VETERINARY SERVICES | SENIOR DOG CARE
Do you have an older dog? When is a dog truly a senior citizen? Did you know that dogs mature more quickly than humans in the first couple of years, so the first year of a dog’s life is equal to approximately 15 human years?
Size and breed also influences the rate at which a dog ages. Although smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs, they may mature more quickly in the first few years of life. A large dog is considered “senior” at age five, but small and toy breeds do not become “senior” until around age 10. Medium-sized breeds become “senior” somewhere around the middle.
With a focus on wellness and preventative care, all of us at Cascade Summit Animal Hospital are here to help you and your senior dog through every life stage and to support you when your dog reaches his or her senior years. Knowing the general age of your dog can help you monitor him or her for early signs of any problems. You can help us keep your dog healthy by keeping a close eye on your senior dog between exams.
Health Issues in Senior Dogs
As dogs age much more rapidly than people do. Age-related diseases and chronic illnesses are part of living with an older dog. Early diagnosis and treatment of these illnesses are critical to your dog’s long-term health and quality of life. If you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior or regular routines, please call us and bring your dog in for a senior dog exam.
We recommend bi-annual (every 6 months) exams for your senior dog. Regular senior wellness exams will give us an opportunity to discuss any age-related changes your dog may be experiencing. Please contact us immediately if you notice any of the following signs in your dog:
- Sustained, significant increase in water consumption or urination
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Significant decrease in appetite or failure to eat for more than two days
- Lameness lasing more than five days
- Lameness in more than one leg
- Significant increase in appetite
- Repeated vomiting
- Diarrhea lasting over three days
- Difficulty in passing stool or urine
- Change in litter box habits
- Noticeable decrease in vision
- Open sores or scabs on the skin that persist for more than one week
- Foul mouth odor or drooling that lasts more than two days
- Increasing size of the abdomen
- Increasing inactivity or amount of time spent sleeping
- Hair loss, especially if accompanied by scratching or if in specific areas (as opposed to generalized)
The Senior Dog Wellness Exam
During your dog’s senior wellness exam, we will obtain a complete medical history for your dog and to determine if there have been any changes in health or behavior since the last visit. We will give your dog a comprehensive physical exam and check for signs of arthritis or muscle weakness, and perform a visual dental examination. The exam will include internal/external parasite prevention and heartworm prevention. We may recommend additional testing to check your dog’s blood for signs of disease and to assess your dog’s kidney and liver function:
- Blood pressure
- CBC (complete blood count )
- CHEM screen (liver and kidney function )
- T4 (thyroid function)
Additional tests may be required for your dog, depending on the results of routine screening tests. Which tests are necessary and how often they are performed are different for each dog.
Senior Dog Wellness Plans
We are now offering a variety of wellness plans for our patients. We feel that this is an exciting new option for owners who would like to pay for care on a monthly basis. All plans are tiered – with the next level including everything in the plan below it, as well as additional services and discounts. Please visit our Senior Dog Wellness Plan page for more information.
Weight Management and Your Senior Dog
Weight management and proper nutrition are important for your senior dog. The best food for your senior pet depends upon his or her age, health status, weight and breed. Obesity is a very common problem of older pets, and should be taken seriously. It can lead to a number of health problems and increase the risk of age-related diseases your senior pet is susceptible to including heart, liver, kidney or joints disease. During your senior dog’s wellness exam, we will discuss your dog’s weight and proper nutrition with you.
Important Tips to Consider for your Senior Dog:
- Do wellness blood screening while your dog is still young – the results provide excellent baselines for future comparison and will help us recognize any trends early on.
- Check them over regularly from the tip of their head to the tip of their tail for any lumps or bumps. It’s a great idea to keep a journal of your findings, noting the location, size, color and texture of the lumps and bumps.
- Exercise is a great way for you to keep your senior pet healthy! It allows you an opportunity to spend more time having fun with your senior pet, and it is another way to improve both you and your pet’s quality of life. You should definitely keep them moving as they get older. Be sure to monitor your senior pet closely as they exercise, keeping in mind that they may not be able to physically complete that 5 mile hike you went on last year. Definitely keep them as active—mentally and physically—as possible.
- Keep your senior dog comfortable. There are many ways to make small adjustments in your pet’s life style and environment that can help keep them comfy as they age. We recommend providing comfortable bedding to give their aging joints a soft place to rest. Also, providing a ramp to assist your pet in getting into the car or up the stairs will allow them to go all the places they usually do with less stress on their body.
- Keep a journal of any changes in behavior such as difficulty getting up, changes in sleep patterns or lapses in litter box use. This will help determine whether these are intermittent or ongoing problems, as well as their duration.
- Remember that “slowing down” isn’t always just a symptom of age, and it may mean your pet is experiencing pain. Talk to us about this – while we can’t turn back the clock, there are many options for managing pain.
- Know your pet’s ideal weight, and work hard to keep him or her slim. Allowing your pet to gain weight will compound and/or create health problems. If your pet is overweight, talk to your veterinarian about dietary management.
All of us at Cascade Summit Animal Hospital is here to help you and your dog through every life stage. Please contact us to schedule your dog’s senior wellness exam and with any questions you have about your dog’s healthcare.