as life-threatening as cancer, arthritis in old dogs can be a debilitating disease that robs your pet of much of the enjoyment of life. Symptoms include difficulty rising, stiffness, irritability or reclusiveness. You may also notice that your old dog's muscles are atrophying as his activity level declines.

Kidney disease is also common among old dogs. If you notice increased thirst, urination, coupled with weight loss, your dog may be suffering form kidney malfunction. Vomiting and blood in urine or poop are serious symptoms, and if you notice them, contact your vet immediately. Of course, these symptoms could be caused by one of many old dog diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease or bladder stones. Again, see a vet right away.

Diabetes is common among people, but it is also common among dogs. You may notice increased thirst and urination, weight loss, weakness, and increasing levels of lethargy and depression in a diabetic dog. Diabetes, if left untreated, can be fatal. There is no cure for canine diabetes, but it can be controlled with insulin injections.

Finally, cataracts are also common in older dogs. The eyes become cloudy, the dog is unable to navigate around objects, and stops retrieving objects. Note, however, that all old dogs develop a graying of the eyes which is due to a hardening of the lens. Generally, this does not affect the old dog's ability to see. However, cataracts are a more serious condition that can eventually lead to vision loss. As in humans, canine cataracts can be treated with surgery

An old dog normally suffers some loss in energy and mobility, just like an elderly human. Helping your companion through as he gets older means treating him with extra patience and kindness. Give him more time to sleep, and more time to wake up in the morning. Understand that long walks may not be so long anymore. Make it easier for him to reach his food, get outside when nature calls, and provide comfortable resting places.

And keep an eye out for symptoms of the more old dog diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, that your pet can be more susceptible to. Your dog will live longer and provide you with more years of loving companionship.

Allan Dykstra runs, a directory of links and information on dog health and dog food. You'll find information on recalls, dog food recipes, food for old dogs, and old dog diseases.
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