It can be hard to admit when we see the signs of old age in our animal companions. Pets age differently based on breed and size, but the fact is that most dogs are considered seniors when they hit seven, cats around eight. Obviously, pets age much more rapidly than humans, which means diseases and illness progress faster as well.
To ensure that your pet has the longest, healthiest, most comfortable life possible, the medical team at Las Tablas Animal Hospital encourages you to bring your senior pet for exams and blood tests twice each year. This way, we can track how your pet is aging, and we’ll be more likely to catch any developing diseases before they’re big problems.
Blood tests are one of the most important parts of a senior exam. These blood screenings—often referred to as a “senior panel”— monitor red and white blood cell counts and reveal how well the kidney, liver, pancreas, and thyroid are functioning. Your vet may recommend a chest x-ray to ensure that the heart is a normal size and that there are no masses in the lungs.
Periodontal disease is always a threat to our pets’ health and comfort, and it’s particularly tough on older pets. That’s why a dental exam is always part of any senior pet screening as well.
One of the most common conditions seen in elder pets is osteoarthritis. General symptoms in dogs include limping, spinal issues like a hunch or a back that is sensitive to touch, tiredness, loss of muscle and constant licking, chewing or biting sensitive areas. In cats, the symptoms may be more subtle, but usually a reluctance to jump or leap up as before is a tell-tale sign. We can help your arthritic pet feel more comfortable utilizing a variety of treatments including medication and physical therapy.
Finally, make sure to let your vet know about any behavior changes in your pet. Once dogs and cat get to the geriatric stage, monitoring for signs of cognitive dysfunction—such as losing housebreaking, getting lost or wandering aimlessly—is very important.