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IS YOUR SENIOR PET HEALTHY?

Both humans and animals are living longer due to better nutrition and preventative health care. As veterinarians, we want to help your pet live healthily and happily as he or she enters their senior years. There is not an exact age when a dog or cat is considered senior, due to breed and size differences. But in general, most veterinarians consider a dog to be entering their golden years at about seven to eight years and a cat at about eight years. Exotic pets will vary dramatically. Speak with your veterinarian about your exotic pet. At these ages, most veterinarians recommend starting your pet’s Senior Wellness Program.

Initially, your veterinarian will want to do a thorough physical examination of your pet at least every six months. We need to see pets more frequently, because they age more quickly than humans do and changes in their healthy conditions occur more quickly. The following “baseline” diagnostic tests are needed to help check the internal status of your pet. A CBC is used to evaluate the red and white blood cells to check for infections, anemia, or changes in the cell populations. A Biochemical Profile evaluates the kidney, liver, pancreas, and electrolyte status to assure these organs are functioning properly. A Thyroid Profile checks your pet’s metabolic state which can aid in understanding changes in attitude, appetite, weight or hair coat. A Fecal sample lets us determine if there are any internal parasites. A Urinalysis determines the function of the kidneys and bladder looking for silent infections, crystals in urine, and concentration of urine. The Radiographs (x-ray) of the chest and/or abdomen can show abnormalities in the shape, size, and location of organs like the heart, lungs, vessels, stomach, intestines, liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, and bones for examples. These diagnostic tests are just a few we can use to help assure that your pet’s health is normal.

Detection of problems early is the key to help prevent accelerated changes in your pet’s health. We all celebrate when these “baseline” diagnostic tests are normal.

Overall, the best way to insure your pet enter the golden years healthy, is to make sure he or she is healthy as a youngster and into their middle years. Your pet should see the veterinarian regularly for physical exams, vaccinations, dental care, and be on a regular program of heartworm, internal parasite and flea and tick prevention.

Remember that while your younger pet appears healthy now, there are a number of potential problems you need to be aware of as your pet ages. Your veterinarian can help develop a Senior Wellness Program for your best friend today, just give them a call.

By Melissa Webster, DVM, Veterinary Centers of America.


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