Pet Talk: Senior pet examinations
November 9, 2018
Senior pets, as with all pets, should have regular examinations to assure you are maximizing their longevity potential. So many pet owners only take their pets to the vet when they get sick, but as your pet ages, regular visits every six to eight months are essential.
We so often have heard the saying that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" and that certainly applies to our senior pets. As our pets age, their immune system weakens, making them more prone to simple pathogens. They can tend to have more joint pain and their organs can begin to fail.
So what is included in a senior examination?
First of all, a good physical examination is crucial.
Eyes are examined for cataracts, glaucoma, nuclear schlerosis and ocular tumors, which can alter your pet's vision and indicate underlying disease. The eye is thought to be the window to the body in that many changes in eyes can reflect bigger health issues in your pet.
Ears are examined for hearing. Older pets begin to lose their hearing, making them more prone to attacks from wild animals, in addition being run over by a car.
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The mouth is examined for evidence of oral cancers, broken or abscessed teeth and gum color changes, which can be a sign of underlying disease.
The lymph nodes are felt for enlargement, which is a symptom of cancers such as malignant lymphoma.
The heart is checked for unusual rates, rhythms and murmurs that can be a sign that heart failure has begun.
The abdomen is examined for organ enlargement, possible tumors and pain that is often a symptom of a bigger problem.
The skin is fully examined for lumps, which can be benign fatty tumors or more serious lesions such as sarcomas which are cancerous.
The joints are all checked for signs of pain, crepitus which signifies arthritis in the joints and instability, such as ACL tears which lead to arthritis.
Beyond the physical
After the very detailed physical examination on your senior pet, your veterinarian will offer the following:
Complete blood profile and CBC, which looks at your pet's internal organ functions, as well as blood counts, which is a quick but detailed way to stage your pet's current health status.
A urinalysis will be performed which can detect diabetes, blood infection, tumors and more, as well as indicate how well your pet's kidneys are functioning.
X-rays can be performed to assess the chest cavity for cancer, abdominal organ size and shape and joints.
An ultrasound is the next imaging step for your senior pet, as it allows your veterinarian to look deeper into the chest and abdominal cavities.
In summary, senior pets have given you their love all these years, it's time to give it back to them by giving them biannual senior wellness checks. Help them live a longer, healthier life by being proactive about their care.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, is the owner of Mountain Animal Hospital Center and Mobile Veterinarian.
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