We all learn quickly in fur-parenthood that our dog needs to see the vet on a yearly basis for regular checkups. What we don’t always take note of is our dogs need to see their veterinarian more as they age. As I was preparing to write this, I reached out to my veterinarian to get guidance of how frequently a senior dog should have a check up and what should be done at each visit. These are general guideline and you should work closely with your veterinarian to determine if your old dog needs to been seen more or less frequently.
General recommendations are any dog 8 years or older should be seen by a veterinarian at least twice a year. The wellness care visit can be broken down into three segments, the basics, lab work, and behavior.
The basics include vital signs and physical appearance. While examining the general appearance of your pet your veterinarian will examine the condition of his/her fur, look for any growths on the skin, condition of the teeth, gums and mouth, ears, eyes, and weight. From there the dog’s vital signs will be taken and any changes made noted. Examples are heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, and respiratory system. These basics are compared from visit to visit to determine if there is a change or a trend that is concerning.
Depending on the outcome of the preliminary exam (or previously identified issues), lab work may be recommended. This blood work panel identifies if there is the presence of anemia, infection as well as provides guidance on overall immune system health. Other blood panels that may be done will test how well the internal organs (kidneys, liver and other organs) are functioning. (My vet has a package she calls the “old man work-up” which includes all of the previously mentioned tests at a bit of a discount)
During this visit, make sure to mention to your veterinarian any behavioral changes you have noticed no matter how big or small. Make sure to mention any changes in activity, interaction with family members, sleeping patterns, responsiveness to verbal commands, changes in vocalness, just to name a few. Other things to mention are changes in bathroom habits, difficulty eating, and stiffness in walking or getting up. These are all cues something may have changed in your dog’s health.
Further testing (or procedures) may be recommended, based upon the results of the blood work and your conversation with your veterinarian. Some of these procedures may include physical therapy, dental cleanings, weight control, or additional diagnostics.
Having a great line of communication with your vet will help ensure your senior dog has the best quality of life possible.