The bottom line…the sooner we detect disease, the better we can treat it and longer your pet can live with a great quality of life. With this goal in mind, and in conjunction with recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association, here are the recently updated recommendations for senior pets.
Recommendations for Senior Dogs and Cats:
Veterinary exam every 6 months (for apparently healthy senior pets)
Why? Many changes and problems can be caught by your veterinarian on physical exam; dental disease, ear infections, new lumps or masses, painful areas, abnormalities in heart rate or rhythm, elevations in temperature, strange lung noises, dehydration, etc. Plus, it is very important to have frequent discussions with your veterinarian about your senior pet’s quality of life; behavioral changes, discomfort they may be hiding, changing dietary or environmental needs. Many owners are surprised to find that what they considered regular “old dog” behaviors were actually problems that could be addressed.
Complete Blood Count, Blood Chemistry, Urinalysis, fecal check every 12 months
Why? While your vet can examine the outside of your pet, these lab tests can examine the inside of your pet. There are many diseases common to seniors that can be caught before they are showing physical symptoms, thereby making treatment much easier and more effective. Some of the diseases we are looking for: kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, hyper/hypo thyroid, pancreatitis, hyper/hypo adrenocorticism, and various infections and parasite infestations.
Radiographs every 12 months
Why? Again, radiographs (or x-rays) can help us get a picture of what is going on inside of your senior pet. Radiographs of joints can help us screen for tumors, arthritis and other joint diseases, radiographs of the abdomen can help screen for masses and abnormalities of the visceral organs, and radiographs of the chest can help screen for heart changes, lung disease and cancer metastasis.
Current vaccines and parasite prevention
Why? Older dogs and cats have less robust immune systems, so they need continued protection from infectious disease and parasites. Heartworm, gastrointestinal parasites and ectoparasites (such as fleas and ticks) are especially dangerous to older pets. Have a discussion with your veterinarian about which vaccines and parasite preventatives are appropriate for your senior based on his or her lifestyle.
Some pets need ECG, blood pressure and eye pressure checked often
Why? Heart disease, kidney disease and glaucoma (a very painful syndrome in which the pressure in the eye is too high) are very common in older pets. Based on other findings from your senior pet’s exam and/or lab work, these tests will help diagnose and monitor these very serious diseases. Your veterinarian will help you decide if these tests are recommended for your senior pet.
So, what is a Senior?
In general, a senior is any cat or small-breed dog 7 years or older. A large or giant breed dog will be considered a senior around 5 years old.
While the majority of our pets are considered seniors, only an estimated 14% are getting the veterinary care they need (American Animal Hospital Association). Please help your senior dog or cat to live as many happy, pain-free golden years as possible…call today to make a well-senior appointment with your veterinarian.
(Click on the above questionnaire and bring your answers to your senior pet’s veterinary visit.)