Just like people, dogs get old. The good news is that dogs are living longer, probably due to improved commercial dog food and more advanced Veterinary care. The fact that people now see their dogs as family members also plays a part in better health and longevity. Dogs aren't just seen as home security, or something for the kids to play with. We take them on outings and adventures, and take them on vacation with us. We want them to be happy, healthy, and enjoy their life. It's great that our dogs are living longer, but with dogs old age come changes that can be hard to watch. My Husky Icy is 14 and a half years old now. When did she become an old dog!?  With my dog's advancing age, we're now experiencing these 4 common health issues in senior dogs. 



Before we jump into common health issues that can effect older dogs, let's clarify when a dog is actually considered a "senior dog".  A dog is considered a Senior Dog, or Old Dog, depending on their age and size:

Medium to Large dogs are considered senior dogs when they reach age 7 or 8 years old.

Small Dogs are not considered senior dogs until they are around 10 years old.


1. Cognitive Decline

For me, the cognitive decline is the absolute hardest old dog health issue to bear. I can deal with all the physical issues my dog is facing, but the cognitive decline is the worst.  

Sometimes it almost feels like my sweet fur baby isn't "there" anymore. I lost my Mom to Alzheimers disease. Watching her decline so horribly was devastating for me and our family. Seeing Icy face dog dementia brings back memories of that heart wrenching time with my Mom.

It's just so sad when I see my dog standing in the room, blankly facing the wall, seemingly not knowing what to do next. Or watching her as she gets confused, not sure which way to go as she tries to find the back door to the yard.  

These moments of confusion and blankness are both sad and scary. But then when she has a blast going for long walks or hikes, or runs around the yard like a young pup, it's such a sense of relief. It feels normal again. I cherish those times more than ever now. 

There doesn't appear to be much we can do to treat dogs mental decline. I give her Lion's Mane Mushrooms  in her food, which seem to help some. My Vet recommended we try feeding her Purina Bright Mind dog food, so we're feeding her that coupled with a new food called Badlands Superfood Complete. 

Badlands contains a host of super foods for dogs. It's also air dried, not cooked on really high heat like kibble is, which many believe is a healthier way for dogs to eat. Icy enjoys both of these foods, so I mix them together.  I also still cook chicken, eggs, occasional salmon, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli and a few other super foods for dogs and add it to her food. 

Even with her cognitive decline, I'll tell you that dog Knows when there's chicken being prepared! She becomes laser focused and will do whatever she has to do to get that chicken! I love to see her this way, it's another glorious sign of "normal" and it's great seeing her still get excited about something.

Another result of my dog's cognitive decline is anxiety, which often causes her to pace around the house or yard, especially at night. She also seems disturbed by loud traffic on our walks, something that never phased her before. I think the Lion's Mane may be helping to reduce her anxiety. 

Another thing that is super important for dogs with declining mental acumen is to keep up with their mental stimulation! This means changing up walks to take them down different routes, taking them to interesting stimulating places - for dogs that usually means places with lots of new Smells! Visits with family are also very helpful. Icy enjoys when our family comes over - she may not stick around that long, but I can see it makes her happy and it's something new and fun in her day. Not to mention, she always gets some treats!

My dog playing with a puzzle toy from Outward Hound
Puzzle toys for dogs provide great mental stimulation

Puzzle toys and other interactive toys for dogs are also a great source of mental stimulation. I've always used them to combat boredom, especially during bad weather. Now I use them even more to give Icy frequent mental stimulation and challenges, and to give her a fun activity that works her brain. I love Outward Hound interactive dog toys, especially their dog puzzle toys.

2. Hearing Loss

About a year ago, we noticed that our dog is losing her hearing. Icy can't hear us approach her anymore. She doesn't usually hear us call her name unless we are really loud and in close proximity.  She does seem to hear us whistle, and she hears that sound we make with our tongue when we're calling her to us - I'm not sure what to call it, but it's kind of like a Tsk Tsk clucking sound. She also hears Jessie barking - actually, I'm pretty sure the whole neighborhood hears that LOL!  Anyway, for some reason she hears those sounds. 

