My Old Dog

For some reason, we can accept the aging process in people, but when we see it in our dogs and cats, it conjures up severe emotional angst. Because of this, I believe it’s important to step back a bit from our emotions to try and gain some perspective on what is actually going on. I will attempt to give you my view points based on many years as a veterinarian and my recent focus on the elderly, the aging process and what is occurring as they near the end of life. It is important to note that some of these opinions and observations are not well known in the veterinary community or in the general pet care population.

Dogs age much more rapidly than humans, although the changes are often subtle and not recognized until they are advanced. In the geriatric and elderly dog, one of our days is equal to around 4 days for dogs. Consequently, we see that problems associated with the aging process occur sooner than expected, and much sooner than we would like them to. Dog moms and dads observing their dog’s diminishment, do not understand what is happening, cannot accept the process and feel their dog is in extreme pain and suffering. Many of the phone calls I receive start out with one or more of the following: 

  • My dog has horrible arthritis. He/she can barely walk or can’t walk at all. He/she needs to be euthanized as soon as possible.
  • My dog stopped eating today and we think it’s his/her time.
  • My dog is in terrible pain. He/she is crying all night long. Can you come as soon as possible to help him/her cross over the Rainbow Bridge?
  • I need to make an appointment to euthanize my dog because my veterinarian said it was time.
  • My vet told me to have my dog euthanized today because he/she was just diagnosed with: cancer, heart disease, a bad disk in his spine or some other terminal malady. 


These may seem like extremes, but the general conversations I have often start out exactly as above. They all have a common thread, which in most cases, involves the aging process in one way or another. Of course, there are exceptions involving younger animals that haven’t reached the elderly stage. My aim here is to document common problems I see in the aged dog (I will also have a similar discussion about cats). I have discovered that many of the “horrible” things I hear about are really quite common. Some of them are somewhat treatable, while others are not. In many cases, there are semi-solutions that can help the pet mom, dad, family to understand what is going on, that it usually does not involve pain or suffering, but age-related symptoms that can be dealt with intellectually, while minimizing the emotional angst that a sick dog brings to the fore.

Note: If you click on one of the buttons below, it will take you to the appropriate page with information that might be helpful to you. Old Dog Problems presents common scenarios that I hear quite often from people in regard to what they think is going on with their pet. A common thread involves what I mentioned above: My dog has terrible arthritis. I will put links to what the problem may actually be as opposed to what is the current feeling. Old Dog Diseases will help you to understand more about some of the common age related infirmities. The links there will take you to a related post with more information to inform you. Both pages are under construction so check back often to see new content.