Old age happens to all of us – even our dogs. Our dogs will have old age to, and there are specific needs or problems
that must be addressed. The aging process brings about a decline in the dog's physical and sometimes mental
capabilities. Being aware of certain issues will allow an owner to provide to the animal the best treatment & care. Dogs
do not age at the same rate. Generally, smaller breeds live longer than larger dogs and mixed breeds usually live longer
than pure breeds. A general guideline according to the national veterinary guide is: Small dogs (under 20 pounds) are
considered geriatric between 9 and 13 years old. Medium sized dogs (21 to 50 pounds) are considered geriatric
between 9 and 11 years old .Large breed dogs (51 to 90 pounds) are considered geriatric between 7 and 10 years old
Giant breed dogs (over 90 pounds) are usually considered geriatric between 6 and 9 years old.
Caring for your geriatric dog will focus on preventative measures. It is always better to prevent a problem from
occurring, rather than to wait for it to develop. Detecting diseases in the early stages is essential. The environment and
lifestyle of your dog will put him or her at greater risk of developing a particular disease or other age related changes.
Within the last few decades, advancements in veterinary medicine have caused a dramatic increase in the longevity of
our pets. Today dogs are living longer although there is still a debate as to the pros and con’s involved in extending a
dog’s life. Quality of life for the animal and monetary expenditures play a important role in deciding if the added
advancement in science is worth it. Appropriate treatment is very costly, and mortgaging your house to pay the
Veterinarian seems a bit much. It’s a decision that each individual owner has to make. We love our dogs, but we have a
monetary cap when it comes to the dog’s medical condition. We have the same limit on our own lives in regard to
whether treatment is worth it, and would we spend our final day’s suffering from side effects of their last ditch medical
treatment. Or would we allow the end to come but living each day without discomfort with pain management and with our
families. These decisions should be discussed as your pet enters its golden years and before any type of extreme
medical procedure or cure is needed.
Some of the medical issues that may happen as your dog ages are:
Managing obesity or special needs. Often times the dog’s food needs to be either
upgraded for lack of nutrition or down graded to manage weight.
Big problem in older dogs and often over looked, in older dogs can effect chewing and food intake.
Dogs suffer from this as much as people but can be managed in a cost-effective manner.
Metabolic disease’s such as:
Diabetes mellitus is the most common form of canine diabetes.
It is caused by a deficiency in the production of insulin, the hormone that metabolizes blood glucose.
Cushing's disease is the result of a malfunction in adrenal gland.
The body produces too much glucocorticoid (a natural blood cortisol).
Cushing's disease affects carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.
Addison's disease is caused by a deficiency of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands.
Its cause is often unknown, but it can be treated with hormone replacement therapy.
The thyroid gland produces the hormones responsible for metabolic function.
When hormone production is disrupted and too little is produced, dogs can experience lethargy,
hair loss and cold intolerance.
Puerperal Hypocalcemia is a life-threatening condition that affects
small dogs that have recently given birth.
The dog's body loses massive amounts of calcium due to lactation,
and, as a result, the dog can suffer seizures, coma or death.
Hyperparathyroidism is a condition caused by the production of excess parathyroid hormone.
This causes an imbalance of calcium and phosphorous in the blood.
Endocrine disorders such as:
As with humans the thyroid gland regulates a dog's metabolism.
Disease occurs when secretion of the thyroid hormone fails.
Symptoms include weight gain, hair loss, lethargy,
skin infections and decreased interest in exercise.
In diabetic dogs, the endocrine glands malfunction, resulting in insulin deficiency.
Symptoms include excessive drinking and urination, and weight loss.
There is no cure, diabetes can be managed with a change in diet and exercise regimen.
Insulin is expensive since owners do not have health insurance for fiddo.
Diabetes is hereditary, with larger dogs being more vulnerable
so it pays to research if you can on the animals ancestors..
Pancreatitis usually affects middle-aged dogs. An inflamed pancreas can be caused
by trauma or by obesity and fatty foods. Symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea,
abdominal pain and decreased appetite. Withholding food and water for a day
usually stops the vomiting, with fluids sometimes used to prevent dehydration.
