5 Common Signs Your Aging Dog Needs to go to the Vet

We all want to give our dogs the best care possible, but we also don’t want to spend money at the vet for no reason. As our dogs age, it can become stressful to answer the question, “Does my senior dog need to see a vet?” Dogs, especially seniors, can have off days where they don’t feel good – maybe they played too long yesterday and are sore and tired today. Take it easy, and tomorrow they will be fine, no vet needed. But other times, your aging dog’s change in behavior could mean something serious. While it’s always an individual judgement call, here are some common signs that your aging dog should go to the vet.

#1 – Sudden Weight Loss or Weight Gain

If you haven’t changed your dog’s diet or exercise habits, and all of a sudden, he has dropped a lot of weight or gained it, he could have a health condition such as Cushing’s or thyroid, or even something as simple as a parasite, like worms. It’s a good idea to take her to the vet to find out what’s causing the loss or gain.

#2 – Change in Appetite

This symptom may be seen in conjunction with the above weight loss or weight gain. Your dog may seem uninterested in food or is now acting like he is starving all the time. Again, if you haven’t changed his diet, this could be a sign of any number of senior dog health issues, including cancer and thyroid trouble, so it’s a good idea to take him to the vet for a once over.

#3 – Change in Fur

A change in fur quality can be caused from a diet change or from a grooming product, so think about whether you have changed your dog’s diet, shampoo, conditioners, or detanglers in the last two months before heading to the vet. But, hair loss or dry, brittle hair can be caused by several deteriorating health conditions, including thyroid and Cushing diseases, so if you don’t think diet or grooming products is the culprit, it’s time to visit the vet.

#4 – Having Trouble Getting Around

As dogs age, their joints and muscles can get weaker or a bit arthritic, just like ours. It’s normal for your senior dog to slow down and not be as spry as she was a puppy. And of course, if she is overweight, that can cause her to have more trouble (simple solution – keep your dog at a healthy weight and remember to continue to exercise your senior dog, as it’s better for their joints. Just remember she may not be able to handle as much exercise as she did when she was younger). But if your notice your dog cannot get up from lying down or sitting without great difficult, or appears to have weakness in the hind end, is whining or yelping in pain when trying to move, it’s a good idea to take her to the vet. They may have severe arthritis that requires pain relief medication or they may have something else going on such as hip dysplasia.

#5 – Lumps

Most dogs get lumps as they age. Many of them get “fatty tumors,” which can be any size – from small or quite large and noticeable. These tumors are soft and easy to manipulate when felt and are almost always benign. You can usually ignore them unless they start to grow rapidly, or are in a location that hinders your dog (for example a large one on a joint may make it hard for your dog to walk), or are so big its become a hinderance. However, if the tumor is hard, not moveable under the skin, it should be checked out by a vet as it could be malignant. It is important to note that fatty tumors can sometimes become cancerous, so keep an eye on them, and ask your vet if you are concerned.

At the end of the day, remember you know your dog best. Even if his symptoms are not on this list, if you feel he needs to see a vet, do it. Listen to that voice inside you, it’s usually right. You can also try call your vet and explain the symptoms your dog is showing, and they may be able to help you decide if he needs to be seen in person.

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  1. Could I please add another sign. Change in breathing patterns. My 10yr old Maltese Shitzu had a mild cough almost like clearing her throat. I then noticed over a couple of days her heart seemed to be beating a little faster than normal. My Vet couldn’t see her so took her to another Vet.. After looking in her mouth at her tongue and feeling her heart beat, Xrays straight away. She had Fluid on the lungs and now has Congenital Heart Disease/Failure. She also has an enlarged heart. All this within a few days. After 2 weeks of meds, she is off now to a cardiologist.

    So keep an eye on heart beat and any change in colour on their tongue.

    Debbie :(

  2. My little four old poodle was irritable and snappy during her last pregnancy. I put this down to expecting a large litter and discomfort on her post natal checkup vet found a cracked molar and mentioned that this would be painful. Back to get happy little self aft tooth extracted. And I learnt a lesson don’t assume reasons for changes in behaviours. My old girls teeth are regularly checked too and she was found to have lost a couple on last visit. So important to have old dogs teeth regularly checked even if there is no evidence of gum disease.

    1. Yes teeth are a big problem as they age especially small dogs,, my boy a Staffy had Gingivitis back molars age 10yrs old, vet cleaned his teeth & he was put on ant acid medication, his Lower Esophageal Sphincter flap isn’t closing properly & stomach acids are coming up his esophagus, vet said feed a low fat kibble & no wet foods they seem to come up more as they digest quicker then kibble.

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