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Senior Pets ? Why do they need more frequent exams and bloodwork?
Dr. Jerri Smith, DVM, VSMT
Perhaps you have been told that your pet is due for senior bloodwork and semi-annual exams. Many pet owners are surprised that pets start being classified as seniors at age 7, and also that we recommend more frequent exams and bloodwork.
The age at which a pet is considered a senior varies a lot with the size of the animal. Cats may live into their 20's while an extra-large breed dog is very much a senior at 6-8. While selecting the age of seven as a point to change our health care recommendations may seem early in a cat, there are good reasons to start more frequent exams.
Some of the commonly seen diseases in older pets include the following:
Cats develop high thyroid and dogs become low. Obviously the effects are entirely different. However, both situations are easily diagnosed with simple blood tests, and are easily treated. Both extremes, if left untreated, can lead to many other metabolic problems. Thyroid hormones act on the heart, kidneys, brain - basically every system in the body.
This is often seen in even younger pets but will become worse with age if not diagnosed and treated early. Dental disease can lead to pain upon eating and other systemic effects on the organs. Imagine not having your teeth cleaned or looked at for the first seven years of your life! Identifying and treating dental disease early makes treatment less expensive for you and minimizes the time your pet is under anesthesia.
Most older cats have kidney disease. As pets age, larger parts of the kidneys can become non-functional. End stage kidney disease is unfortunately where the first diagnosis often happens. By checking kidney function at an early age and monitoring kidney values regularly, we can diagnose kidney disease while we can control it.
Kidney disease in dogs can be very serious quickly. Often it results from a toxin ingestion (ibuprofen, antifreeze) or from an infection (Leptospirosis). If your dog has had baseline normal kidney values and now has grossly abnormal values, we know to provide aggressive medical care. Acute kidney failure can often be completely reversed.
Commonly recognized as "having high blood sugar", diabetes makes a pet urinate and drink excessively. Diabetic pets often lose a lot of weight quickly. Untreated diabetes can lead to many systemic problems as glucose (in the appropriate amounts) is needed by every body system, especially the brain. Diabetes is easily diagnosed with simple laboratory tests. Many cats can be "cured" of diabetes with a high protein, low carbohydrate diet if detected early.
In general, early detection of a problem gives us a much better chance of effectively treating a disease process. Baseline bloodwork at an early age allows us to know how much change has occurred and how aggressively we need to treat it.
We want your pets to live healthfully as long as possible. Please make an appointment to have your senior pet receive a full physical exam and laboratory tests as recommended.