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Common Ailments in Older Pets

Common Ailments in Older Pets

Pets grow more susceptible to diseases and injuries as they age. Their immune systems aren’t as strong as they once were, so it’s harder to fight off viruses and bacteria. Normal wear and tear takes its toll on muscles and bones, causing degeneration and painful conditions. Here are a few of the more common ailments seen in older pets, with details of treatments.


Over the years, your pet’s joints start “drying out” — there’s less fluid to lubricate the bones. Calcium deposits and cartilage build up, causing inflammation and arthritis, especially in older pets, large breeds of dogs and overweight animals.

Vets use anti-inflammatory medications and painkillers to treat arthritis. You can also supplement your pet’s diet with glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and chondroitin to help lubricate joints and feed nutrients into the surrounding tissues.

Colds and Influenza

A weaker immune system makes your pet more susceptible to the viruses that cause colds and influenza. Older animals are also prone to complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis if they contract influenza. Keep your pet fully vaccinated to help limit the risk of potentially fatal conditions.

Cataracts and Glaucoma

Eyesight deteriorates over time. A cataract occurs when the fibers within the eye become opaque, causing visual impairment. When the pressure behind the eye builds up, glaucoma occurs. Both conditions are more common in older pets and can leave the animal blind.

Glaucoma is a painful condition that requires painkillers. A vet can sometime remove cataracts. Both conditions get more difficult to treat the longer they remain undiagnosed.


Along with failing eyesight, older pets’ hearing deteriorates. Occasionally a damaged ear drum or wax build-up can also cause deafness. You can use olive oil or a specially formulated pet ear drop to help keep your pet’s ears clean, but deafness is an inevitable part of aging.

Dental Disease

Older pets also become more susceptible to dental diseases as their gums weaken. Keeping their teeth clean with regular brushing, a well-balanced diet and access to chew toys helps, as do regular check-ups to catch any potential problems early.

Tumors, Lumps and Cysts

Whether benign or cancerous, tumors, lumps and cysts typically occur in older pets. Some animals are more prone to tumors, but it’s important to have your vet look at any changes in your pet’s skin regardless of species. Unfortunately, not all tumors occur on the surface — they can happen invisibly within your pet’s body as well.

Your vet can surgically remove some tumors and treat your pet with medication. Having your pet spayed or neutered helps reduce the risk of cancer, especially within their sexual organs.

The most important part of pet health for animals of any age is care and attention. As your pet grows older, make sure they’re still regularly vaccinated, treated for parasites and inspected for symptoms of potential problems. This helps them stay healthy and gives them the best chance for a long, happy life.

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Andrea Robinson 11/16/2015 at 2:40 am

    This is a great topic of conversation for every pet owner. As your pet ages, his or her ability to handle certain stressors like hot and cold can fade. Your pet can’t tell you if he has muscle aches – he’ll just run as usual. You have to actually spot these issues many times. Don’t forget that a dog’s foot can pick up injuries and weaknesses as they age.

    I had a dog once who had a fractured leg even though there was no excessive or unusual activity. He was a rescued dog, and apparently his almost nonexistent nutrition as a puppy had made his bones extremely weak, which was no problem when he was in his prime. In fact, he used to jump over baby gates all the time and was known as Houdini for his ability to open dog crates from the inside.

    Anyway, when they age, they can’t always handle the kinds of activities that they loved when they were younger, just like grandpa can’t eat that super-spicy food he used to love (and insists that it’s bland, because he doesn’t have any taste buds left). So it’s up to us to keep an eye out.


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