Pets older than 7 years of age are at higher risk for developing conditions that can significantly impact their health. Neighborhood Vets Mobile Care wants to explain why your senior pet should receive more extensive wellness visits.
Reason #1: Your senior pet will receive a thorough physical examination
We will assess your pet from head to toe, and nose to tail. A veterinary professional can discover numerous underlying conditions during a thorough physical exam.
- Eye conditions — We may find age-related eye disorders, including cataracts, glaucoma, and keratoconjunctivitis sicca (i.e., dry eye). Pets adjust to vision loss extremely well, especially if the changes are gradual, so you may not realize that your pet is affected by a vision disorder, until they are diagnosed during a wellness exam.
- Ear issues — In addition to checking for parasites and infections, we will assess your pet’s hearing
- Heart conditions — When your pet’s heart is auscultated, murmurs and arrhythmias can be detected, leading to further diagnostics to investigate your pet’s heart health.
- Respiratory conditions — When your pet’s lungs are auscultated, issues such as pneumonia and asthma can be detected.
- Abdominal abnormalitites — When your pet’s abdomen is palpated, abnormalities such as tumors and irregular organs can be detected, leading to further diagnostics, to investigate the cause.
- Arthritis — Arthritis can be diagnosed when we assess your pet’s joints, and medications can be provided to alleviate their pain.
Reason #2: Your pet’s weight will be monitored
Pet obesity is a growing problem in the United States, and can cause significant health problems for your pet. Overweight pets are at higher risk for developing diabetes mellitus, cancer, and arthritis. Your pet’s fluffy hair coat may prevent you from realizing they have gained a few excess pounds, but our veterinary professionals will evaluate your pet’s weight status, and determine if their weight is ideal. In addition to weighing your pet, we will assess their body conditioning score (BCS). This scoring system is based on four criteria:
- Ribs — Your pet’s ribs should be easily felt, but not seen.
- Waist — Your pet’s waist should be obvious, but not pronounced.
- Fat — Your pet should have minimal fat under their skin.
- Muscle — Your pet should have appropriate muscle mass.
Reason #3: Diagnostics will be performed on your pet
We will perform diagnostics to assess your pet’s systemic health. Tests include:
- Complete blood count — This blood test evaluates the cells that circulate in the blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, to check for conditions including anemia, infections, and leukemia.
- Biochemistry profile — This blood test evaluates your pet’s electrolytes and organ health. Conditions such as kidney disease and liver disease can be detected.
- Urinalysis — Testing your pet’s urine can reveal issues including urinary tract infections, kidney disease, and diabetes.
- Thyroid testing — Hypothyroidism is a common condition affecting senior dogs, and hyperthyroidism commonly affects senior cats, so we monitor their thyroid levels, and manage these conditions, if necessary.
Reason #4: Your pet’s dental health will be assessed
Periodontal disease can cause significant problems for your senior pet, if they don’t receive regular dental cleanings. Bacteria accumulate around your pet’s teeth and gums, causing extremely painful inflammation. If severe enough, this inflammation can weaken the adjacent bones, resulting in jaw fractures, especially in small-breed pets. The bacteria can also enter the bloodstream and affect organs such as the heart, kidneys, and liver. Periodontal disease has four stages:
- Stage 1 — Periodontal disease is mild, and is called gingivitis. Tartar buildup is present, and slight redness and swelling around the gums and teeth can be seen.
- Stage 2 — The gums are more swollen, and mild bone loss around the tooth roots may be present. X-rays are needed to appreciate this bone loss.
- Stage 3 — Bone loss has progressed around the tooth roots.
- Stage 4 — Severe tartar accumulation is present, gum lines have receded, and significant bone loss has occurred.
Reason #5: Your pet’s mental status will be assessed
As pets age, they are at higher risk for developing cognitive dysfunction, a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Initial signs can be subtle, but if caught in the early stages, this disease can be managed, and the progression may be slowed. Cognitive dysfunction signs include:
- Disorientation — Pets may get lost in familiar areas, or seem confused during normal circumstances.
- Interactions — Pets may not want to be petted, and avoid playing with their owners or other pets. Independent pets may become needy, and seek more attention from their owner.
- Sleeping habits — Pets may change their normal sleep-wake cycles, sleeping more during the day, and staying awake at night. As their condition progresses, they may start to vocalize at night.
- House soiling — Dogs may relieve themselves in the house, and cats may stop using their litter box.
- Decreased activity — Pets may become less active and uninterested in playtime.
- Memory issues — Pets may forget commands, or fail to recognize family members.
- Stress — Pets may exhibit more anxiety signs.
Extensive wellness exams are the best way to ensure your senior pet stays happy and healthy. If you would like to schedule an appointment for a senior wellness check, contact our Fear Free professionals at Neighborhood Vets Mobile Care.