Golden Retrievers, Health

Aging Golden Retriever Health Problems [What To Expect In Senior Dogs]

Aging Golden Retriever Health Problems

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What can you expect as your beloved Golden Retriever gets older? You can pretty much expect the same things as you would in humans. Slowing down, sleeping more, gray hair, and becoming a bit grumpy. Along with subtle signs of aging, there are more serious health issues that arise. Read on to find out what the aging Golden Retriever health problems are.

At What Age Is A Golden Retriever Considered A Senior?

Golden Retrievers are larger dogs so that automatically shortens their lifespan. Larger dogs age faster than smaller dogs, the reason why is still a mystery but scientists believe that it’s simply because large dogs grow faster. Growing faster can lead to an earlier incidence of tumours and other abnormal tissue developments including cancer.

The lifespan of a Golden Retriever is 10-12 years on average. Decades ago Golden Retrievers lived to be 16-17 years old. The reason for their reduced lifespan now is believed to be because this breed is more prone to certain types of cancer than any other breed.

A Golden Retriever is considered a senior at the age of 7.5-10 years old.

Many people believe that 1 human year is equivalent to 7 dog years, but this is not the case and it all depends on the size of the dog. Scientists have come to the conclusion that for every 4.4 pounds of body mass a dog has, their life expectancy is reduced by one month.

To find out how old your dog is in human years you can check out this chart.

Aging Golden Retriever Health Problems

Getting old is unavoidable, and as much as we hate to see our loyal and loving goldens slow down and show signs of aging, it is something that we must face.

You may own a golden who is considered a senior because of his age but in no way shows any signs of being old. When a dog is considered senior they are likely still healthy, and just starting to show signs of aging.

The following are some signs that your dog is getting older:

Slowing Down

This is usually the first sign of aging. You may notice that your once excitable dog that used to run to greet you and eagerly chase a tennis ball, is no longer that enthusiastic or no longer has the energy. Your dog is slowing down, the changes may be subtle, but you need to pay attention to how your dog gets up or lays down and uses the stairs.

If your dog shows hesitation or has stiffness, or if a change in weather makes it worse, it could be a sign of early arthritis.

Increased Fatigue

Older dogs tend to sleep more and have less energy. As your dog ages, you need to lower your expectations of him. Your dog may not have the energy or desire to do the things that he once did when he was younger.

Your older dog will need longer periods of uninterrupted rest, so it’s important to avoid disturbing your dog while he is getting some much-needed rest.

Graying Around The Face And Muzzle

Senior Golden Retriever getting petted on the head.

Some goldens will start to show gray around the face and muzzle earlier than others, but most will start to show gray during middle age around 5-6 years old.

Reduced Hearing

Some dogs will experience hearing loss as they get older. It is hard to determine if your dog has slight hearing loss, and usually, when you discover hearing loss in your dog it is already pretty severe.

You may think that your dog is not obeying your commands, but he can’t hear them. Your dog may be startled if you approach him or touch him, because he didn’t hear you coming, and it may be harder to wake your dog when he is sleeping.

Cloudy Eyes

It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s eyes, while some cloudiness (nuclear sclerosis) is a normal sign of aging in some dogs, it can also be a sign of cataracts. Dogs who develop nuclear sclerosis will still be able to see just fine, but if your dog has cataracts his vision will be affected. It is best to visit your vet at the first sign of any cloudiness.

Change in Nutritional Needs and Weight Changes

As your dog gets older you may notice weight changes. Your dog’s metabolism slows down as he ages, and if you are feeding your dog the same amount of food as when he was younger you may notice him gaining weight.

If your dog is losing weight it could be related to certain diseases that come along with aging. Any changes in your dog’s weight should be closely monitored by your vet.

Coat and Skin Changes

The once lustrous coat of your Golden Retriever may become dull and thin, and the skin may become dry as your dog ages. Older dogs will need to be groomed more often because they might have trouble grooming themselves. Be sure to brush gently because the skin is more sensitive and fragile.

Grooming your golden is a great way for you to check for any skin conditions like lumps and bumps that shouldn’t be there. If you notice any significant changes in your golden’s skin and coat you should talk to your vet. A thin and dull coat could be a sign of nutritional deficiency or disease.

Dental Disease

It is extremely common to see some form of dental disease in dogs by the age of 2. Studies show that 80% of dogs have signs of gum disease. If your golden has not received proper dental care during his lifetime, he is at greater risk of developing dental disease as he ages.

Dogs are five times more likely to get gum disease than humans because their mouths are more alkaline which promotes the formation of plaque. Dogs usually don’t get their teeth brushed daily unlike humans. Look for signs such as bad breath, red or bleeding gums, loose or broken teeth, and any lumps and bumps in or around your dog’s mouth.

