One fact of life is that, unfortunately, time doesn’t stop and we all grow older. You know how your medical provider keeps reminding you to come in for your annual exam? Well, it’s because they have your best interest at heart. The same goes for the animal world. We want to give you all the tools and knowledge you need to expand the time you have with your pet.
The benefits of early disease detection in Senior Pets are:
- Most importantly, the quality of your pet's life can be maintained
- At the end of the treatment it will be less costly than if the issue had continued for six more months
- Lastly, the treatments are going to be more effective if we catch disease early.
The essentials of a Senior Pet Wellness Examination:
- Physical exam: A physical examination is most important for checking physical abnormalities. Our doctors will assess weight, dental health, muscle tone, joint range of motion, inform you on norms for the breed, age, and gender, and assessing the pets current status against past exam findings.
- Blood work: For our senior pets we like to order a senior profile blood work panel. This will include a blood serum evaluation, a complete blood count, a thyroid screen and a urine analysis. Let me break it down a little more for you. A blood serum evaluation will test your pet’s organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels and more. A complete blood count give us information on hydration status, anemia, infection, the blood clotting ability, and the overall ability of your pets immune system response. A thyroid screen, which, you guessed it, tests thyroid hormone levels (t4)! Decreased t4 levels (hypothyroid) which is most common in dogs and increased t4 levels (hyperthyroid) which is most common in cats. Lastly a urine analysis will test how well the kidneys are functioning and will show if there is an infection or inflammation within your pet’s urinary track. It also helps detect diabetes and can be useful in the diagnosis of cancer in the urinary tract.
- X – rays and/or ultrasound: Depending on how blood work results come back our doctors might recommend we do radiographs (x-rays) or want to preform an ultrasound. The use of these machines can help detect issues involving major organs such as the heart, lungs, liver or kidneys.
- Assessment of lifestyle: Our doctors might recommend a dietary change based on health status. I.e. diabetes, kidney disease, or urinary issues. Or maybe buster isn’t getting enough exercise.
- What are we due for? Yes even though your pet has gotten older we still like to vaccinate to prevent disease. Now that they are older their body cannot fight off disease as well. So depending on health status, we still encourage you to do vaccinations such as rabies, distemper parvo, and even a heartworm test.
While we would love to give you one easy answer to that question, the species and size of your animal play a big role in how quickly they age. So for your convenience here is a chart from the American Veterinary Medical Association's website.
If you have any questions or concerns about your senior pet, please don't hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian.
Written by Courtney Kelley, Veterinary Assistant at Alley Cat Small Animal Hospital