Your Geriatric Dog's Health
Geriatric Dog
Our pets are prone to age-related diseases in their advancing years just as we are. Many of their problems are similar to ours. Older dogs experience heart disease, arthritis, weight and dietary problems, diabetes, kidney failure, dental disease, cancer, and hormonal diseases. By working together to help diagnose and treat problems as they arise, we at Saukville Veterinary Clinic hope to help keep your pet as healthy and happy as possible.

Many signs of aging, such as a graying muzzle and cloudy eyes, are easily noticed when interacting with your companion. In addition to these external changes there are many internal changes occurring at the same time. On an annual or biannual basis, routine blood work is recommended to insure the internal organs are performing adequately. The blood work will consist of a variety of blood tests to check for early signs of kidney disease, liver disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, anemia, dehydration, infection, and more. This information is important because if these diseases are caught early, they can be more successfully managed. In fact, in some cases, slight and gradual changes in organ function can be treated with diet and/or dietary supplements.

We recommend that older dogs receive a periodic senior evaluation at our clinic.

This evaluation may require a partial day of hospitalization to collect samples, but is usually done as an outpatient visit, and includes the following:
  • A complete physical examination.
  • Blood samples for a complete blood count, which checks for red blood cell disorders like anemia, changes in white blood cell number or type, plasma protein level and platelets.
  • Blood samples for a biochemical profile which includes tests to check kidney function, liver function, thyroid function, electrolyte balance, cholesterol and sugar levels.
  • A complete urinalysis to check for diabetes, infection, protein loss, and crystals.
  • A urine test that will detect if there is any albumin (a blood protein) in the urine, which would indicate the early stages of kidney failure.
We will thoroughly discuss with you the results of the evaluation and any different care your older pet may need. The results are usually available the next day. Additional tests and exams may be needed for pets with abnormal results or obscure symptoms.

For most dogs, we consider the age of seven to be when our companions move from adulthood to the geriatric stage of life.
Some of the most common concerns are discussed below:
Obesity

The most common condition experienced by aging people and animals is excessive weight gain due to inappropriate diet or overeating. As our companion's body ages, exercise and activity levels naturally decline, which leads to unnecessary and excessive weight gain. As age increases and activity level decreases, the diet should be adjusted. Many times diets can be adjusted to compensate for reduced activity levels by simply moving from a maintenance diet to a geriatric diet. Geriatric diets are typically made with less fat and fewer calories. In the event an animal becomes overweight, there are special diets designed to actually take the weight off your animal without reducing the quantity of food consumed. Preventing animals from carrying around unneeded weight is an easy way to improve and extend your companion's quality of life.

Arthritis

As time passes and our companion ages, stiffness in joints, slowness to get up, and even limping can become apparent. If your dog could talk, knowing when he/she has throbbing knees from playing too long, or painful hips from walking up the stairs would be a lot easier. Many times these conditions are symptoms of arthritis that your companion is counting on you to recognize. In the past, arthritis would cause such discomfort to animals that surgery, euthanasia, or large doses of steroids with harmful side effects were the only humane choices. Fortunately, there are now a variety of safe products that can provide a great deal of relief for your companion. Newer drugs are safer than our choices of the past and can be administered once to twice a day to help your companion feel more comfortable and active again.

Dental Care

Imagine not brushing your teeth for a couple of weeks, or even a couple of years...well, that may be how your pet feels. Dentistry is an important part of health care that can increase your pet's life span and even make your pet more pleasurable to be around. Plaque and tartar build-up on your pet's teeth and under the gum line are continuous processes that lead to bad breath, tooth loss, and even heart, liver, and kidney disease. This happens when the bacteria in the plaque and tartar enters the bloodstream and is deposited into one of the bodies major organs. Routine teeth brushing can greatly reduce the build-up of harmful bacteria contained in plaque and tartar.

With frequent checkups, at least twice a year, we can screen for common senior diseases. By diagnosing and treating problems earlier, we may be able to slow the disease process and prevent pain and discomfort. Ask us for help in caring for your beloved older pet.



For more informarion: American Kennel Club