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What are the Most Common Diseases to Affect Older Pets?

Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Updated May 21, 2024
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Older pets are more prone to certain diseases and conditions that are rarely seen in younger animals. Because animals are living longer than they used to, these diseases are becoming more and more frequent. If you have older pets — over ten years old — it's important to remember that many diseases are curable if detected early and treated aggressively. Nobody knows your pet better than you, so always keep an eye out for noticeable changes in behavior, body weight, or lifestyle patterns, and consult your veterinarian as soon as possible to rule out serious problems.

Older pets have a high chance of becoming obese. While obesity in itself is not disease, it can contribute to the onset of certain diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. In fact, diabetes mellitus is a common problem in older pets, with many animals, especially dogs, becoming insulin dependent. Obesity also makes it harder for older pets to have an active life and to enjoy everyday activities as they used to.

Dental disease is another common malady to affect older pets. This in turn can lead to kidney or liver problems, as the bacteria often gets into the bloodstream. Tartar buildup and gum disease should be treated by a veterinarian even if your pet doesn't seem bothered by it. Tooth brushing and chew toys can help prevent problems, but in older pets that already have advanced dental disease, an in-depth dental scaling may be the only choice.

Older pets are also prone to arthritis and degenerative joint disease, which is especially common in large dogs. Arthritis can be treated with prescription drugs and Glucosamine supplements, but daily exercise also helps. If you have a pet that has suddenly become less active and seems to have a hard time getting up and moving around, have him checked for joint and bone disease.

Cataracts are common among older pets that have a history of diabetes or high blood pressure. The good news is that cataracts can be safely removed through surgery in up to 90 percent of cases, and many pets are also good candidates for intraocular lenses implants, so make sure you ask your doctor about it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs that my older pet might be developing a common age-related disease?

Signs of age-related diseases in pets can include decreased activity levels, weight loss or gain, difficulty climbing stairs or jumping, increased thirst or urination, changes in appetite, and the appearance of lumps or bumps. Behavioral changes such as increased irritability or confusion can also indicate underlying health issues. Early detection through regular veterinary check-ups is crucial for management.

How can I prevent my senior pet from developing common age-related diseases?

Prevention of age-related diseases in pets involves maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and regular exercise, ensuring dental hygiene, and keeping up with routine veterinary visits for early detection and vaccination. Supplements like glucosamine can support joint health, while omega-3 fatty acids can aid in maintaining cognitive function. Always consult your vet before starting any new supplement.

Is arthritis common in older pets, and how is it treated?

Arthritis is indeed common in older pets, affecting up to 65% of senior dogs and 90% of cats over the age of 10, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Treatment includes weight management, anti-inflammatory medications, joint supplements, physical therapy, and in some cases, acupuncture or laser therapy. Pain management is essential to maintain quality of life.

What are the most common types of cancer in older pets, and how are they detected?

The most common types of cancer in older pets include lymphoma, mast cell tumors, and bone cancer. Detection methods include physical examinations, blood tests, imaging like X-rays or ultrasound, and biopsies. Early detection is key, so any new lumps, bumps, or changes in behavior should prompt a veterinary visit for further evaluation.

Can older pets develop diabetes, and what are the symptoms?

Older pets can develop diabetes, with symptoms including increased thirst and urination, weight loss despite a good appetite, and lethargy. Cats, in particular, may also show a plantigrade stance (walking on their hocks). Diabetes requires lifelong management, which may include insulin injections, dietary changes, and regular blood sugar monitoring.

How does kidney disease present in older pets, and what can be done to manage it?

Kidney disease in older pets often presents with increased thirst and urination, weight loss, vomiting, and decreased appetite. Management includes a prescription renal diet, medications to control blood pressure and protein loss, and possibly fluid therapy. Early detection through regular blood and urine tests is vital for slowing progression and improving quality of life.

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Discussion Comments

By myharley — On Jul 09, 2011

When I first heard about pet insurance I thought it was kind of a crazy idea. This was until I had an older dog who developed cancer and I was faced with some big vet bills to take care of him.

My whole thought process changed on this issue after this happened. Now I think that insurance for older pets is a good idea. Like all insurance, it is best if you buy it when your dog is healthy and isn't having any problems. You just never know when you are going to need it, and the relief from the financial burden is worth it.

By bagley79 — On Jul 09, 2011

Older dogs are not usually as active as younger ones, and it is easy for them to put on weight. My dog had put on more weight than she needed to, and the vet said this was hard on her joints.

I began exercising her more often and this turned out to be a bonus for both of us. We both lost a little bit of weight in the process and she loved taking regular walks.

I also cut down on her food and this helped her lose some pounds. I think this was harder than the exercise because she acted like she could eat 24 hours a day. She ended up losing 10 pounds, and the vet said I probably added a couple of years to her life by doing this.

By LisaLou — On Jul 08, 2011

I noticed that as my lab got older, she had a harder time getting up and around. By this time she was considered a senior dog, and I had her on a special dog food for her age.

I also started adding a supplement that had Glucosamine in it. This had made a difference for my Dad who was struggling with arthritis, and I was told it was also very beneficial for dogs.

The main thing is to be consistent with it. This is something that she will need to be on the rest of her life if I want her to have better mobility. It is not good to start it and stop it, but to give it on a consistent basis for best results.

It is nice to see her able to get up and down the stairs easier and not struggle so much to get up.

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