Probably everyone reading this has known or does know and love a “Senior Pet.” Defining what a Senior Pet is can be difficult, as it changes based on breed and body size. For example, giant breed dogs (e.g. Great Danes) are considered Seniors by ~5 years of age. On the flip side, smaller breed dogs (e.g. Chihuahuas) are not considered Seniors until ~8 years of age. Cats, as a whole, are considered Seniors by ~10 years of age. Also, breed-related problems often arise earlier in life in some breeds than in the general population. For example, glaucoma in Cocker Spaniels or heart disease in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Cats may develop hyperthyroidism at any point in life, and the symptoms are often similar to those at the onset of kidney disease.
Waiting until your animal starts to exhibit symptoms of disease is not the most proactive method of care. I truly believe that by being on the offensive side of senior care will ultimately result in a longer and healthier life than being on the defensive end once a problem arises. Additionally, animals (especially cats) are really good at hiding things until they are so far advanced that complete resolution is often impossible. It is up to us, as veterinarians and you, as their pet parents, to identify an issue early on so that as a team we can take necessary steps to ensure that your animals live a longer and healthier life! This starts by having biannual medical exams and annual blood work and urine screening tests. Although nobody knows your animal better than you do, we are trained to notice “red flags” that may be difficult to detect in an animal that you see on a daily basis. We may notice subtle changes in your pet during a physical exam, or perhaps from something you say during the visit.
Since November is Senior Pet Month, we are able to offer a 35% discount on our Senior Screen. This comprehensive test includes a Complete Blood Count (CBC), 25 Chemistry values, a Thyroid level and a Urinalysis. If the results of your pets Senior Screen are normal, then we can be certain that we are doing things right and can then use these personalized “normal” values for future comparisons. If the results are not normal, then at least we have the opportunity to make some proactive changes to benefit your pet’s livelihood.
I am known for telling my clients that “age is not a disease.” I truly believe this. However, that does not mean we should put our blinders on when it comes to caring for our Senior pets. I am the lucky parent of three Senior dogs and one Senior cat. I know they won’t live forever, but it is up to me to ensure that their time on this earth is as good as I can possibly make it!
Tammy Pauletto, DVM
Prescott Animal Hospital