Senior Pet Care
Q: What makes my pet a 'Senior'?
A: This depends on the age, species, and breed of your pet. In general, smaller breed dogs tend to live longer than larger breeds. We typically consider most pets to be seniors at age 8, although for smaller breed dogs this may be a bit young, and for larger breed dogs the senior years may start a year or two earlier. Cats are generally considered senior at 8-10 years old.
Q: Why is a yearly Senior Exam important?
A: As our pets age they are more prone to chronic diseases such as kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid abnormalities, and osteoarthritis. When diagnosed early many of these chronic conditions can be managed effectively for years. The American Animal Hospital Association, of which West Frederick Veterinary Hospital is a proudly accredited member, recommends examinations every six months for senior pets.
Q: What is involved in a Senior Wellness visit?
A: As always, we will perform a thorough physical exam. In addition, we will review the medical history form that you will have filled out ahead of time, and address any questions you have regarding your pet. We also recommend laboratory testing in conjunction with the senior wellness visit. This may vary from a limited biochemical profile to an extensive panel including blood cell counts, urinalysis, and thyroid levels. In addition, as always, we recommend yearly fecal analysis and heartworm testing. The heartworm test also screens for Lyme disease, Anaplasma, and Ehrlichia, three common tick-borne diseases in our area.
Q: My veterinarian recommended a dental for my Senior Pet. Is anesthesia safe in older animals?
A: Age is not a contraindication for anesthesia. While there is always the potential for risks associated with anesthesia, in general we see very few anesthetic complications, even in our older patients. Although risks cannot be eliminated entirely, we screen each patient thoroughly prior to anesthesia with a full physical exam, pre-operative bloodwork, and additional tests as indicated based on exam and bloodwork findings (i.e. radiographs, ultrasound, EKG). We will discuss any concerns with you prior to your pets procedure.
Q: What are some of the common problems seen in senior patients?
A: Dental disease is the most common disease seen in dogs and cats, followed by obesity. In addition, kidney disease and osteoarthritis are quite common. In cats, an overactive thyroid gland, or hyperthyroidism, is relatively common. We also see ocular changes as pets age — some of these are normal aging-related changes, while others may be indicative of a more serious problem. Unfortunately, cancer is also diagnosed relatively commonly in older pets; this can be in the form of skin tumors, abdominal or intestinal masses or other systemic types of cancers. Of course, any of the things that can affect younger dogs and cats can also affect the senior patients, so nothing can be ruled out just because of age!