Vet Blog

5 Ways to Tell if Your Senior Dog is Ill

November 20, 2018

All animals, including dogs, are very good at masquerading any illnesses. They do this because they do not want to appear vulnerable, a natural instinct that harks back to the days when they lived only in the wild and could come under threat from predators. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult to determine if your dog is ill as he will automatically try and avoid showing any symptoms.

However, since pets age much faster than people do, and one human year is about the equivalent of 7 dog years, your canine pal will start showing some age-related changes much more quickly than you probably expect. Many of these, such as gradual vision and hearing loss and reduced activity levels, are normal, unavoidable and represent the natural deterioration of your dog's body. However, there are some things that might be going on with your pet that could indicate an underlying health problem that could potentially be managed or in some cases if caught early enough, prevented from developing fully.

The earlier that your senior dog's health problems are detected, the more options you and our vet have when it comes to slowing/halting the progression of the disease and managing his condition.

Here are 5 ways to tell if your senior dog is ill.

Changes in the way he looks

Visible symptoms are usually the most obvious and easiest to spot. While not all health problems will present with visible symptoms, the way that your senior dog looks can provide some clues that he may be suffering from the effects of an underlying condition. If he has any of the following, we recommend that you seek the advice of our veterinarian.

  • Ears that are crusty, have a discharge or bad smell coming from them. Also, if your dog seems bothered by his ears and repeatedly paws at them or shakes his head.
  • Eyes that have discharge coming from them, seem cloudy or look an unusual color.
  • Fur that has bald patches, looks particularly dry or in bad condition.
  • Pale, discolored or white gums.
  • Skin problems including lesions, flaking, rashes, swelling or pus.

Changes in the way that he behaves

Some behavioral changes are a common part of the ageing process. For example, many older dogs become more lethargic and less active, and they may appear more stubborn and resistant to change. However, if you notice any of the following changes in the way that your dog behaves, you should seek veterinary support as there could be a health problem to blame.

  • Sudden aggression
  • Not wanting to be touched
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Sudden separation anxiety
  • Frightened behaviors such as hiding

Changes in bathroom habits

Virtually all senior dogs have established bathroom habits by the time they reach their senior years. However, many health conditions manifest through sudden potty-based problems. This can include your dog suddenly having bathroom accidents, peeing or pooping much more than usual, straining to pee or poop and more. You know your dog best, so if his bathroom habits change suddenly, seek the advice of our vet.

His appetite changes

You should be offering your senior dog a high-quality diet that is tailored for his older age. However, if he suddenly stops eating so much, or in some cases refuses food altogether, you need to make an appointment with our vet. It may be that his teeth are causing him pain, which is a very common problem, particularly with older dogs who usually have some degree of periodontal disease. However, there could be something more serious putting him off of his food.

You can't put your finger on it, but your senior dog just doesn't seem 'right' to you

Having spent a great deal of time with your dog, you know him better than anyone else does. Parents often talk about a gut instinct, but studies have shown that this is also something that applies to pet owners. If you aren't sure why but something about your senior canine pal doesn't seem quite right to you, it is always worth scheduling an appointment with our vet.

If you suspect that your older dog may be ill, don't delay. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can ensure that your dog gets the treatment he needs to be comfortable during his senior years. Contact us at our veterinary offices in Charlotte Harbor, FL today.