What veterinary healthcare should my senior dog (7 and up) receive?
Senior Dog Care and Early Detection Screening
Comprehensive Physical Examination By the Veterinarian
This Comprehensive Physical Examination is the most important part of any preventative health care plan. The veterinarian will examine your dog from head to toe evaluating every organ system. You will be provided a written report of your dog’s examination and any
associated recommendations. This report will be reviewed with you verbally. Any questions that you might have will be answered as well.
Senior Care Level 3 : $168.50
Older dogs are prone to disease in virtually every part of their bodies as the result of age-related degenerative changes. Although the signs of some problems may be obvious and many can be revealed by a veterinarian’s thorough examination, others can only be detected through laboratory testing. For geriatric dogs, we strongly recommend blood and urine testing in conjunction with the comprehensive veterinary examination included in the annual health program.
The forty-one blood tests provide valuable information regarding the following conditions: kidney and bladder disease including kidney failure, infection, stones and cancer; Diabetes Mellitus; liver diseases; pancreatic diseases; muscle diseases; thyroid hormone levels; electrolyte levels, Red blood cell disorders including anemia; White blood cell abnormalities including infection, Leukemia and stress; blood protein abnormalities including dehydration, protein losing disorders and cancer; some endocrine (hormone) diseases. AND twelve urine tests provide valuable information regarding the following conditions: kidney disease including kidney failure an insufficiency, infection, stones and cancer; bladder disease including infection, stones and cancer; Diabetes Mellitus; some liver diseases, some Red blood cell disorders; some endocrine (hormone) diseases.
Veterinarians depend on laboratory results to help them understand the status of your dog’s health. When your dog is healthy, laboratory tests provide a means to determine your dog’s “baseline” values. When your dog is sick, the veterinarian can more easily determine whether or not your dog’s lab values are abnormal by comparing the baseline values to the current values. Subtle changes in these laboratory test results, even in the outwardly healthy animal, may signal the presence of an underlying disease. AAHA recommends that dogs at middle age undergo laboratory tests at least annually. During the senior years, laboratory tests are recommended every six months for healthy dogs. At a minimum, the following tests are recommended:
- Complete Blood Count This common test measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in a given sample of blood. The numbers and types of these cells give the veterinarian information needed to help diagnose anemia, infections and leukemia. A complete blood count also helps your veterinarian monitor your dog’s response to some treatments.
- Urinalysis Laboratory analysis of urine is a tool used to detect the presence of one or more specific substances that normally do not appear in urine, such as protein, sugar, white blood cells or blood. A measurement of the dilution or concentration of urine is also helpful in diagnosing diseases. Urinalysis can assist the veterinarian in the diagnosis of urinary-tract infections, diabetes, dehydration, kidney problems and many other conditions.
- Blood-Chemistry Panel Blood-chemistry panels measure electrolytes, enzymes and chemical elements such as calcium and phosphorous. This information helps your veterinarian determine how various organs, such as the kidneys, pancreas, and liver, are currently functioning. The results of these tests help your veterinarian formulate an accurate diagnosis, prescribe proper therapy, and monitor the response to treatment. Further testing may be recommended based on the results of these tests.
- Fecal Exam/Parasite Evaluation Microscopic examination of your dog’s feces can provide information about many different kinds of diseases, such as difficulties with digestion, internal bleeding, and disorders of the pancreas. Most importantly, though, this test confirms the presence of intestinal parasites, such as roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm and giardia. As always, semi-annual heartworm testing and maintaining your dog’s heartworm prevention medicine is strongly recommended.
The Effects of Age
Sensory Changes With the senior years comes a general “slowing down” in dogs. As their major senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell) dull, you may find that your dog has a slower response to general external stimuli. This loss of sensory perception often is a slow, progressive process, and it may even escape your notice. The best remedy for gradual sensory reduction is to keep your dog active—playing and training are excellent ways to keep their senses sharp. Dogs may also be affected mentally as they age. Just as aging humans begin to forget things and are more susceptible to mental conditions, your aging animals may also begin to confront age-related cognitive and behavior changes. Most of these changes are rather subtle and can be addressed in a proactive manner. Regular senior health exams can help catch and treat these problems before they control your dog’s life.
The physical changes your dogs experience are generally easier to spot than the sensory changes. As the body wears out, its ability to respond to infection is reduced, and the healing process takes longer. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian if you notice a significant change in behavior or the physical condition of your dog. A very common and frustrating problem for aging dogs is inappropriate elimination. The kidneys are one of the most common organ systems to wear out on a dog, and as hormone imbalance affects the function of the kidneys, your once well-behaved dog may have trouble controlling his bathroom habits. If you are away all day, he may simply not be able to hold it any longer, or urine may dribble out while he sleeps at night. In addition, excessive urination or incontinence may be indicative of diabetes or kidney failure, both of which are treatable if caught early enough.
Many older dogs benefit from specially formulated food that is designed with older bodies in mind. Obesity in dogs is often the result of reduced exercise and overfeeding and is a risk factor for problems such as heart disease. Because older dogs often have different nutritional requirements, these special foods can help keep your dog’s weight under control and reduce consumption of nutrients that are risk factors for the development of diseases, as well as organ- or age-related changes.
Exercise is yet another aspect of preventive geriatric care for your dogs. You should definitely keep them going as they get older—if they are cooped up or kept lying down, their bodies will deteriorate much more quickly. You may want to ease up a bit on the exercise with an arthritic or debilitated dog. Otherwise, you should keep them as active—mentally and physically—as possible in order to keep them sharp.
Surgery for the Older Dog
In the event your veterinarian is considering surgery or any other procedure in which anesthesia is needed, special considerations are taken to help ensure the safety of your senior dog. AAHA recommends all senior dogs undergo the laboratory testing mentioned above, ideally within two weeks of any anesthetized procedure. A blood pressure evaluation and additional tests might also be recommended, depending on your individual dog. These screening tools can provide critical information to the health care team to help determine the proper anesthesia and drug protocol for your dog, as well as make you aware of any special risk factors that might be encountered.
Dogs experience pain just like humans do, and AAHA recommends veterinarians take steps to identify, prevent, and minimize pain in all senior dogs. The AAHA guidelines encourage veterinarians to use pain assessment as the fourth vital sign (along with temperature, pulse and respiration). The different types of pain include acute pain, which comes on suddenly as a result of an injury, surgery, or an infection, and chronic pain, which is long lasting and usually develops slowly (such as arthritis). You can play a key role in monitoring your dog to determine whether he suffers from pain. For more information, see the article on Pain Management for Dogs. To help ensure your dog lives comfortably during the senior life stage, it’s critical to work with your veterinarian to tailor a senior wellness plan that is best for your dog. Be sure to monitor behavior and physical conditions and report anything unusual to your veterinarian, who can help your dog head into the twilight years with ease.