Preventive Care for Senior Dogs

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If your dog is not up to date on routine preventive care, this visit would be a great time to catch up. Routine preventive care includes vaccinations, heartworm disease screening, tick-borne disease screening, and intestinal parasite screening.

As your dog ages into her senior years, national guidelines recommend screening for the early onset of common diseases associated with aging. The leading age related diseases that affect senior dogs are kidney disease, liver disease, hypothyroidism, pancreatitis, heart disease, arthritis, dental disease, and cancer.

Here’s what to expect during your visit:

Consultation with a Veterinarian
We’ll start with a discussion about medical history, behavior changes, lifestyle,  and nutrition. We’ll address any concerns you may have. At these visits, we’ll formulate strategies and talk about supplements that will keep your pet feeling her best.

Comprehensive Physical Examination
We’ll check your senior dog from nose to tail for tumors, signs of pain, or arthritis. We will assess his overall appearance, scanning his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth for irregularities as well as listening to his heart and lungs.

Baseline screening for your senior dog includes the following:

Complete Blood Cell Count
Red blood cells (RBCs) are the most numerous and longest-living of the different types of blood cells; they typically make up almost half of the blood’s volume. RBCs contain a special protein called hemoglobin (HGB) that binds to the oxygen in the lungs and enables the RBCs to transport oxygen as it travels through the rest of the body. CBC screens for anemia (low red blood cell count), inflammation, infection, stress, Leukemia, bleeding problems, inability to fight infection, and hydration status.

Reticulocytes are immature red blood cells that increase during times of increased red cell production, such as blood loss or immunemediated anemia.

White blood cells are primarily responsible for fighting infections. There are five different types of white blood cells and each one performs specific functions to keep the body healthy. Platelets play a critical role in preventing bleeding.

Comprehensive Chemistry Panel
Kidneys are responsible for filtering metabolic waste products, excess sodium and water from the blood stream, which are then transferred to the bladder for excretion. Blood and urine tests can indicate early renal disease, renal failure, infection, stones, cancer, and abnormalities resulting from long-term medications. The SDMA kidney function screen in included in this panel.

The liver is a large organ with many different functions. It processes the blood by removing both bacteria and toxins as well as further breaking down many of the complex nutrients absorbed during the digestion of food into much smaller components for use by the rest of the body. Biochemistry tests can indicate liver disease, cushing’s syndrome, certain cancers, dehydration, obstruction of the bile ducts, abnormalities resulting from long-term medications.

Glucose is the basic nutrient for the body. It is highly regulated in the bloodstream, but does fluctuate for a few hours after eating. Glucose changes may be seen with a variety of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, and various organ system abnormalities.

Electrolytes (Na, K, Cl, tCO2, Anion Gap) are critical to body function and must be maintained in very narrow limits. Dehydration is a common cause of electrolyte imbalance, despite how effective the body is at regulating the concentration levels.

Total T4 Thyroid Screen
Thyroxine (T4), a hormone produced by the thyroid gland, is essential for growth and metabolism. As your pet ages, thyroid function can become abnormal and cause signs of illness. This screen can detect hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Complete Urinalysis
Although not a blood test, a urinalysis is essential for a comprehensive evaluation of kidney function. A urinalysis includes physical, chemical and microscopic evaluation of urine. This evaluation provides additional information about the kidney and liver, as well as the general well-being of your pet.

Blood Pressure Evaluation
Hypertension or high blood pressure occurs when the arterial blood pressure is consistently higher than normal. Primary hypertension refers to when high blood pressure actually is the disease. Hypertension can also be classified as secondary when it is caused by another disease. To determine if your dog has primary or secondary hypertension, additional testing is likely required. Hypertension can affect your dog’s heart, kidneys, eyes, and nervous system.

Additional tests for your senior dog that may be considered include the following:

Glaucoma Screen
Glaucoma is an increase in intra-ocular pressure in the eye. It is caused by inadequate drainage of fluid in the eye. Symptoms include eye pain, watery discharge from the eye, swelling or bulging of the eyeball, cloudy appearance of the eye, and blindness. Intra-ocular eye pressure is measured using a tonometer.

If Detected early, glaucoma can often be treated effectively, preventing the blindness and pain associated with this commonly overlooked condition in senior pets. Many breeds of dogs and cats are at higher risk.

cPL Pancreatitis Screen
The pancreas is a small organ located near the small intestines and is responsible for producing several digestive enzymes and hormones that help regulate metabolism. The Pancreas-specific Lipase (cPL) test can indicate pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

proBNP Heart Disease Screen
ProBNP is a blood marker that assesses heart health. If a heart murmur is detected upon listening to your dog’s heart, a proBNP test can be useful to determine if the heart muscle is straining and can predict how soon heart failure will occur. Learn more about heart disease in dogs.