What to Expect With an Aging Dog (2023)

When your dog reaches their golden years, you may notice changes in their behavior. These are all normal parts of aging, and they will pass in time.

Some common signs include decreased mobility, loss of cognitive ability and anxiety. Understanding these can help you compassionately and effectively manage your aging pet.

Decreased Mobility

As dogs age, it's natural for them to slow down and begin experiencing decreased mobility. This is a common problem that can be addressed by making small adjustments and accommodations to ensure that senior pets remain happy, healthy and comfortable.

The most common reason that dogs struggle with mobility is due to osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease or DJD. This is a progressive process where abnormal movement and wear and tear in joints results in cartilage and bone rubbing together, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Another mobility-related condition that can be expected with an aging dog is muscle atrophy, which is loss of muscle mass. This can be seen more in the rear legs than front ones and is often accompanied by arthritis or other health conditions.

Fortunately, many common problems that affect a dog's mobility can be easily treated with medication or therapeutic massage, which is something you can do at home. If you notice your pet is struggling with a specific mobility issue, make an appointment to see your vet.

Loss of Cognitive Ability

A decline in your dog's cognitive ability can affect their mental state, their abilities to process sensory information and how they interact with you. It can be a frustrating situation for you and your dog as you work to figure out the best course of action.

As with humans, the majority of dogs will experience some loss of cognitive function as they age. This is known as canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCD) and can be a serious condition that may impact your dog's quality of life.

CCD is characterized by a decrease in your dog's cognitive functions and can be diagnosed through behavioral testing. Managing behavioral changes by modifying your dog's daily routine and providing regular environmental enrichment can help mitigate the effects of CCD on your dog's health and quality of life.


Anxiety is one of the most common behavioral issues that senior dogs face. It may manifest itself in a variety of ways, from separation anxiety to fear or phobias.

The first step in dealing with a dog's anxiety is to determine its origin. This can be done by examining their behavior patterns, their nighttime routine, and any other changes they've noticed.

It also helps to note any potential triggers for your dog's symptoms. If you notice that your dog becomes anxious around noises, visitors or when he's in a certain room, try to avoid those areas.

A veterinary exam coupled with your observations should help you and your vet determine what's causing the anxiety. If cognitive dysfunction is the cause, you and your vet can begin to treat it with medication or a behavior modification plan that works for your dog.


Depression is a common condition that can affect people of all ages. It can cause you to feel sad, hopeless and worthless.

It can also make you lose interest in things you used to enjoy. This includes the things you used to do with your family, your work and social life.

If you’re feeling sad or hopeless for long periods of time, and the symptoms are interfering with your day-to-day life, it could be a sign that you have depression.

Fortunately, depression is treatable. Over 80% of people who have it get relief from treatment and almost all recover fully.

Depression can be triggered by any number of things, including changes in your home environment, lack of access to sunlight or the change of seasons (seasonal affective disorder). If you think your pet is experiencing depression, discuss it with a veterinarian who can help diagnose it and recommend treatments.

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