A rare endocrine disorder, Addison's occurs when the adrenal glands can't
produce sufficient steroid hormones. This can be due to adrenal gland damage
and pituitary failure. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, joint pain, shivering
and darkened skin areas. Symptoms vary over time, making Addison's difficult to diagnose..
You dog will likely need lifelong medication and monitoring..
Common in all breeds of older dogs, Cushing's disease is the opposite of Addison's,
in that the adrenal glands produce excess hormones. There are two types of this disease
which progresses slowly. Symptoms resemble those of other diseases and
include increased appetite, drinking and urination, protruding abdomen, skin lumps,
hair loss, high blood pressure and muscle weakness. Exhibiting normal signs of aging,
dogs often don't seem seriously ill. Cushing's can be caused by tumors of the adrenal or pituitary gland.
There is no cure.
Cardiac disease such as:
Dilated cardiomyopathy is simply an enlargement or dilation of the heart chambers.
It is the most common reason for congestive heart failure.
It is thought to be genetic in some breeds. Mitral valve disease is a defect
in the mitral valve of the heart. Blood flow backs up into the left chamber of the heart,
causing it to flow ineffectively to other areas of the body. Mitral valve disease is the
most common heart disease in older dogs, affecting more than
one-third of dogs over ten years of age.
Heartworm infestation is a preventable disease of the heart caused by the
bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquito deposits a parasite into the dog's bloodstream,
which eventually makes its way to the dog's heart. It takes approximately
seven months for the larvae to become heartworms. When mature, the hear-tworms begin to multiply.
Dogs can be infected with as many as 250 adult heartworms. In time, the worms make
their way to other organs. Heartworm disease occurs in most areas of the U.S.
and is particularly prevalent in warm, damp climates.
Some breeds seem to have a predisposition for certain heart diseases. Dilated cardiomyopathy is thought to be genetic
in Newfoundland’s, boxers, Irish wolfhounds, Doberman pinschers and Portuguese water dogs. The disease usually
strikes male dogs under 7 years of age. Mitral valve disease tends to show up early in the life of Cavalier King Charles
spaniels, toy and miniature poodles, bull terriers and Cairn terriers. Mitral valve disease seems most likely to occur in
but it also affects the German Shepherd and Great Dane. Males are affected more frequently than females by mitral
Skin tumors such as:
Papillomas are benign tumors of the skin and oral cavity mucous membranes. They are caused by site-specific
papilloma viruses and tend to occur in young dogs (6 months to 4 years) and in immunocompromised older adults.
These lesions often appear on the eyelids, in the genital region or on the lips, gums, tongue, palate and throat.
Commonly called “warts,” papillomas are more common in Cocker spaniels, Kerry blue terriers, Miniature schnauzers
and pugs. They normally present as small, discrete round growths with a rough or pedunculated surface, and they often
show up in large numbers. Papillomas are contagious between dogs, but not to people or cats. Uncommonly, benign
papillomas can metastasize to squamous cell carcinoma.
Sebaceous gland tumors
There are several different types of canine sebaceous gland tumors. Nodular sebaceous hyperplasia, sebaceous
epitheliomas and sebaceous adenomas are benign tumors most commonly seen in older dogs – especially Poodles,
Cocker spaniels, Miniature schnauzers and terriers (sebaceous hyperplasia and adenomas), and Lhasa apsos, Shih
tzus, Siberian huskies and Irish setters (sebaceous epitheliomas). These benign masses can be solitary or multiple and
usually are raised, firm, wart-like or cauliflower-like growths ranging from a few millimeters to several centimeters in
diameter. They can be pink, yellow-ish or darkly pigmented and can be oily, ulcerated or alopecic (hair loss on and
around the lesion). In dogs, they are especially common on the ventral abdomen (on the belly), although they can show
up anywhere.Sebaceous gland adenocarcinomas, which are malignant tumors, are much less common in dogs. They
appear similar to the benign sebaceous gland tumors and normally are solid, firm ulcerated or reddened masses on the
trunk, legs, head and eyelids, especially in older animals.
