Recommended Annual Wellness Evaluations for Your Senior Dog
- Complete Physical Exam: We recommend twice yearly exams on all senior dogs 7yrs and older. Our complete physical examination and assessment of your pet includes:
History – An important part of your pet’s wellness evaluation is a discussion of your own observations. Our staff may ask such questions as: How is your pet’s appetite? Does she/he seem to drink excessively? Does she/he need to go outside during the night? Does she/he vomit with any frequency? Are her/his stools formed and tan/brown or is there have frequent diarrhea or discoloration? Does she/he walk comfortably or often show some lameness? Your observations are an important part of our assessment for early disease processes.
Vaccines – Many vaccines are available for dogs. A discussion with our staff will help you decide which ones are important for your canine. RABIES vaccination is required by law once every three years. A DA2PP (Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza & Parvo viruses) vaccine is recommended once every three years for healthy adult dogs. Your dog may have a health issue that may warrant changing these vaccination frequencies. Other vaccines are available for your dog and may be recommended, depending upon your dog’s individual needs.
Heartworm prevention – Heartworms are transmitted to your pet by mosquitoes, and can cause severe, life threatening disease, in the heart and lungs. Early detection of the infection may allow treatment prior to occurrence of permanent damage. Our recommendation, is that EVERY dog be screened annually for heartworm disease with a simple blood test, and be given a once monthly treatment to help prevent the infection. These recommendations are consistent with those of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Heartworm Society. As an added benefit, monthly heartworm prevention helps prevent intestinal parasites as well.
Stool sample analysis – All pets should have a stool sample analyzed annually for routine internal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, coccidia, and Giardia. The Center for Disease Control has documented an increase in these infections in children, and has asked the veterinary community to work aggressively to reduce the prevalence of these parasites in pets with regular screening and deworming protocols.
Blood and urine testing – Laboratory testing may provide us with early notification of diseases that may be treated before the disease is physically evident. It also may allow us to treat a disease before it becomes worse. Even when routine laboratory screening doesn’t indicate an abnormality, it gives us a baseline unique to your pet for comparison as a normal baseline as your pet ages. Laboratory screening is also recommended prior to anesthesia and if your pet is on chronic medication. Testing may include a complete blood count, chemistry panel, urine analysis and thyroid evaluation.
Pain management & comfort – Older pets commonly have physical ailments that can cause discomfort and affect their quality of life. Included in these may be arthritis, tooth pain, overgrown nails, urinary incontinence, or skin growths which may itch or ooze. Many options are available to manage your pet’s aging concerns. We feel that quality of life is of utmost importance, and will help you make the best choices for your pet’s comfort.
Behavior – Many behavior problems can become a concern as your pet ages. Changes in sleeping patterns, anxiety, housebreaking issues in a previously well housebroken pet, or increased irritability are common in older pets, and often can be addressed through multiple avenues. Discussion of these issues can lead to a more rewarding home life for you and your pet.
- Weight – Excess body fat actually contributes to inflammation throughout your pet’s body, which can lead to poor health, especially increasing joint stress and inflammatory chemicals.
- Diet – Consultation on type and amount of food your pet is eating, and whether it is appropriate for your pet’s health and level of activity.
- Ears – Evaluation for excess ear wax, infection or foreign objects such as plant “fox tails”.
- Heart and lungs – Evaluation for normal heart rhythm and lung sounds or the presence of a murmur, irregular beats or abnormal lung sounds.
- Teeth – Evaluation for bad breath, gingivitis (red gums) and tartar. These dental changes can indicate pain and infection and can lead to painful eating, infections (some serious) elsewhere in the body and tooth loss, chronic pain, and overall bad health.
- Eyes – Evaluation for redness, discharge, cataracts, retinal changes and other conditions.
- Growths – Evaluation for growths in the mouth and on the body. Many are benign and many cancerous growths can be removed before they spread and become life-threatening.
- Skin – Evaluation for normal color, thickness and hair growth; and whether your pet has a skin infection or parasite, allergies, or hair loss resulting from an internal illness.
- Muscles, bones & joints – Evaluation for appropriate muscle mass, stiffness, gait abnormalities, or exercise intolerance.
- Abdomen – Evaluation by feel for enlarged abdominal organs, pain on evaluation, fluid accumulation or masses.
- Mucous membranes – Evaluation of gums. Healthy dogs should have pink and moist gums. Paleness or discoloration can indicate internal disease.
- Lymph nodes – Evaluation by feel of certain lymph nodes for enlargement. Enlarged lymph nodes can indicate infection, or even lymphoma, one of the most common cancers in dogs.
- Nails – Evaluation of the length and health of your pet’s nails. It is important to keep your pet’s nails well trimmed to prevent discomfort, joint pain and reduce the chance of broken nails that can bleed excessively.
Pet owners play a very important role in the ongoing health of their pets. Among the most important things an owner can do to set the stage for their pets’ long, healthy and active lives is to provide appropriate exercise, prevent pets from becoming overweight, and to keep pets teeth and oral health in great shape. Regular veterinary evaluations allow us to help pet owners stay on course with their role in their healthy pets’ lives and also for us to have an opportunity to detect medical problems early, when they are most treatable and less debilitating.
Please ask our staff if you have any questions regarding any of these recommendations. We are grateful for the trust you have placed in University Veterinary Hospital & Diagnostic Center, as a partner is your pet’s care. We will always do our very best to continue to earn that trust. It is an honor for us to prove your pet with our unique Care and Service from the Heartsm.