I'm looking into how people with deaf dogs communicate with their dogs. I feel like we could manage her hearing loss fairly well. The biggest change with her hearing loss is that we no longer let her off leash at the dog beach or dog parks. I feel she's safer when we don't have to rely on the Come When Called command. If anyone has any tips on how to communicate with deaf dogs, please share!

3. Behavior Changes

There are behavior changes in my dog that are also pretty upsetting. Icy doesn't want to be touched much or cuddled anymore. She does still enjoy her head and face being rubbed, so we give her plenty of that! But it's so hard not to be able to hug my dog anymore. It's hard to take, but when my mom had Alzheimers she had some very disturbing behavior changes as well, some of them kind of hostile. Having seen and heard about this common behavior change in humans with dementia helps me realize it's not me and it's not my dog, it's the mental decline and accompanying anxiety. It's not easy, but we try not to feel bad about it.

We no longer take Icy to the groomer because of her reluctance to be touched and handled. We just don't  want to take a chance that she might snap at or (heaven forbid) bite a groomer because she's confused and upset by a strange person touching her.


Dog Grooming Mitts that don't require rinsing off
Dog Grooming Mitt

We found some grooming mitts that don't require water for rinsing. You wet them and they soap up. After bathing you don't need to rinse the soap off, you just towel dry your dog off. She seems to tolerate us bathing her with them pretty well. 

Another behavior change is that my dog seems to want to be alone a lot more. Before she would always lay down close to us and follow us around a lot. Now she often retreats to the bathroom or another room to be alone. Even when company comes over, which she used to LOVE, she says hello for a short while but then retreats to a quiet place by herself. 

Icy doesn't seem to want to interact with our younger dog Jessie, either. Jessie is kind of barky, and her loud barking stresses Icy out for some reason. 

Speaking of barking, Icy doesn't bark or vocalize at all anymore. Imagine a Husky that isn't vocal! I miss her woos and even her barks so much.

4. Arthritis and Joint Pain

Arthritis and joint pain in older dogs is common. I have actually been dealing with my dog's joint pain for awhile now. We've been able to manage it with dog joint supplements, but recently it's gotten worse.  Icy needs help getting in and out of the car now, and her hind legs are showing more weakness. She drags her back right leg when she walks, and needs to sit down after standing to eat for several minutes. Here's a video of how she's walking. You can see her back right foot drag as she walks. At the end you see how she goes into a sit during mealtime:

We've been managing my dog's arthritis and joint pain quite well with joint supplements for dogs, but we may now need to take it a step further. At Icy's last checkup, our Vet mentioned hydrotherapy for dogs, and a medication called Librela for dog Osteoarthritis pain. It's a monthly injection made by Zoetis Inc (an animal pharma company I trust), and has been in use in Europe since 2021. It recently gained approval for use in the U.S. as well. We're considering one or both of these treatment options. Has anyone used Librela? If so, I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments.

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Personalized Pet Portrait Keychain with option to engrave a message on the back

Going forward, I may need to get Icy a dog ramp for the car, or perhaps a dog lifting harness. But for now my husband picks her up to put her in the car.

That was kind of heavy wasn't it? Please don't think it's all doom and gloom! We still love on our dog like crazy and we still have a great time with her.  We take Icy on lots of adventures near home, and we continue to take her on road trip adventures. 

There are some nearby places we take her several times a month that are interesting and exciting for her. There's a beach park where she can have fun exploring, finding coconuts, and splashing along the shore. There's also a large lake we take her to for longer walks. There are lots of birds and ducks at the lake, which she is always fascinated by. There's a lot of foliage for her to stick her nose into and sniff too! 

We feel it's important to keep her physically active, and keep her mind engaged. My dog's energy comes in spurts these days, but we treasure our active times together! 

This Winter we took the dogs to New Hampshire. Icy had a blast romping around in the snow and in the woods. Stay tuned for my blog post on that trip shortly, but here's a cute photo of me, Icy, and Jessie hiking in the snow. 

Me and my dogs in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire 2024

Icy loves our adventures just as she always has, she just needs a lot more naps throughout the day and our hikes are shorter and easier. We are determined to make every moment with her special, and filled with the love and appreciation we have for her. 

Has your dog experienced any of these common senior dog health issues? Let us know in the comments, and please share any tips that have worked well for your dog!