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SENIOR WELLNESS SCREENING
We’ve all read or heard that a year in the life of a dog is equivalent to 7 years in a person. While A little inaccurate, the principle holds as our dogs and cats age much faster than we do. In fact, by the age of 7 or 8, most of our pets are considered to be seniors, requiring a little extra attention. Just as with us, it becomes more difficult to maintain ideal body weight, vision and hearing are not assharp as they once were, aches and pains don’t seem to go away as easily, and certain diseases become more common than when we were younger.
I was on a house call last week to visit a canine patient that I have known since she was a puppy. Now 11 years old, she is still spry and has a great appetite, but due to her age we have been scheduling regular checkups and blood work. There were always some minor abnormalities in her lab values, but since we had a good baseline and history, I knew what was normal for her. This time, her values came back very different than in years past. Her liver enzymes were significantly elevated. When I called her owner with the report, she informed me that the dog had lost a few pounds, nothing horribly significant,but definitely a change. We scheduled some follow up test, including an abdominal ultrasound to evaluate her internal organs. The scan was scheduled as an outpatient test and performed first thing in the morning while the owner waited. The results showed serious,chronic liver disease. Not cancer, but serious none the less. Fortunately, we were alerted to the problem before it was too late to intervene. We are making some changes in her chronic medications, adding some others, and considering some diet changes. With careful monitoring, we hope that she will have many more years of an active, happy life with her owners. Without the early testing, we might not have picked this problem up until it was too late to do anything about it.
My associate saw an older cat in the office yesterday. Everything was fine according to the owner and in fact the physical examination was normal. Senior blood screening was ordered and the results came back today. Our laboratory has a new, very sensitive test that identifies kidney disease in dogs and cats before clinical signs are apparent. This is important because once the signs of kidney disease are manifest, 75% of the kidney tissue is damaged beyond repair. This cat has stage one renal disease. We are going to intervene with a diet change designed to protect the kidneys and slow the progression of this killer disease. Careful follow up monitoring with regular examinations, blood pressure monitoring, and laboratory tests should prolong her life significantly.
These two cases illustrate the importance of regular examinations and blood screening tests for our senior pets. Early detection is our best weapon infighting many diseases. The sooner we know something is wrong, the more effective our intervention. Our Early Disease Detection Screen tests many of the body systems that are affected by aging.
We think that senior screening is so important for our pets once they reach 7 or 8 years of age that we are dedicating the entire fall season to emphasizing these life prolonging tests to our clients. So this fall remember to help your pet through the autumn of their years and schedule an appointment for a senior wellness exam.