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How to Care for a Senior Dog: Common Conditions & Treatments

caring for a senior dog
 As our furry companions age, we want to ensure they’re healthy and comfortable. Senior dogs come with a unique set of health and wellness concerns, and it can be overwhelming to understand how to care for them all.

The 10 Most Prevalent Health Problems for Senior Dogs

We know it can be heartbreaking to learn your long-time best friend is unhealthy or in pain. Fortunately, there are plenty of senior dog care treatment options out there to help them live a happier, healthier life and keep their tails wagging a while longer.
1. Arthritis
Arthritis is common in senior dogs and can cause joint pain, stiffness and decreased mobility. Treatment options include over-the-counter supplements such as Duralactin® and chondroitin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Firocoxib Chewable Tablets for Dogs. Other non-medication options like weight management, physical therapy and low-impact exercise (e.g. swimming) can help reduce your pup’s pain and symptoms.

2. Incontinence

If your housebroken dog is having accidents, it may be caused by a medical condition called canine urinary incontinence (UI) due to weakened muscles of the urethral sphincter. Incontinence is especially common in aging female dogs, but there are ways to treat it. PROIN ER™ (phenylpropanolamine hydrochloride extended-release tablets) is a long-acting prescription medication that can help control urinary accidents. It features patented extended-release technology that allows for one-daily dosing, rather than requiring pet parents to give multiple tablets per day like with Proin®.
Compared to Proin®, PROIN ER™ has a better efficacy and safety profile. Plus, there’s no “washout” period when transitioning from Proin® to PROIN ER™. Ask your veterinarian about prescribing PROIN ER™.

3. Dental Diseases

Dental disease is common in senior dogs and can lead to tooth loss, gum disease and bad breath. Regular dental check-ups, professional cleaning and brushing at home can prevent or even treat dental problems. You can also add dental chews or specialized food to your dog's diet to promote oral hygiene.
If your dog’s dental problems continue to worsen despite care, consult your veterinarian. They may trim or remove teeth, remove any abscesses and/or prescribe antibiotics and pain relievers if needed.

4. Heart Disease

Heart diseases occur when your dog’s heart muscles, valves and arteries begin to wear down over time. The symptoms may include coughing, weight loss, lethargy and difficulty breathing. Possible treatments may include surgeries, lifestyle changes (e.g. diet, exercise, rest) or medications like Amlodipine or Vetmedin® (generic: pimobendan).

5. Cancer

Unfortunately, cancer is common in senior dogs, and early detection is critical for successful treatment. Typical symptoms of cancer include unusual lumps, unexpected weight loss, change in appetite and mobility issues.
Common treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, depending on the type and stage of cancer. Your veterinarian may also prescribe immunosuppressants like chlorambucil, which disrupts the division of mutated cells and therefore slows cancerous growths.
Palliative care — stopping curative treatment and focusing on comfort and quality of life — can also improve happiness and life satisfaction for dogs with cancer.

6. Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when there is a deficiency in insulin production, thereby affecting your dog's blood sugar level. Some of the common signs of diabetes include frequent urination, weight loss and excessive thirst. Depending on the type of diabetes, treatment may involve administering insulin injections, dietary changes and regular exercise.

7. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)

You can think of CDS as similar to dementia in humans. It can cause disorientation, confusion and changes in behavior. While there is no cure, treatment of CDS generally involves cognitive training, environmental enrichment and/or dietary modifications. Your veterinarian may also prescribe medications such as fluoxetine. Creating a consistent routine, providing mental and physical stimulation and minimizing noise and stress may also help your dog cope.

8. Liver Disease

The liver plays a vital role in digestion and removal of waste products in your dog's body. As your dog grows older, the liver may become susceptible to injuries or illnesses like hepatitis, tumors or cirrhosis. Symptoms of liver disease may include abdominal distention, jaundice, vomiting and loss of appetite. Treatment may involve surgery, liver function tests and/or your veterinarian may prescribe medications like ursodiol.

9. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormones, leading to inadequate metabolic function. Common signs include hair loss/excessive shedding, weight gain, lethargy and intolerance to cold. To manage your dog’s hypothyroidism, your veterinarian may prescribe an antithyroid medication like levothyroxine.

10. Gastrointestinal Disease

While most dogs are known to experience a gastrointestinal problem every now and then, senior dogs often experience them more frequently. Some common digestive issues include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diarrhea, vomiting and constipation. Treatment may involve hydration, dietary changes and prescription medication like budesonide.

Talk to Your Veterinarian About Using Mixlab’s Pet Pharmacy

At Mixlab, it’s our mission to provide exceptional care for pets and those who care for them. We partner with veterinarians nationwide to provide compounded and commercial medications (like the ones listed in this article!) in the most efficient way possible. Keeping your hound happy and healthy, and keeping you happy too. It’s what we do.
Experience the five-star customer experience for yourself and talk to your veterinarian about using Mixlab for your pet’s meds.