To some, dogs as seen as pets. To our team here at Country Club Animal Clinic, we consider our dogs a part of our families. But what happens when our once energetic dog can no longer keep up? Like any species, we start to see a general “slowing down” in dogs as they age. Most owners believe this to be normal and apart of the aging process; but, what if it’s is a sign of something more?
Staying on top of your dog’s health is crucial throughout all stages of life. An annual, comprehensive physical exam from nose to tail is the first step in discovering clues to underlying health concerns. Annual exams are even more critical during your dog’s senior years.
Early diagnosis is key to successful treatment. Let’s take a closer look at some of the screening tests that are recommended for your aging dog.
Complete Blood Count:
What it is: The complete blood count, or CBC, is a blood analysis that investigates the red and white blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for providing important nutrients to the organs and tissues, white blood cells are involved in overall immune health, and platelets are a part of the blood-clotting system. The CBC calculates the number, size, and distribution in total volume of each type of cell.
Why run it: The CBC is an indicator of underlying problems. A Low red blood cell count means that there’s most likely internal bleeding, an indication of damaged red cells, or that the body is not producing the necessary amount needed for proper funcion. On the other hand, a high red blood cell count often indicated dehydration. A small change in red blood cell count in either direction may make your dog sluggish, and dog owners frequently misinterpret this behavior as simply getting old. A change up or down in the white blood cell count may indicate an underlying infection, inflammation, or even be an early sign of certain cancers.
These minor blood count changes are major indicators of underlying diseases that may be treatable. Here at Country Club Animal Clinic, we will do anything we can do reclaim your dog’s youthful energy!
When it should be run: We recommend annual CBC comprehensive exams for puppies and adult pets. For senior puppies, however, we recommend checkups every six months. Please click here to schedule your appointment today.
What it is: Blood chemistry refers to a test that evaluates how the body’s organs are functioning. With blood chemistry tests, we tend to focus on proper functioning of the following: liver enzymes, kidney-function measurements, blood proteins, and blood sugar.
Why run it: These values point your veterinarian in a specific direction. A blood chemistry test may provide a specific answer, or certain levels may be an indication of problems that lie within other organs. This test provides vital information in a affordable and relatively non-invasive way!
When it should be run: Similar to CBC tests, we recommend annual CBC comprehensive exams for puppies and adult pets. For senior puppies, however, we recommend checkups every six months. Please click here to schedule your appointment today.
Thyroxine Screen (T4)
What it is: Thyroxine screens, or thyroid screen, is a test that evaluates the circulation of your thyroid hormone (T4). Thyroid glands are primarily responsible for metabolism, energy level, and even skin health! T4 is one of several thyroid hormones produced by the body and is the easiest, most inexpensive hormone to test.
Why run it: Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce an adequate amount of hormones and is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in older dogs. Dogs with this condition become lethargic, overweight, and experience changes in appetite. Often, these changes are subtle and are easily attributed to old age.
This condition is one of the easiest to treat and only requires supplemental thyroid hormones. Supplemental hormones are often inexpensive.
When it should be run: Generally speaking, a yearly thyroid screen is sufficient for most dogs. However, our assessments are made one a case by case basis, and examinations will be performed based on your dog’s specific situation. Please click here to schedule your appointment today.
What it is: The urinalysis, often abbreviated UA, is exactly what it sounds like: an evaluation of your dog’s pee. Urine is a great indicator of a lot of different conditions. We evaluate urine for protein content, pH, crystals, cells, and a whole host of other information. Each bit of information provides insight into your dog’s overall health.
Why run it: Basic urine screens, as part of a comprehensive exam, can provide signs of diabetes, early kidney disease, bladder stones, even bladder or prostate cancer. Urine is a sensitive marker for catching these diseases Urine exams are crucial because they often produce results before your blood test is able to indicate the underlying issue.
When it should be run: Annual urinalysis is a great place to start in a senior dog with no obvious health concerns. If something abnormal arises, your veterinarian will recommend a monitoring plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs
Pro-tip: If you think your dog is straining to poop, he may actually be straining to pee! Come to your vet appointment with a urine sample in addition to a fecal sample if possible. Please click here to schedule your appointment today.
What it is: Radiograph is the fancy word for an x-ray. Thoracic (chest) x-rays are a great tool to assess your dog’s health. An x-ray can frequently be taken on an awake patient, but if your furry friend is a bit nervous, sedation provides a safe and effective way to take perfect pictures.
Why take them: X-rays can provide pictures of tissues, organs, bones, and foreign objects like swallowed items or bladder stones. In some cases, a dog’s reluctance to play fetch may be related a difficulty catching his breath. Chest x-rays give a peek into heart and lung conditions that affect energy level, breathing, and comfort. These include primary heart disease, asthma, allergies, even cancer.
When to take them: Chest x-rays taken yearly, as well as before any anesthetic procedure, will provide your veterinarian with important health information. Knowing your pet has a happy heart and healthy lungs can provide a measure of comfort to both you and your furry friend.
Worth the Extra Effort and Expense
Senior dogs are great companions. Whether they came into our lives as puppies or were adopted in their twilight years, we want to keep them comfortable and healthy for as long as possible. The screening tests discussed here are the first steps in early disease detection.
Don’t dismiss your senior dog’s behavior change as “just” old age; even if he is getting old! Here at Country Club Animal Clinic, our friendly and knowledgeable veterinarians will design a screening program based on your pets’ unique needs and desires. Please click here to schedule your appointment today.
Citation: reworded from https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/21_5/features/Senior-Dog-Exams_21826-1.html