Our pets are living longer than ever before thanks to advancements in care and medicine.  With this increased lifespan, however, comes increased susceptibility to disease.  By recognizing that our pets age more quickly than we do and taking appropriate precautions and actions, we can ensure that their golden years are quality years.

It is easy to forget that at around the early age of seven, our pets are considered to be senior citizens.  As a general rule, smaller breeds of dogs live longer than larger breeds.  Cats may even live longer.  Because they are aging at such a fast rate compared to humans, yearly exams may not be enough.  One year may be equivalent to 5-7 human years!  It is recommended that senior pets have a wellness exam performed every six months.  This exam may include all or some of the following:

  • A comprehensive physical exam:  The pet’s body systems are carefully examined in order to detect any signs of problems.
  • Complete blood count:  This test measures your pet’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets and may help diagnose things such as infection, anemia, and leukemia.
  • Blood chemistry:  These panels help your veterinarian determine how major organs, such as the kidneys, pancreas, and liver, are functioning.
  • Thyroid check:  The thyroid gland can be a problem, particularly in cats.  Blood tests can help to identify any problems.
  • Urinalysis:  Analysis of the urine may be used to detect the presence of protein, sugar, white blood cells or blood.  The ability of the kidneys to concentrate the urine is also observed.  Urinalysis can help to diagnose of urinary tract infections, diabetes, dehydration, kidney problems, and more.
  • Other tests or procedures based on physical exam or laboratory findings may be recommended.

Establishing baseline values can be valuable for even a seemingly healthy pet.  Many times subtle changes in lab work are the first sign of illness, and early detection almost always yields a better outcome.  The semi-annual checkup is also a great time to discuss difficulties and changes in your pet’s life such as behavior changes, differences in nutritional and exercise requirements, and pain.  This is a simple, effective way to help make sure your pet has many more quality years to come!