Senior pets are special, and have special needs. At 7 years old, we consider most pets to be senior patients. As our pets age, their needs generally increase for medical care and maintenance. Senior pets need to visit the veterinarian at least twice a year for regular check-ups, to detect any changes or problems as early as possible.
During every visit, the technician will begin by taking a detailed history and vital signs. Since pets can’t talk, it is important for us to ask all the right questions to get a picture of overall health at home. For senior pets, the history contains additional questions to investigate changes in hearing or vision, brain aging and senility, the development of arthritis or “slowing down,” and check for new lumps or bumps.
The next step is for the veterinarian to do a comprehensive physical exam. The doctor will go over the patient from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. He will check the overall appearance and body condition, listen to the heart and lungs, examine the eyes, ears, mouth, lymph nodes, skin and haircoat, genitals, feel the abdominal organs and check the neurologic and musculoskeletal systems including things like reflexes, range of motion and muscle mass.
Dental disease, arthritis, obesity, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, diabetes, liver disease and heart problems are more common among senior pets than their younger counterparts. Additionally, these problems can be more serious in older pets. Regular visits with the veterinarian let the doctor learn what is normal for each individual patient, and monitor changes closely – any changes can be investigated and problems addressed as necessary.
Once a year, senior pets will need a blood and urine test to check internal health. Blood chemistries tell about the health of organs and body systems. Complete blood counts let us learn about the bone marrow and blood and immune system, detecting diseases early. Urine tests round out the picture of overall health. Pets who experience an increase in water consumption or urination, increase in hunger, change in activity level or attitude should visit the veterinarian right away. Particularly in senior pets, these changes can indicate potentially serious medical conditions.
Our pets give us so many gifts of love and companionship. Senior pet check-ups and laboratory testing are a way for us to give them the very best in medical care. Keeping them healthy keeps all of us happy.