Routine wellness visits are a great way to help your pet live a healthy life for as long as possible. These visits can also help to catch potential health issues earlier and may help you avoid additional costs associated with treatments if disease goes undetected.
A typical wellness visit might include:
A physical exam
Veterinarians look for changes in your pet’s teeth, weight, joints, skin, and ears. These changes may be signs of illness.
Diagnostic screening tests
Veterinarians check your pet’s internal health. These results help to manage and track your pet’s overall health.
A review of results
Veterinarians look for changes in results from year-to-year. Changes can act as early warning signs of health problems.
WHAT WE LOOK AT DURING A VISIT AND WHY
HEART AND LUNGS
Infection or disease can make it difficult for your pet’s heart and lungs to deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.
Your pet’s liver may have trouble managing proteins, fat, digestion, and waste. These problems could be caused by disease, a blockage or even medication.
PANCREAS AND INTESTINE
Problems with these digestive organs may be due to an inflamed pancreas, diabetes, or some types of cancers.
SDMA* testing detects kidney disease earlier than other types of kidney tests.1,2 Results also reflect other diseases your pet may have that affect the kidneys.3
If the thyroid glands aren’t releasing the right amount of hormones, your pet’s metabolism could be affected.
A complete blood count (CBC) tells us if your pet is fighting an infection or has some bleeding problems. A blood test can also find diseases spread by ticks and mosquitoes.
Urine tests tell us if your pet has problems like infection or stones in the kidneys or bladder. They can also tell us about some cancers.
Fecal antigen testing tells us if your pet has parasites, such as worms. Other types of fecal tests may miss these common causes of intestinal infections, which can cause problems in people, too.
Schedule your pet’s next wellness visit today!
1. Hall JA, Yerramilli M, Obare E, Yerramilli M, Jewell DE. Comparison of serum concentrations of symmetric dimethylarginine and creatinine as kidney function biomarkers in cats with chronic kidney disease. J Vet Intern Med. 2014;28(6):1676–1683.
2. Hall JA, Yerramilli M, Obare E, Yerramilli M, Almes K, Jewell DE. Serum concentrations of symmetric dimethylarginine and creatinine in dogs with naturally occurring chronic kidney disease. 2016;30(3):794–802.
3. Data on file atLaboratories, USA.
What Happens During Your Pet’s Senior Wellness Exam?
You’re likely familiar with the thorough physical exam and history taking that Dr. Man and our team perform during your pet’s wellness visit at Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital . As your furry pal ages, their visit and medical needs will change as well. While we strongly encourage annual wellness testing to record your pet’s baseline normal values, these tests become even more important once your four-legged friend reaches middle- to old-age. Some of the most common diseases and illnesses we identify in senior pets through physical exams and diagnostic testing include:
- Hypo- or hyperthyroidism
- Dental disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Cushing’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
Although pets can be afflicted with these conditions at any age, we find them more often in older cats and dogs. With routine semi-annual exams and testing , we can discover these issues at the earliest stage, which can allow us to make simple diet and supplement changes to help your pet live the life they deserve. We also rely on routine diagnostic testing to monitor your pet’s stable, but ongoing, disease processes.
What diagnostic tests are recommended for my senior pet?
Depending on your pet’s age, breed, and health status, we may recommend multiple diagnostic tests to monitor their health. For example, cats are prone to developing kidney disease later in life, yet performing baseline blood work will help us monitor your cat’s kidney function over the years. Running a blood chemistry panel will allow us to check kidney enzymes, while a urinalysis will inform us of your cat’s ability to concentrate urine. Dr. Man has highlighted the importance of senior wellness testing in his video blog about a cat diagnosed with diabetes .
During your pet’s wellness exam, we may recommend any combination of the following tests to best monitor their changing health:
- Complete blood count — A complete blood count (CBC) quantifies the total number of your pet’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, dividing them into their unique types that allow us to identify infection, anemia, clotting issues, or cancer-related processes. This test cannot fully diagnose a problem, but can guide us to more definitive diagnostic testing.
- Blood chemistry panel — A comprehensive blood chemistry panel imparts information on organ function, and blood glucose and electrolyte levels, and can help us identify kidney or liver disease, diabetes, Addison’s disease, and a slew of other conditions.
- Thyroid level testing — Many older pets develop thyroid issues that interfere with metabolism, create skin changes, and cause different behaviors. Dogs tend to become hypothyroid, while cats develop hyperthyroidism. Check out Dr. Man’s video blogs on diagnosing and managing a dog with hypothyroidism.
- Urinalysis — A tablespoon of your pet’s urine helps us complete the story of your furry best friend’s health. We can check for diabetes severity by searching for glucose spillover or ketone formation in the urine, or see how well the kidneys are concentrating urine in a cat with suspected kidney failure. We also can confirm signs of infection, inflammation, or crystals that are often the culprits of your pet’s urinary issues.
- Blood pressure testing — Age-related diseases may also cause disturbances in your pet’s blood pressure. For example, cats in kidney failure tend to have an elevated blood pressure, beyond the normal stress-induced level from visiting a veterinary hospital. This elevation can lead to retinal detachment and blindness, so we highly recommend routine blood pressure testing as part of our senior pet wellness program.
