Older dogs, like people, begin to suffer a range of illnesses as they age. Many of these ailments aren’t detected until they are far advanced which means treatment is probably going to cost a lot and success is not guaranteed.
That’s why veterinarians the world over encourage owners of older dogs to plan for regular veterinary checkups, at least twice a year. After diet and age-appropriate exercise, this is the next most important thing you can do for your senior dog.
Older dogs are at risk of these diseases
Cancers, metabolic disease like diabetes, and organ deterioration (kidney disease, liver disease) are all health problems that can occur in older dogs. For this reason, regular veterinary health exams, including complete blood screening and urinalysis, are an essential factor in keeping your senior pet healthy. Dr. Fred Metzger, a leading veterinary authority on the care of senior pets, explains that “most diseases that we find early on in seniors can be diagnosed with blood or urine tests.”
Our veterinarians recommend twice a year vet visits for older dogs, and depending on your dog’s age and condition, your veterinarian may even recommend a more frequent schedule for blood work.
Why older dogs need blood tests
Blood screening is one of the easiest ways to monitor an old dog’s health; it’s a treasure chest of information for your vet and will usually include specific tests for those disease particular towards oldies, like thyroid.
When these tests are done regularly, your vet is able to easily monitor trends and can compare readings from year to year so she will know sooner, rather than later, that there’s a health issue that needs attention.
What will blood tests show?
Routine blood screening could reveal things like anaemia, liver disease, or diminished kidney function long before you see any outward signs of disease. Evaluation of white blood cells could indicate the presence of a previously undetected infection. A low red blood cell count indicates anaemia, which should be investigated with other tests. The urinalysis helps your vet check for diabetes, abnormal amounts of protein in the urine, and infection in the urinary tract.
In short, a blood chemistry test and urinalysis done regularly can reveal potential issues before you start to see external symptoms. If a problem is caught in its early stages, there are usually many more options for treatment and cure. For example, Dr. Metzger highlights “kidney disease, diabetes, and hypothyroidism (low thyroid) are common diseases in senior dogs and many treatments are available if detected early.”
Why dental care for oldies is essential
Dental care is vitally important throughout your dog’s life and especially as he or she ages.
Dr Metzger stresses that “older dogs and cats with neglected teeth are time bombs ticking.” Tartar build-up on neglected teeth leads to inflamed and infected gums, or gingivitis. The bacteria from gingivitis affect all body systems, especially the major organs of kidney, liver, and heart.
Many owners may be wary of anaesthesia on older pets but advances in medical science have greatly reduced risks so there is no reason not to have your dog’s teeth seen to.
Veterinarians will, in any case, usually do a pre-anesthetic blood screening should , especially in senior dogs. In addition to alerting your veterinarian to any issues that could create risk during the procedure, you also have the added benefit of screening for disease.
Remember, the more regularly your old dog sees a vet the more quickly he or she is likely to pick up potential health issues and the more successful, and cost-effective, the treatment.