Understanding Common Health Issues in Geriatric Pets

As our furry companion's age, they are more prone to health concerns. Our vets at Stanwood shed light on some of the typical health problems affecting older pets and offer insights on how to provide adequate geriatric care to curb these issues.

Common Health Issues in Geriatric Pets

As your pet grows older, it's essential to prioritize routine preventative care and early diagnosis. Just like humans, senior pets are susceptible to various conditions such as arthritis, cancer, blindness, dementia, and cognitive dysfunction. Therefore, it's crucial to schedule regular wellness exams with your vet to detect these issues early and develop a treatment plan to manage the condition.

Common health problems in senior pets include:

Dental Issues

As your pets grow older, their oral health may start to decline, which is a natural process. However, reduced levels of phosphorous, calcium, and B-complex vitamins can have adverse effects on their teeth's strength. Moreover, a lack of antioxidants and zinc can lead to the onset of gum disease. To prevent dental disease from impacting your senior cat's or dog's well-being, it's crucial to ensure appropriate dental care. Don't forget to maintain a consistent oral health routine for your pet at home and schedule regular check-ups and cleanings with your veterinarian.


As pets age, arthritis can become their primary source of chronic pain. You may notice your furry friend struggling with stiffness or pain after exertion, as well as difficulty getting up and down, limping, or changes in their gait.

If you notice these signs, it's important to speak with your vet about potential arthritis and consider radiographs to evaluate their joints.

There are a variety of supplements, including glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and essential fatty acids, that can help alleviate arthritis symptoms.

Additionally, losing weight can dramatically improve pain, while continuing moderate exercise can help maintain muscle tone and range of motion, and stimulate nerve fibers to relieve pain.

Your vet may recommend integrative therapy options, such as animal chiropractic care, acupuncture, or laser therapy, to further assist your pet.

Dementia & Cognitive Dysfunction Kidney Disease

As pets grow older, kidney disease becomes a common health issue as it starts affecting them internally. Chronic (renal) kidney disease is a gradual process that usually begins with renal insufficiency and progresses into full kidney failure. Although there is no cure for this disease, managing its symptoms can prolong your furry friend's life and improve the quality of their remaining time.

Early detection of the disease is crucial, and your vet can take measures to slow its progression. A urinalysis can detect early changes in the kidneys. Symptoms of kidney disease include lethargy, increased thirst and urination, nausea, and loss of appetite. Your vet may recommend a prescription kidney diet to help manage the symptoms of your dog or cat.


As pets age, cancer becomes a more frequent and concerning health issue. Symptoms of different types of cancer can vary, making it crucial to schedule routine wellness exams for your pet.

These exams give your vet the chance to detect signs of the disease early, potentially saving your pet's life. Diagnostic imaging and lab work panels can reveal subtle signs that may not be apparent to the naked eye.

Treatment for your pet's cancer will depend on the type of cancer and its stage. It's important to note that what may seem like normal aging changes could actually be early signs of cancer. 

To ensure your pet's health, make sure to stay up to date with wellness visits as they enter their golden years.


As pets age, they may experience vision impairment caused by degenerative changes and diseases, such as cataracts. Unfortunately, aging-related blindness cannot be reversed. However, like humans, dogs' other senses will heighten to compensate for the lack of eyesight.

It's important to be cautious when walking your blind dog and keep them on a leash to ensure their safety outdoors. Moving furniture in the house should also be avoided. If your pet suddenly becomes blind, it may be a veterinary emergency. Our veterinary team is available to help you navigate your pet's geriatric senior years, answer your questions, and identify emerging health issues. We offer early proactive geriatric care treatment while problems can still be easily managed.

Caring For Your Senior Dog


As your dog ages, their nutritional needs are likely to change. Senior dogs tend to become less active and may gain weight, increasing their risk of health issues such as cardiovascular conditions and joint pain.

Your veterinarian can advise you on whether your dog's diet needs adjustment, such as monitoring calorie intake or switching to a weight loss formula. There are also prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs to address specific health conditions.

To determine if a particular diet or supplement is right for your dog, consult with your vet. In addition to physical benefits, a proper diet may help maintain your dog's cognitive function.

Omega-3 fatty acids can aid in mental alertness, along with adequate exercise, which may help prevent dementia or Alzheimer's-like conditions.

Exercise (Physical & Mental)

Just like humans, it's crucial to keep your dog's body and mind active as they age to maintain good health. Regular physical activity can help your furry friend stay within a healthy weight range and keep their joints exercised.

However, it's important to monitor your dog's comfort and ability when it comes to exercise. If they seem to struggle with the walks or runs they used to enjoy, try taking them on shorter, more frequent walks. Reluctance to exercise or slowing down can also be a sign of health issues like hip dysplasia or arthritis, so it's best to contact your vet for proper treatment.

In addition to physical exercise, mental stimulation is also important for senior dogs. It's never too late to introduce new tricks, puzzle games, or toys that your pup can enjoy solving for treats. You can find plenty of options for your furry friend at pet supply stores or online.

Keep Your Senior Dog Comfortable

To ensure that your aging furry friend is comfortable during their golden years, there are a few things you can do in addition to providing them with proper veterinary care, nutrition, and exercise:

  • For dogs with joint pain or stiffness, consider investing in an orthopedic or heated dog bed, or even a heating pad/mat set to low heat under a blanket in their sleeping area.
  • Add more carpeting around your home if you have tile, laminate or wood floors to reduce slipping or tripping hazards.
  • Some dogs benefit from wearing dog socks with non-slip soles as well.
  • For safety, use pet or baby gates at the top or bottom of stairs and provide dog ramps to help them navigate stairs, furniture, or cars.
  • Elevating their food and water bowls can also relieve neck and back pain.
  • If your dog has vision issues, nightlights around the home can help them see at night and navigate easily.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you notice any symptoms or health issues in your pet, don't hesitate to contact our Stanwood vets. We can schedule a wellness checkup for your senior dog to address any concerns you may have.