A lipoma is a benign fatty tumor usually comprised of mature fat cells in subcutaneous tissue. Lipomas are extremely
common in middle-aged and older dogs, especially Dobermans, Labradors and Miniature schnauzers. These tumors are
normally well-circumscribed, soft to firm masses in the subcutaneous tissue (just under the skin) and usually are
movable. In some cases, lipomas become rapidly infiltrative into underlying muscle, tendon and fascia; these tumors
should be surgically and aggressively removed. Treatment is only necessary when the tumor is cosmetically
unacceptable, rapidly growing or interfering with mobility.
Mast cell tumors
Mast cell tumors are malignant, highly invasive and difficult to treat with complete success. They are the most common
cutaneous (skin) tumor of dogs. Mast cell tumors can appear on the skin or in the underlying tissue. They take a variety
of forms and can be bumpy or smooth, poorly or well circumscribed, soft or firm, hairless or ulcerated, red or dark, and
solitary or in multiple places. They appear more commonly in older dogs and in certain breeds, including Boxers, Pugs,
Boston terriers, Labradors, Weimaraners, Beagles, Chinese Shar peis and Golden retrievers.
When you groom or pet your dog, always be alert for any suspicious lumps or bumps, with or without accompanying or
Cystitis means inflammation of the bladder. The most common cause in dogs is bacterial infection. Bacteria from the skin
surface enter the urethral opening and migrate inwards, where they attach to the bladder lining.
Urinary stones (uroliths) occur in approximately 1% of dogs. Uroliths are composed of crystallized minerals, such as
struvite, oxalate, urate, cystine, or calcium phosphate. Certain breeds are more prone to urolithiasis, including
Dalmatians, Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, English Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers, Irish Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Miniature
Poodles, Schnauzers, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas. Stones can be found anywhere in the urinary tract. In the bladder
they cause irritation, increasing the likelihood of cystitis or bacterial infections. In the urethra they can cause partial or
complete obstruction. When this happens, urine flow is reduced. With complete obstruction, urine is trapped in the body.
The kidneys are unable to continue cleansing the blood and death can result within a few days. Other conditions that
can cause urinary problems include tumors of the urinary tract and prostate ailments. Tumors of the bladder and
urethra are uncommon in dogs. They can cause blood in the urine and urethral obstruction. Surgery and chemotherapy
are beneficial, but the prognosis is uncertain because the tumors have a high rate of malignancy.
Prostate disease in intact male dogs
Prostate disease is quite common in older, un-neutered male dogs. Although the prostate is really part of the
reproductive system, prostate disease can result in urinary symptoms. The prostate can become inflamed or infected,
can grow abnormally large, or can become cancerous. All of these conditions increase the size of the prostate, leading
to bloody urine, frequent urinary tract infections, difficulty defecating, and pain. Most types of prostatic disease are
The urinary tract in dogs includes the kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, prostate, and urethra. Cancer can occur in any
of these sites but the bladder is most commonly affected. Although bladder cancer in dogs accounts for approximately
1% of all dog cancers, the rate of increase of this type of cancer over the past 10 years is estimated at over 200%.
A brain tumor is any intracranial tumor created by abnormal and uncontrolled cell
division, normally either found in the brain itself, in the cranial nerves, in the brain
envelopes (meninges), skull, or pituitary and pineal gland. Primary brain tumors
(those arising form the cells of the brain and it’s lining) in dogs include meningioma,
glioma, choroid plexus papilloma, pituitary adenoma or adenocarcinoma, and others.
Secondary or metastatic brain tumors originate from malignant tumors (cancers)
located primarily in other organs and metastasize (spread) to the brain. These
include hemangiosarcoma, mammary carcinoma and melanoma. These tumors carry
a very poor prognosis because they have already spread through the body.
Hemangiosarcoma in dogs is an aggressive, malignant tumor of blood vessel cells. With the exception of the skin form of
hemangiosarcoma, a diagnosis of hemangiosarcoma is serious. Because these tumors start in blood vessels, they are
frequently filled with blood and when a blood-filled tumor ruptures, it can cause problems with
internal or external bleeding.
Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers seen in dogs. Although there are breeds that appear to be at increased
risk for this disease, lymphoma can affect any dog of any breed at any age. It accounts for 10-20% of all cancers in
The lung is the essential respiration organ whose principal function is to transport oxygen from the atmosphere into the
bloodstream, and to release carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the atmosphere. There are two type of lung
cancer diagnosed in dogs. The first is primary lung cancer, which is defined as lung tumors that originate in the lung
tissue. The second type is metastatic lung cancer which is cancer that originates elsewhere in the body such as a leg
bone, the mouth, or the thyroid gland, but has spread to the lung via the bloodstream.
A mammary tumor is a tumor originating in the mammary gland. It is a common finding in older female dogs that are not
spayed (the incidence rate is one in 4 in unspayed female dogs over the age of 4), but they are found in other animals
as well. The mammary glands in dogs are associated with their nipples and extend from the underside of the chest to
the groin on both sides of the midline. There are many differences between mammary tumors in animals and breast
cancer in humans, including tumor type, malignancy, and treatment options
Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cell tumors (MCTs) (also referred to as histiocytic mastocytoma, mast cell sarcoma, mastocystosis (when there is
systemic involvement)) are cancerous proliferations of mast cells that can spread throughout the body. The most
significant danger from mast cell tumors arises from the secondary damage caused by the release of chemicals that
they produce: gastric ulcers, internal bleeding, and a range of allergic manifestations.These tumors are the most
frequently recognized malignant or potentially malignant neoplasms of dogs. MCTs may be seen in dogs of any age, but
the average age is 8-10 years. There is no way to definitively identify MCTs without a biopsy and pathology report.. It
can be difficult not only to recognize mast cell tumors but to predict their course. They may be relatively innocent or
Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer)
Osteosarcoma (OSA) accounts for only approximately 5% of all canine tumors, but is by far the most common bone
tumor of the dog. It is a malignant tumor of the bone and can develop in any bone, but most often occurs in bones
bordering the shoulder, wrist and knee. Osteosarcoma of the limbs is called appendicular osteosarcoma and accounts
for 75-85% of the cases of bone cancer. However, these tumors can also affect the axial skeleton (cranium, spinal
As in almost any form of cancer, but especially with certain types of skin cancer, it is critical to identify and treat this
disease in it’s early stages. Examine your dog monthly by separating the hair with your fingers and closely look at the
skin. Check for:
Tumors, areas of color change, or scaly, crusty lesions.
New growths or a change in color or size of an existing growth calls
Tumors that bleed easily or areas that do not to heal
An area the dog is continually licking or scratching
Swelling in the breast tissue or discharge from a nipple
Suspicious lumps or areas of discoloration under the tail
Masses or tissue that seems different from surrounding areas in the mouth
The causes of testicular cancer are currently unknown. However, dogs with an un-descended testicle are 13 times more
likely to develop a testicular cancer.
Testicular cancer can affect male dogs of any age, of intact male dogs.
Symptoms of canine testicular cancer include an enlarged, swelling of the testicles, difference in size of testicles,
lameness and swelling of the abdominal area.
Behavioral and cognitive dysfunction
The definition of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is geriatric onset behavioral changes (usually gradual) which
are not entirely attributable to (other) general medical conditions. Historically, geriatric behavior problems have fallen
into diagnostic categories similar to those in younger dogs. Based on two studies, those include: separation anxiety;
breakdown of housetraining; aggression toward dogs; aggression toward people or dogs; excessive vocalization;
phobia; and, night time waking where often no motivation is noted.
Senility in dog terms.
So there you have it, a brief run down of what may occur as your animal ages. Of course this did not cover all of it. The
conditions and life your animal will have in it’s golden years are in your hands. Being prepared is your first step in
bringing happiness and comfort to your dogs Geriatric Years
John A Sampson I
As always on these types of articles we have to have our disclaimer:
The above is only intended to be used for information purposes and
is solely the opinion of K9 Training and staff and represents
no guarantee or assurance of any implied outcome.
|The Geriatric Dog
"The Dog Training