- X-rays — Digital x-rays and consultation with a veterinary radiologist are crucial for evaluating heart and lung changes, searching for bone abnormalities that can indicate arthritis and to help us detect certain cancers of the spleen, liver, intestines, stomach, and kidneys.
These tests are vital for monitoring your senior pet’s health. Pets age much more rapidly than people, so semi-annual testing allows us to keep a close eye on your best friend’s health and well-being as they age.
What are potential disease signs in senior pets?
Pets—especially cats—are masters at hiding illness, injury, and disease, but you can learn to recognize potential issues in your furry pal as they age. Some of the most common age-related disease signs include:
- Drinking and urinating excessively
- Change in appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loose stool
- Change in hair coat or skin health
- Limping or lameness
- Sudden weight change
- Difficulty performing normal functions (e.g., seeing, breathing, urinating, and defecating)
- Decrease in stamina when exercising
- Noticeable changes in eye clarity
- New or changing lumps or bumps
Together we can eliminate waiting for potentially serious life-threatening disease with symptoms that just “suddenly appear.” Give us a call now to schedule a wellness check for your best friend.
What to Expect at Your Pet’s Senior Wellness Exam
from – healthypaws.com – by Kristonn Colborn, DVM
Did you know your pet is considered a “senior” as early as age 6? Senior pets undergo the same changes as elderly humans, yet at a much faster rate. A 7-year-old dog or cat can be about 49-70 years in human years!
Early detection of disease and timely treatment improves their chances of living longer, happier, and better quality lives. Studies have shown that pets receiving routine veterinary care and proper care at home have an increased life expectancy, so pet parents have the direct ability to improve their quality of life by the care we provide!
What to Watch Out For
Keep a close eye for these warning signs as your pet ages. Be sure to talk to your vet if you see any of the following changes:
- Eating or drinking more or less often
- Change in frequency or in the color or consistency of urine/poop.
- Change in attitude or behavior—wandering often, increased anxiety, repetitive activities
- Discomfort during activity or change in activity level
- Change in hair or coat
- Sore mouth, difficulty chewing, and/or malodorous breath
- Non-healing wounds
- Any new masses or bumps or a change in the size or firmness of existing masses
- Changes in weight
- Abdominal swelling
- Increased respiratory rate, i.e. more rapid breathing
Keeping note of any changes you observe will help your vet determine what tests may be necessary, and put together a clearer picture of your pet’s overall health.
What Will My Vet Do at a Senior Wellness Exam?
Comprehensive exams for senior pets consist of a thorough examination and diagnostic testing that will be based on any physical or behavioral changes in your dog or cat. Semi-annual exams, yearly bloodwork, and urinalysis are typical recommendations for seniors. This additional testing at senior visits can provide early indications of kidney or liver disease, diabetes, and many other ailments that can be treated in early stages.
Diagnostics—including ocular testing, tests for heart disease, diagnostic imaging, and more extensive bloodwork for thyroid, Cushing’s or Addison’s disease—may also be recommended depending on your pet’s history. Dental disease often becomes quite progressive in senior pets, making routine dental care more important than ever. Dental procedures are not only for tartar and bacteria removal but will also identify any serious issues that might cause significant pain for your pet.
What Can I Do for My Senior Pet at Home?
Your vet can give you plenty of suggestions for home care to keep your 4-legged friend in their best health.
- Supplements and simple changes in diet can go a long way toward improving joint and skin health, cognitive function, and other age-related issues.
- Orthopedic bedding is a great idea for any large breed dog to keep unnecessary pressure off joints.
- Brushing your pet’s teeth is also not to be forgotten in an older pet.
- Our senior pets often have changes in metabolism with age that cause them to have different diet and exercise needs. You can make a big impact with the appropriate feeding and exercise plan.
Senior pets often require more frequent and unexpected visits to the vet, which can become expensive fast. Healthy Paws Pet Insurance can provide coverage in these situations, allowing you to provide your senior friend with the best care possible without worrying about the cost. Check out our Cost of Pet Care report from 2016 it details what you can expect at the vet’s office for our most commonly seen conditions.
Kristonn Colborn, DVM, is a small animal and equine veterinarian in Bend, Oregon focusing in primary and emergency care. She graduated from the University of Florida with doctor of veterinary medicine degree.
Your dog will likely be poked and prodded a bit at the vet. You may want to do a bit of practice at home by lifting and/or looking into your dog's ears, holding its face, and looking into its mouth. If your dog is not comfortable with these actions, try to work on them before the visit. Don't stress too much a vet is a professional and is used to all types of dogs. If you do need to bring a urine or stool sample to the vet, ask if the vet has any special instructions, such as specific containers. If not, collect it the same day as your appointment and store it in a sealed container.
Up to a week before your visit, start to jot down any questions or concerns you (or anyone in your family) want to ask the vet. This will give you time to think about any issues and not forget to ask something while you have the chance. Help your dog feel comfortable. If the dog likes its crate, transport it to the vet in the crate. If there are certain toys or even a dog bed that your pooch loves, bring them in the car (and even into the office) with you. Finally, be sure you are well stocked with your dog's favorite treats to offer throughout the visit.