Checklist for Senior Pets:

  • Just not acting himself or herself
  • Interacting less often with family
  • Responding less often or less enthusiastically
  • Change in behavior or activity level
  • Having difficulty climbing stairs
  • Having difficulty jumping
  • Exhibiting increased stiffness or limping
  • Drinking more often
  •  Urinating more often
  • Change in eating patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  •  Losing housetraining abilities
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Becoming confused or disoriented
  • Experiencing changes in hair coat, skin, or new growths
  • Scratching more often
  • Exhibiting bad breath, red, or swollen gums
  • Inability to chew dry food
  • Persistent coughing or gagging
  • Shortness of breath, excessive panting, or breathing heavily
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Difficulty in passing stool or urine
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Sudden collapse or bout of weakness
  • Exhibiting tremors or shaking


How to Determine the “True Age” of Your Pet:


Common Senior Pet Disease Table

Health CategoryCommon Senior DiseasesPrevalenceSignsIf Left UntreatedRec. Tests
dental_1_seniorPeriodontal disease, gingivitis, cancer85% of dogs and cats over 6 years of age Bad breath, accumulation of plaque & tartar on teeth, redness in gums, swollen gums, bleeding gums, excessive drooling, difficulty chewing hard food, oral masses Heart disease, tooth loss, kidney & liver disorders, systemic infection, cancer progression Oral exam, preanesthetic bloodwork, x-ray, biopsy, urinalysis
liver_seniorInflammatory, degenerative, and cancerous liver disease Common in older dogs, less common in catsDecreased appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst & urination Hypoalbuminemia, lipid metabolism disturbance, anemia, bleeding disorders, liver failure Physical exam, bloodwork, x-rays, ultrasound, biopsy, urinalysis
kidney_seniorKidney failure, kidney stones, kidney infection, kidney insufficiency 10% of dogs over age 12; 1% of all pets Increased thirst & urination, decreased appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, back pain, lethargy, anemia, rough coat, halitosisProgression to kidney failure, heart disease, electrolyte imbalances, fluid balance disturbances, death Physical exam, bloodwork, x-rays, ultrasound, urinalysis, urine culture
heart_lung_seniorCardiac disease, pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema 7% of all dogs Decreased stamina, fatigue, lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, weight loss, abdominal fluid accumulation Progression to renal & liver disease, poor vascular profusion, eventual death Chest x-rays, EKG, blood pressure, bloodwork, ultrasound, urinalysis
joints_seniorArthritis, hip dysplasia, spinal column disease20% of adult dogs; less in cats Lameness, stiffness, relunctance to walk or exercise, difficulty rising from a resting position, decreased appetite, discomfort & pain Progressive disease, reduced mobility, neurologic deficitsPhysical examination, bloodwork, Lyme test, x-rays, urinalysis, joint analysis
endocrine_seniorDiabetes mellitus, huperthyroid-ism, hypothyroid-ism, hypoadreno-corticism, hyperadreno-corticism 3% of cats and dogs; higher in older pets Noticeable weight change, increased appetite without weight gain, vomiting, increased water consumption, frequent urination, change in energy level Heart failure, kidney failure, secondary metabolic diseaseBloodwork, specific endocrine blood profile, urinalysis
cancer_seniorCancers of the skin, spleen, liver, lymph nodes, etc. 50% of pets over the age of 10 Bleeding, lumps, irritated skin, identified mass, sores that don’t heal, swollen lymph nodes, unexplained weight loss, loss of stamina, vomiting, diarrhea Can progress to organ failure or death Can progress to organ failure or death
ocular_seniorCataracts, dry eye, glaucoma Many ocular diseases are inherited; often develops after 8 years of agGray, bluish hue at the center of the eye, rubbing, pressing head against objects, swelling, redness, irritation, tearing, bumping into objects, easily disoriented Difficulty seeing, corneal ulceration, can progress to blindness, loss of eye Ocular exam, bloodwork, urinalysis
hearing_seniorHearing loss, tympanic membrane rupture, ear canal narrowing, ear infections, ear hematoma Common among dogs Sleeping more soundly, apparent lack of awareness of loud noises, no response to name, increased vocalization; itching, scratching & rubbing ear, shaking head Can progress to permanent deafness Physical exam, hearing test, aural otoscopic exam, ear culture
gastrointestinal_seniorInflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, colitis, cancer Common among all cats and dogs Vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, fluid gain, flatulence, straining to produce stoolFurther weight loss, disease will progress to potential deathBloodwork, physical exam, x-rays, ultrasound, endoscopy, biopsy, urinalysis
cognitive_seniorCognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) Common among all cats and dogs in senior years Disorientation, confusion, wandering aimlessly, staring off into space, decreased or altered response to family members, abnormal sleep-wake patterns, loss of housetraining, increased vocalization Behaviors may worsen with timePhysical exam, bloodwork, change in diet to promote cognitive functioning, adaptations to pet’s lifestyle to cope with cognitive changes