It is important to practice good oral hygiene by brushing your dog’s teeth regularly (daily preferred), and providing appropriate chew toys and treats. Look for hard rubber chew toys, KONG’s for seniors are ideal, and dehydrated sweet potatoes are great for chewing, they are low in calories and high in fibre.

Loss Of Bladder Control

Urinary incontinence occurs when a dog who is house trained loses control of his bladder. As a dog ages, the muscles controlling the bladder weaken and cause the dog to have accidents.

Urinary incontinence can happen to both male and female dogs as they age, but it is far more common in middle-aged to older spayed females. The reason is believed to be the lack of estrogen in spayed females.

Your dog could also have canine senility or dementia and he simply forgot to signal you that he needs out. It is important to remember that your dog can’t help it and you shouldn’t scold him for it. You’ll want to take your dog outside more frequently for potty breaks, and you could also try pee pads for accidents in the house as well as dog diapers.

Involuntary loss of urine can also be a sign of other issues such as bladder infections, bladder stones, Cushing’s disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and kidney disease, so it is important to monitor your dog and speak with your vet.

Golden Retriever sitting on the grass.

The More Serious Signs Of Aging In Your Golden Retriever

Older dogs are defined as being senior as well as geriatric, and often times people think of these terms as meaning the same. This is not the case.

Golden Retrievers are considered senior at the age of 7.5 to 10 years old, right about the time when age-related issues start to become noticeable. Geriatric dogs are at the older age of the spectrum and they experience more health issues. A Golden Retriever is considered geriatric at the age of 10 and up.

Some more serious health problems that can affect your golden include:

Cancer

Golden Retrievers are more likely to develop certain types of cancer than any other breed. Unfortunately, cancer is the number one cause of death in goldens, studies show that 60% of goldens will die from cancer. Males have a higher rate at 66% and females slightly lower at 57%.

The 2 most common cancers found in Goldens are hemangiosarcoma and lymphosarcoma. We’ll briefly discuss them below as well as other cancers goldens may get.

  • Hemangiosarcoma: An aggressive malignant tumour of the blood cells that typically form in the spleen, liver, heart and lungs. This tumour most commonly affects middle-aged to older dogs of any breed, but more frequently affects Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.
  • Lymphosarcoma: Also known as lymphoma. Cancer that arises predominantly in the lymph glands. This tumour can affect any breed of dog at any age, but Golden Retrievers are more likely to be affected.
  • Melanoma: A type of skin cancer that can be found in the nail beds, foot pads, and eyes, but the majority start in the mouth or around the lips.
  • Osteosarcoma: Cancer of the bone. This type of cancer is more common in large breeds like goldens, and mostly affects the limbs.
  • Mast Cell Tumours: Most common skin tumours seen in dogs. MCT’s vary from almost benign, slow-growing, low-grade tumours to very aggressive, high-grade cancers. MCT’s at the least aggressive end of the scale are potentially curable, but the aggressive ones are frequently fatal.

Arthritis

As goldens age, they may develop arthritis in their bones. Walking will become difficult and painful for them, as well as getting up and moving around. It is best to keep the walks short and more frequent to prevent your golden from getting stiff joints.

Keeping your golden at a healthy weight is ideal to prevent any excess pressure on the joints. Getting your golden out for a swim is very helpful because swimming is a great form of exercise and it is easier on the joints.

Senior Golden Retriever swimming with a stick in mouth.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can occur in any breed, but it is most common in medium to large breed dogs like Golden Retrievers. It usually occurs when a dog is middle-aged between 4-10 years.

It occurs when the thyroid glands are unable to produce enough thyroid hormone, which leads to a decrease in the body’s metabolism.

Common signs are loss of fur on the chest, back and tail, dry skin, lethargy, and weight gain without any change in food intake. The good news is that hypothyroidism is treatable.

Glaucoma

As dog’s age, their vision starts to deteriorate and vision changes are common. Glaucoma is a rise in eye pressure. It can come on quickly and requires immediate treatment. Without treatment, it will eventually result in blindness.

The early signs of glaucoma are often hard to spot, the pupils may be different sizes, eyes are watery and bloodshot, and your dog will show little interest in food or playing.

Diabetes

Diabetes can occur at any age but is most often seen in dogs who are middle-aged to senior. Diabetes in older dogs is identified as diabetes mellitus and happens when your dog’s pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. It is more common in middle-aged females who are overweight.

Signs that your dog may have diabetes include increased thirst, excessive urination, lethargy, weight loss or gain for no reason, and a sweet sugary smelling breath.

