According to a recent survey of veterinarians, sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health and The lams Company, 98 percent of veterinarians believe older dogs have different medical needs and would benefit from specialized services and testing.
That’s why it’s a good idea to establish a baseline that can be used as a benchmark for measuring changes before your dog reaches “senior” status. For example, ongoing blood and urine tests are especially beneficial at times, such as before surgery and before certain medications that require confirmation of normal liver, kidney or heart function are prescribed.
Scheduling your senior pet for twice-a-year physical examinations is another important step since dogs age 5-7 years for every year of human life. Just as more frequent examinations and more extensive laboratory tests are a reality for middle-aged people, increased attention is important tor disease detection in dogs reaching the seven-year mark. Ninety-one percent of the veterinarians responding to the Pfizer/Iams survey stated they would be more likely to detect diseases earlier if their clients brought their dogs to the clinic for examinations more than once a year.
During these regular examinations, it’s important that you report any health or behavior changes that you’ve noticed since the last visit. Throughout your dog’s life, you are the best judge of changes taking place, and you are the veterinarian’s most valued source of an accurate history profile.
Today’s veterinarians have both the knowledge and the tools to help your older dog. In fact, 94 percent of veterinarians surveyed believe they have more tools now than ever before to help senior animals! By working with your veterinarian, you can help ensure that you and your dog will enjoy the best possible quality of life for the longest possible time.
Just as certain health screenings become necessary for people as they age, your veterinarian may wish to run specific tests to ensure your dog is healthy – so as to catch problems early. These procedures are common:
- Physical examination. A physical exam includes checking your dog’s general appearance, temperature, body weight, heart, lungs, ears, eyes, teeth, thyroid glands and skin.
- Complete blood count. This test helps in the diagnosis of cancer, infection, anemia and bleeding problems, and it provides insight into the status of your dog’s immune system.
- Serum chemistry profile. This test is used for assessing the function of the liver, kidneys, pancreas and other organs.
- Complete urinalysis. A urine sample will be checked for evidence of infection and to assess kidney function.
- Fecal analysis. A fecal sample will be checked for evidence of parasites, unusual bacteria and protozoa, and red and white blood cells.
- Other tests. Additional testing will be recommended as needed. Radiography, echocardiography, abdominal ultrasonography, thyroid and adrenal gland testing, blood pressure measurement, as well as liver, pancreas and small intestine function tests may be considered necessary. A new test is available for early renal disease, as well.
If your senior dog is experiencing one or more of the following signs, be sure to set up an appointment for an exam. What may look like simple aging could be a manageable health condition.
- Difficulty climbing stairs
- Difficulty jumping up
- Increased stiffness or limping
- Loss of housetraining
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Changes in activity level
- Excessive panting
- Circling/Repetitive movements
- Confusion or disorientation
- Persistant vocalization
- Less interaction with family
- Decreased responsiveness
- Tremors or shaking
- Skin and haircoat changes
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Less enthusiastic greeting or behavior
- Altered appetite
- Weight change