Why should my senior dog have regular senior wellness check-ups?

Posted by Vetcall on 31 May 2013

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Dogs age at five to seven years for every human year and are considered ‘senior’ at about seven years of age. Generally small breeds of dogs live longer than larger breeds.  Some small dog breeds are considered senior at about 10 years of age, while giant breeds are classified as seniors as young as five.   

Dogs are very good at hiding early signs of age-related disease and it can be very difficult for both owners and veterinarians to detect early signs of disease.  Many treatable or preventable diseases may have no observable signs early in their course and by the time a change is noticed, the disease may be quite advanced.   Studies have shown that as many as 23% of middle aged and senior dogs that have appeared healthy upon physical examination have an underlying disease.

Early diagnosis is the key to slowing down the disease process, as well as preventing associated pain and discomfort.  This is only possible through routine laboratory testing of apparently “healthy” animals. Because our pet’s age faster than we do, they can develop diseases and conditions in a short period of time. For this reason, we recommend that all dogs over seven years of age have a Senior Wellness Screen performed every 6 - 12 months.  This is equivalent to you seeing your doctor every few years.  

Our Senior Wellness Screen includes the following:

  • Complete physical examination and discussion with you about your dog’s lifestyle, day to day habits and any recent problems or concerns: This gives us a lot of valuable information and helps in the interpretation of test results.
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): This measures the number and type of red and white blood cells and platelets, and helps identify infections, anemia and certain types of cancer as well as problems with bleeding and the immune system.
  • Blood Chemistry Panel: This checks how your dog’s organs are functioning, and can help identify diseases like diabetes, kidney and liver disease.
  • Urinalysis: This provides important information about the functioning capacity of the kidneys.  In addition, the urine contains by products from many organs and abnormal levels of these by products can indicate disease such as liver and kidney disease, diabetes and urine infections.
  • Blood pressure check:  High blood pressure in dogs can occur spontaneously or secondary to another disease process.  Untreated it can have serious consequences such as increased risk of stroke, kidney disease and heart disease.
  • Thyroid level:  An under active thyroid gland (Hypothyroidism) is one of the most common hormonal diseases affecting older dogs.  If your dog’s physical examination findings and symptoms are suggestive of Hypothyroidism a thyroid test blood test will be recommended.
  • Schirmer Tear Test:  This test measures your dog's tear production and is a simple and effective tool for early detection of a condition called Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca / KCS).  Senior dogs are more at risk of developing dry eye.  In early cases of dry eye the eyes may appear normal despite reduced tear production.  Dry eye can lead to painful and serious eye conditions.  Early diagnosis and treatment has been shown to give better results then delaying treatment.
  • SDMA blood test - this new and innovative test is used in conjunction with biochemistry and urinalysis results and enables us to diagnose kidney disease much earlier.  The SDMA marker becomes elevated with 40% loss of kidney function versus our standard biochemistry marker Creatinine which only becomes elevated when 75% of kidney function is lost.  With early diagnosis, treatment and management we may be able to slow the progression of the kidney disease.

Only a small sample of blood and urine is required, so these tests will be minimally stressful for your dog.  For rapid accurate results’ all tests apart from thyroid levels are done on site using our modern laboratory and diagnostic equipment.   

What if the results are all normal?

This is great news!  We will keep the results on file as a baseline to use as a comparison if your dog ever gets sick.  You will also receive a Senior Wellness Report and copy of the results for your own records. Subtle changes in these results, even if your dog seems outwardly healthy, may signal the presence of an underlying disease. If a condition is revealed, you know that it was found as early as possible. We will then discuss with you any further tests that may be required and the various treatment options available. This way we can work with you to ensure your dog lives as long, healthy, and happy a life as possible.   

How much does a Senior Wellness Screen Cost?

  • Senior Wellness Screen at the time of vaccination: $188.60 (vaccination not included).
  • Senior Wellness Screen at any other time: $236.00
  • Optional SDMA: additional $46.30
  • These prices do not include a thyroid blood test if this is required.

 
When can you do it?

A Senior Wellness Screen can be combined with your dog’s annual health check and vaccination.  A half hour appointment is required, so when you book an appointment please advise the nurse that you would like this done as well.  Alternatively, you can leave your dog with us for the day to complete the tests.  To help us provide the best care for your dog please download and complete the Senior Wellness Questionnaire by clicking on the link the below and bring this with you to your dog's appointment.

Download the Senior Wellness Questionnaire here

Please give us a call or email us to book a convenient appointment time.  We look forward to seeing you soon.