Common Problems For Older Dogs


VERY common in older especially larger breed dogs.

Symptoms: Stiffness especially in mornings or after rest. Sometimes limping, slowing down on walks. Often dogs become unable to jump into the car/climb stairs. Sometimes a change in the way your dog chooses to walk/run can be due to him/her avoiding bending particular joints (e.g. bunny hopping with hip problems).


Diagnosis does not always require xrays but we recommend if you are concerned you book an appointment with your vet. Many cases of arthritis are mild/gradual, but sometimes there is an underlying cause such as cruciate disease or hip dysplasia.

There are a huge variety of available treatments for arthritis in dogs. Early stages may benefit from glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation.

Cartrophen is a common treatment that has minimal side effects and requires an injection course once every 6 months. In later stages antiinflammatory drugs such as metacam or previcox may be required either short term or long term.


Hypothyroidism is more common in larger breeds, Cushings is more common in smaller breeds like terriers. At home, signs are very similar.

Symptoms: Weight gain (or apparant weight gain - pot belly), lethargy, sometimes hair loss usually on flanks/belly.

Diagnosis/Treatment: Blood tests are required to diagnose this problem - Treatment is very sucessful for both conditions - symptoms usually resolve and dogs usually live a normal length life. This condition does involve long term medication.

Senile changes:

Common in elderly dogs

Symptoms: Commonly include urinating indoors, whining excessively/confusion about when night and day is. Sometimes dogs will wait at the wrong door to go outside/ on the wrong side (at the hinges). Some will eat dinner and then forget they have had dinner.

Diagnosis/ treatment: There are treatments available for senile dementia in older dogs (Aktivait is one of them) which doesnt need a prescription. However, we recommend you have a check up as some of the signs above (wanting to eat more, urinating indoors) can be signs of more serious diseases. It is important to rule these out.

Heart Disease:

Common, more common in some breeds than others. There are several common types of heart disease.

Symptoms: Being unable to keep up on walks, panting when it isnt really hot, excessive sleeping, coughing. 

Diagnosis/treatment: There are many types of heart disease in dogs and some are easier to idenfity and easier to treat than others. Initially listening to the heart and chest can give us a good idea of what condition your dog may have. Common next step is xrays (to assess whether certain parts of the heart are enlarged), and an ultrasound scan may be necessary.

Treatment of some conditions - e.g. mitral valve disease in cavaliers - is very sucessful.


Symtpoms: Drinking excessively, usually eating too much and loosing weight. Diabetes kills dogs very quickly if not treated. They can develop 'ketoacidosis' which often results in seizures and death. 

Diagnosis and Treatment: Treatment does involve daily injections for your dog - just like human diabetes - and is not be taken lightly. However, when properly treated diabetic dogs can live for years of good quality life.


Little lumps and bumps are common in older dogs. It is not usually possible to tell exactly what they are from looking at them and with most lumps it is best to get a vet to look at it. Often we will suggest a 'Fine Needle Aspirate' which is a sort of reverse injection where we suck out a few cells using a needle and syringe to look at under a microscope. This can often tell us if the lump is dangerous or not.

There are many kinds of lumps varying from benign fatty lumps which are slow growing and tend not to cause a problem, all the way to mast cell tumours of the skin which can be very aggressive and spread rapidly. Please contact your vet if you notice a new lump as soon as possible


Unfortunately cancer is common in modern dogs.

As well as skin tumours you can see, tumours of the liver, spleen, gastrointestinal system, bladder and bones are all common in dogs. Signs can be very different depending on what kind of mass your dog has, and the outlook for your dog is also very different. Signs can range from being a bit slower on a walk, to vomiting and anorexia or even limping.

Some forms of cancer can be completely cured by removing them where others have a very poor prognosis, but in ALL cancers, early identification makes treatment more likely to be sucessful and avoids your pet having any unnecessary discomfort.

Address: Badgers Oak Veterinary Clinic, Hastings road, Northiam, East Sussex, TN31 6NH  Telephone: 01797 252321

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