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Senior Preventative Care

October 15th, 2020
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It is often said that “old age is not a disease”. With good preventative health care, your senior pet can continue to live a comfortable, healthy, and fun-filled life.

When is a dog or cat considered a senior?

According to the AHAA (2005), a pet is a senior when: “dogs and cats are in the last 25% of the predicted life span for their species and breed.” Different breeds and size of dogs age at different rates. To determine if your dog is a senior, use the AHAA Canine Life Stage Calculator at: https://www.aaha.org/aaha-guidelines/life-stage-canine-2019/canine-life-stage-calculator/. Cats are generally considered seniors at the age of 11 years (Feline Advisory Bureau, 2017).

It is recommended to begin senior wellness screening when your pet is middle aged; if we can identify a concern earlier on, there is improved prognosis and it is more cost effective in the long run. By setting the baseline early on for your pet, the veterinarian is able to look for trends over time as an early warning system.

We recommend that senior examinations start at the age of 8 years for small and medium breed dogs, 7 years for large breed dogs, 5 years for giant breed dogs, and 10 years for cats.

What are the most common age-related changes?

The most important changes that are seen in senior pets include (AAHA, 2005):

  • Weight changes, such as weight loss, especially in cats
  • Dental disease
  • Mobility changes, such as osteoarthritis
  • Hormonal changes, such as thyroid disorders and diabetes
  • Behavioral changes
  • Vision and eye changes, such as dry eyes
  • Urinary tract disorders, such as kidney disease/failure, bladder infections and stones
  • Cardiovascular disorders, such as hypertension, vascular disease in dogs and myocardial disease in cats
  • Respiratory disorders, such as chronic bronchitis

A senior examination performed by your veterinarian is recommended to help determine if your pet is undergoing any of these changes and to start treatment or management of the diagnosed condition.

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What does a senior examination entail?

There are three levels of health screening that we recommend for our senior patients.

Level 1 is recommended for all seniors. This includes a complete physical examination, analysis of urine and blood to assess kidney, liver and thyroid function, as well as a complete blood cell count. It also includes a consultation reviewing oral, ocular, auricular and skin/nail health, nutrition, and weight control.

Level 2 is recommended for senior pets that have cardiovascular concerns, such as exercise intolerance or the presence of a heart murmur. This includes the diagnostics from level 1 plus a blood pressure measurement and chest radiographs with possible review by a radiologist.

Level 3 is recommended for at risk senior breeds or if there are abnormal findings on the examination. It includes the diagnostics from level 1 and 2, as well as abdominal radiographs or referral for an abdominal ultrasound.

Starting early will help our senior pets enjoy the golden years at the fullest. In celebration of senior month, we will be posting a few blogs on the most common age-related changes seen in our oldies but goldies.

If you would like to book a senior wellness examination, call us today and ask us about our senior promotion!

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References

Feline Advisory Board. WellCat for life veterinary handbook. Tisbury, Wiltshire, UK: Feline Advisory Bureau, 2008: 5. Available at www.fabcats.org/wellcat/ publications/index.php

Journal of American Animal Hosp Association. 2005; 41:81-91. Available at https://www.aaha.org/globalassets/02-guidelines/senior-care/senior-care-guidelines