Diabetes in dogs is a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment and monitoring for life. With the right care, a dog who has diabetes can continue to live a happy, comfortable and enjoyable life.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is common in dogs as they get older. Most heart conditions occur when there is a decrease in the effective pumping of blood. This can lead to a fluid build-up in the chest and abdomen.

There are 2 main types of heart conditions, one affecting the heart valve and the other the heart muscle. Dog’s can be successfully managed through nutrition, exercise, and if needed medication.

Signs that your dog may have heart disease include fatigue, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, fainting, and coughing.

Muscle Atrophy

Common in older dogs, muscle atrophy is when there is a loss of muscle mass. It is noticeable when parts of your dog’s body appear weaker and thinner than usual. Most often seen in the hind legs, hips, face or neck.

Senior dogs who suffer from muscle atrophy will need to maintain a healthy exercise program that is designed to help them build muscle and be given appropriate nutrition that meets their age and energy level.

Dementia

Senior dementia is a common problem that affects older dogs. It is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans and often results in mood and behaviour changes, and memory loss in dogs.

Signs of dementia in dogs include disorientation/getting lost in the house, pacing, anxiety, barking for no reason, lack of interaction, loss of appetite, and loss of house training.

Sadly there is no way to reverse the signs of dementia, but there are medications and supplements that may help in some cases.

Senior Golden Retriever laying on the floor.

Caring For Your Aging Golden Retriever

As your beloved golden gets older he will require certain lifestyle changes. As a loving dog owner, it is up to you to make sure his golden years are just as happy and comfortable as before, and that his good health is maintained.

Veterinary Care

Now that your dog is a senior it is important to visit your vet twice a year for a check-up. Your vet will be able to discuss with you any changes that you may have noticed, as well as perform a complete thorough exam.

Nutrition

As your dog ages, his metabolism will slow down. It is important to keep your dog at a healthy weight, and not let him become obese. If your dog is overweight it is important to work at shedding off the excess weight.

Your older golden requires a balanced diet that is low in calories but has an adequate amount of protein and fat. A high fibre diet will help keep your golden fuller longer.

Many people add glucosamine to their dog’s diet to help with joint pain. It is also a good idea to feed your senior dog smaller meals throughout the day, instead of just once or twice. This allows your dog to metabolize the food better.

Grooming

Hopefully, you are already grooming your dog on a regular/daily basis, but older goldens may have difficulty grooming themselves because of decreased mobility. It is important to brush your golden, trim his nails, and bathe him regularly. This will allow you to spot any skin conditions or changes in the coat.

Brushing will also act like a massage for your golden and help improve circulation. Keeping your dog’s fur trimmed on the bottom of the toe pads will prevent any slips and falls on smooth slippery floors.

Do you know what the best brush for a golden is?  Find out here.

Games And Exercise

Just because your dog’s endurance level has decreased doesn’t mean his desire has. Senior dog’s need exercise and stimulation too, it just means going for shorter, slower walks. Take your dog out for walks daily to meet people and experience new sights, smells and sounds.

Older dogs will be more susceptible to the cold and the heat. Be sure to outfit your dog with a coat in the winter, and avoid walking during the hottest parts of the day. Swimming is a great form of exercise for senior goldens who suffer from joint pain or arthritis.

Play games with your golden to keep his mind sharp. Interactive puzzle toys are great as well as giving your dog food puzzles to make him work for his food.

Comfort

It is important to keep your aging dog as comfortable as possible. You may need to invest in some supplies to help make your golden’s life easier.

  • Ramps: Senior dogs have a hard time climbing stairs, as well as jumping up into the car. Investing in a ramp will make getting into the car easier, as well as climbing stairs.

  • Dog Stairs:  If your dog likes to rest on the couch or even your bed, investing in some dog stairs will help ease the pain of having to jump up.

  • Elevated Food Bowls: Golden’s who suffer from stiff joints or arthritis may have a hard time leaning forward and down to eat and drink from a regular bowl. Having raised food and water bowls will make eating and drinking more comfortable.

  • Orthopedic Bed: Investing in a quality orthopedic bed is important for the comfort of your dog. Golden Retrievers are susceptible to hip and joint problems and arthritis, an orthopedic bed will provide soft cushioning and support.
  • Doggie Socks or Boots: Older dogs are less stable on their feet than younger dogs. If you have hard floors at home your senior dog may slip and fall. There are boots and socks for dogs that help with traction.

Conclusion

Witnessing your loving furry best friend get older and enter his golden years is difficult for any owner. Some adjustments and lifestyle changes need to be made to make life easier and more comfortable for your golden.

Your golden will rely on you now more than ever to ensure his golden years are enhanced. Keeping an eye on any changes in your dog are important as well as routine vet visits.

