Common Health Concerns in Senior Pets

Not all of the changes in an older pet are normal age-related changes. Many can indicate a medical problem, and if diagnosed early, most are treatable. A particular symptom may not immediately indicate one specific problem, however, as most symptoms can be caused by several different maladies. Therefore, it is important to consult a veterinarian with any concerns. Please call 503-207-2744 for an appointment.


The most common signs of arthritis are pain, lameness or limping, and a marked reluctance to movement. Cats may have trouble using the litter box. There could be a change in attitude or behavior; depending on their level of pain, a change in behavior could mean anything from hiding under the bed, or sudden aggression in a normally even-tempered dog. More information.


This is a very serious but entirely manageable disease. The classic signs of diabetes are an increase in appetite, water intake and urination, and weight loss. If the disease is not correctly regulated it can lead to more severe symptoms, such as weakness and lethargy, shaking, difficulty walking or convulsion. One in 400 felines is diagnosed with diabetes, so it is important to have your veterinarian do blood work often on your geriatric pet.

Kidney (Renal) Disease:

Generally, 70-75% of a pet’s kidneys are dysfunctional before clinical signs are noticeable, making it essential to do a test on a regular basis for this disease. Early signs are often mistaken for the aging process, such as poor coat quality or weight loss. Symptoms can also include a sharp increase in thirst and water consumption, and thus an increase in urination. A senior pet experiencing kidney disease may have trouble controlling their urination and begin having accidents in the house.

Vision issues:

As your pet ages, you may notice they develop white spots on their eyes, trouble judging distances or seeing in general. It may be completely unnoticeable other than your pet now missing the food bowl, jumping too short a distance to a countertop, or no longer able to catch a toy tossed in the air. Some eye diseases or issues may cause discharge from the eye.

Neurological or behavior changes:

There are several maladies that can affect a pet’s neurological systems. Strokes, senility, and other diseases can cause a pet to become disoriented or show a drastic change in attitude. Pets that have behaved a particular way their entire life may suddenly change; while some afflictions may be part of the normal aging process and unavoidable, many issues can be diagnosed and treated. Irritability or aggression could be an indication of internal medical problems, and it is best to discuss even minor changes with your veterinarian.


Thyroid disease affects cats and dogs differently. Affected felines usually have an overactive thyroid, while a dog’s thyroid will tend to be underactive. Symptoms in both dogs and cats can vary widely, from a change in appetite and weight to a change in your pet’s hair color or thickness. The most effective tool in diagnosing thyroid issues is a yearly thyroid test. More information on thyroid conditions in Cats or Dogs.

Heart failure:

The classic symptom of heart failure is a persistent cough, often accompanied by difficulty breathing. Additionally, pets with heart trouble will usually become easily fatigued and may avoid exercise or play. A regularly scheduled visit with your veterinarian, so they can listen to your pet’s heart, will help to keep a close watch for signs of trouble.

What's Next

  • 1

    Call us or schedule an appointment online.

  • 2

    Meet with a doctor for an initial exam.

  • 3

    Put a plan together for your pet.