South Side Tails Blog


November 2016

The Importance of Senior Pet Wellness Screening

by Dr. Heather Steele

Just as in humans, pets are built to live a set lifespan. As pets age, their major organ systems including the liver, heart, and kidneys will experience a general and permanent decline in function. Advances in pet health care and nutrition have been amazing and have helped us extend our petís life expectancy and improve their quality of life. Screening for senior pets can help to detect changes in these pets earlier and allow us to properly monitor your pet's response to any treatments or therapies that are being used.

Pets are considered seniors when then enter the last 25% of their lifespan. Cats and small dogs are considered senior at 9 years of age, giant breed dogs are considered senior by as early as 6 years of age, and our exotic companion mammals such as rabbits and guinea pigs can be considered seniors at as early as 3 to 5 years of age. Just as in humans, senior pets have different needs than younger pets and have a higher risk of many diseases. Since our pets have a shorter lifespan than we do, they age much more quickly than humans and have the need for more frequent medical care.

Watching at home for clinical signs of age related diseases is the first place you can start as a pet guardian. Signs of disease can include: changes in appetite, changes in activity or willingness to perform activity, changes in drinking or eating habits, changes in bathroom habits (increased or decreased urination or defecation), weight loss or gain, or any other changes in behavior.

Wellness screening helps to detect diseases such as cancer, kidney disease, thyroid disease, dental disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cognitive changes. Senior wellness care includes a complete physical examination and any routine care such as vaccinations or parasite prevention. Since pain in pets can be difficult to assess, the physical exam will help detect potential problem areas. The frequency of examinations and testing will increase as your pet ages or if any disease is detected and we need to monitor for disease progression and the response to treatment.

Routine blood screening is important in detecting disease before it becomes severe. Baseline blood testing should be done as your pet reaches middle age so that future trends can be monitored. Blood testing will include a complete blood count and biochemistry panel, and likely a urinalysis. Radiographs or ultrasound may be useful in screening for diseases that might not be detected on these laboratory tests and can also be used if the physical examination or known disease predisposition of certain breeds or animal types warrants it.

Improved senior pet screening will allow your pets to enjoy their senior years and reach their maximum lifespan possible. Please call us at (780)434-6462 or email southsideanimalhosp@gmail.com if you have any questions regarding your senior pet. Also, feel free to ask us about our senior month promotion in November!