Pet Health: Is Your Dog Feeling Poorly or Just Getting Old?

15 November 2020

Just like people, as a dog grows older, their health will change. Unfortunately, pets age much quicker than we do and as their owners, we need to make sure that we do everything in our power to take care of their health and make them feel comfortable. Knowing the signs is important when monitoring your senior pet. Many of the symptoms that indicate that your dog is feeling unwell are similar to the signs of your dog aging, which can make things confusing for owners. If you are ever unsure about anything to do with your dog’s health or behaviour, you should book an appointment with your vet as soon as you notice these changes.

To help you understand the differences between poor health and old age, here is some advice to help you see if your dog is feeling poorly or if they are just getting old.

Stiff Joints or Joint Disorder

Stiff joints are a common issue in older dogs, especially for larger breeds. If you have noticed that your dog is finding it harder to climb up the stairs or get up off the floor, then you should do what you can to support their joints. YuMove is an extremely popular product in the UK. It contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help reduce stiffness in older dogs. You can check out these dog joint supplements at where you will also see that all the products are carefully created by animal nutrition specialists, vet advisors and all-round animal lovers. You should also invest in an orthopaedic dog bed, increase grip on slippery floors, and go on short, regular walks. Consider arranging a check-up with your vet to rule out something serious.

Bad Breath or Dental Disease

Older dogs often smell unpleasant and their breath can be particularly smelly. Dogs don’t brush and floss their teeth twice a day like humans, and the food they eat usually smells quite strong, so it makes sense that their breath doesn’t smell great. Oral health and hygiene are still very important in dogs. As they age, their mouth ages too, but there are things you can do to keep their mouth healthy. This includes feeding them fresh bones and brushing their teeth once a week. If their breath smells so bad, to the point where it is almost unbearable, then this could be a sign of dental disease.

Reduced Appetite or Intense Pain

It is common for senior dogs to experience changes in their appetite. This is okay – as long as your dog is maintaining a healthy weight, their energy levels are consistent, and their behaviour hasn’t changed, then you don’t need to worry if your dog is eating a little less than normal. However, if your dog is a real foodie and they have started to show less interest in their food and is starting to lose weight, then it could be a sign of something more serious, including dental disease, cancer, pain, kidney failure, liver problems or a systemic infection. You should also be concerned if they are constantly hungry.

Slow Metabolism or Thyroid Problems

When a dog gets older, slower and more tired, many owners assume that they don’t want to walk as often. If your dog has put on some weight in their old age, then this will be putting more pressure on their joints, strain on their vital organs and uncomfortable pain. Feeding your dog joint tablets can reduce the progression of diseases such as arthritis, but it is not a cure and your actions will make a huge difference in your dog’s weight. If your dog is exercising regularly and has a controlled diet, then they could be suffering from a more serious disease and will require tests.

Low Energy or Heart Disease

Senior dogs will have lower energy levels than a younger dog, but if these changes have happened gradually and have remained fairly consistent in their old age, then you shouldn’t be too concerned. If they are extremely lethargic, showing a lack of enthusiasm to walk or play, struggling on a short, easy walk, or they are collapsing, then this is a warning sign that something more serious is going on than just old age. Some common causes of lethargy in dogs include an infection, heart disease, liver problems, hypoglycaemia and diabetes, so you should arrange a visit to your vet as soon as possible.

Sensitive Skin or Contact Dermatitis

Watching your dog itch constantly can be unsettling, especially if it is causing obvious discomfort. Old dogs can be more sensitive to changes to their diet and weather extremes, which could cause mild itching and discomfort. The most common reason for uncontrollable scratching in dogs is usually to do with their diet and environmental triggers, but if you and your vet know that this isn’t this case, then your dog could be suffering from a skin irritation called contact dermatitis. This can be caused by substances, like soaps and pesticides. Boredom and anxiety can also trigger compulsive scratching.

Cloudy Eyes or Eye Disease

You may have noticed a blue/grey tinge to your dog’s eyes as they have got older. Two of the most common causes of cloudy eyes in elderly dogs are cataracts and nuclear sclerosis. There isn’t really anything that can be done to fix these issues, as they don’t cause discomfort. However, it can affect your dog’s sight, so you would need to adapt your home and ways in order to help your dog feel safe and comfortable. Even though these are the two most common causes, cloudy eyes could be a sign of another condition that would require immediate attention and treatment from your vet.

Benign Lipoma or Malignant Cancer

Lipomas, also known as fatty lumps, are extremely common in dogs, especially as they get older. Lipomas are tumours that are made up of fat cells. Most of them are benign, so they are nothing to worry about. Fatty lumps will feel soft and will be slightly moveable under the skin. However, if they develop in the wrong place, they can cause discomfort or affect your dog’s mobility. It is important to keep an eye on the lumps and bumps found on your senior dog. If you discover any new lumps, or they grow quickly and/or cause your dog pain, then your vet may need to carry out a biopsy.

Aging Bowel or Intestinal Parasite

Changes in your dog’s bowel movements or strange looking faeces are common in senior dogs. Their systems won’t be as efficient as they used to be, but changes in their stool and toilet habits should be closely monitored. They may struggle to go to the toilet or need to be let out more frequently, but if they can’t control themselves and start to have accidents in the home, then this could be a sign of stress, anxiety, allergies, an infection, inflammatory bowel disease, or an intestinal parasite. You should also monitor the colour and appearance of their stool, as this could indicate a serious health problem.

As your dog gets older, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them being poorly or just getting old. Monitoring your dog and offering them preventative treatment is advisable, but in order to check that your dog isn’t in pain or suffering from something worse, you should speak to your vet immediately.

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