There are plenty of great years left in your dog’s life. Make sure to treasure every moment, and continue making wonderful memories.

Do you own a senior Golden Retriever? What are some signs of aging that you have noticed? How have you made your aging golden’s life easier or more comfortable?

Share your thoughts and comments below, I would love to hear from you!

About Jenny

I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Peterborough, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.
View all posts by Jenny →

8 thoughts on “Aging Golden Retriever Health Problems [What To Expect In Senior Dogs]

  1. WOW. Do animals equally develop grey hair? Never ever noticed that. Interesting finding.

    It can really be heartbreaking to watch your beloved fluffy friend manifesting signs of old age. And I find this article particularly important because it will sensitize many people out there about what to expect from these good friends, and prepare accordingly in order not to expect too much from them anymore.

    It seems the complications at old age are as many for dogs as they are for humans. Even though it’s something we cannot avoid, it will always be a sad transition, but when we prepare for it, the experience is manageable.

    Your article provided just the right information to get ready. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Nsoh Alieh Laurine,

      When dogs age they go through many similar changes as humans, even grey hair.  You may not have noticed the grey hair on some dogs because of their already light coloured fur.  Getting old is a hard transition for both dogs and humans, but being prepared for it does make it a bit easier.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Jenny.

  2. I’ve never had a golden retriever and I’m shocked to learn they age faster than smaller dogs, and in fact, their lifespan is shorter than it was decades ago.  That’s crazy!  Decades ago it wasn’t uncommon to let your dog off a leash and run wild on your farm property and in the woods.  I’m wondering if our obsessive need to keep our pets safe from all harm is causing more harm than good.

    So though I haven’t had a golden retriever, I did have a beagle (who was obese) who ended up with arthritis so badly he couldn’t walk by the end at only 12 years old.  My mother’s long-haired chihuahuas both passed last year at 15 and 17 years respectively.  The 17-year-old was completely senile by that point, and deaf and partially blind.  The younger one had a heart problem as she aged.  

    My mother is devastated still.  We love our dogs.  She had made beds and ramps for them.  I’m happy to see you encouraging others in ways to care for a senior dog, like this post.  Golden retrievers are one of the most loyal and smarter breeds, but they need help at the end, too.

    Thanks for the post.  Caring for a senior dog is hard, but so worth it, after years of love.

    1. Hi Selenity Jade,

      It is sad that larger dogs age faster than smaller dogs.  The biggest fear for any Golden Retriever owner is cancer.  Cancer is so prevalent in this breed, more than any other breed.  No one really knows why the lifespan of goldens has shortened over time, but one could speculate that it has to do with environmental factors, bad breeding, and what we are feeding them.  There are current studies going on to determine the causes.  Hopefully, goldens will start living longer.

      It is extremely devastating for any dog owner to lose such a loving family member,  I am not surprised that your mother is still devastated.  It takes a long time to heal from such a loss.  All senior dogs need our love and support during their golden years to make their lives more comfortable.

      I appreciate that you took the time to share your experience, thank you.

      Jenny.

  3. What a beautiful article!  I owned a yellow lab and a golden retriever (at the same time).  Such beautiful pets and family members.  You hit it spot on with all the signs of aging.  My retriever got cancer and my lab had organ failure.  With tenderness we need to watch them and love them as they get old and help them through these stages.  My lab would still try to chase a ball until the end.  Thank you for this article.

    1. Hi Tammy,

      I am glad you enjoyed my article.  Labs and Goldens are both wonderful, I am sorry about your loss.  It sounds like your lab was still living life to the fullest.  We really need to cherish every moment we have with our dogs and make sure they are comfortable and happy until the end.  It sounds like you did just that!

      Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Jenny.

  4. Very detailed information on Golden Retrievers. Coincidentally my first dog was a Golden Retriever. We lost her around the 10-year mark, but she was so playful. 

    I believe Golden Retrievers are one of the more fun dogs. We now own a Jack Russell Terrier he comes with his own issues.

    But all the issues that you’ve listed out here about Golden Retrievers are very true, she started losing her eyesight around the eight-year mark I guess.

    It was sad to watch her health decline. She had ingrained herself into our family so much that when we eventually lost her it was a huge family loss.

    Towards the end of her life, we actually did use dog shoes for her as she would topple over. Thank you for all this information.

    1. Hi Jag,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with your Golden Retriever.  

      It is very difficult for any owner to see their dog slow down and get older and suffer from health issues.  It must have been quite the adjustment when your golden lost her eyesight, not only for you but for your dog as well.  Our dogs really become a huge part of our lives, and when we lose them it leaves us feeling so empty.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Jenny.

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