Do you have a dog of over 7 years of age? If so, there are important things you need to know!
Loss of hearing, vision and reduced activity are often a normal part of ageing. There are, however, many changes that occur as our pets age that can be managed and in some cases even prevented if detected early enough. A general check-over every 6 months is recommended for animals over 7 years of age. This is equivalent to seeing a doctor every 4 human years, so please be aware that a lot of things can change in this time! Seeing the vet regularly will allow earlier detection of problems, so that we can maintain their quality of life for as long as possible.
Some early warning signs to look out for:
- Change in appetite
- Excessive drinking and/ or urination
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Loss of housetraining/ incontinence
- Behavioural changes – e.g. irritableness, reduced human interaction and playfulness, confusion
- Bad breath
- Difficulty jumping, walking, rising or climbing stairs
- Reduced activity and lower exercise tolerance (i.e. becoming tired quicker than normal)
- Persistent cough
- Change in sleep patterns
What does a senior check up include?
1. An opportunity to ask any niggling questions you may have about changes in your dog’s behaviour, physical appearance etc.
2. Complete physical examination – nose to tail-tip! – by an experienced veterinarian. The vet will listen to your dog’s heart and lungs, and the abdomen will be palpated. You will also be provided with an accurate weight measurement.
3. Diagnostic testing. Blood and urine tests can reveal disease and changes in the animal even before we can detect signs and symptoms in the animal themselves. Such tests are therefore very useful in early disease prevention, as early stages of some diseases can be managed as easily as by simple diet changes. Yearly blood testing is an integral part of our health care protocol for older patients.
i) Look out for early warning signs and make sure to come in for routine check-ups every 6 months.
ii) Blood screening should be done at least yearly. Urine testing should be every 6 months.
iii) Keep up to date with vaccination and parasite control – immune function can deteriorate with ageing, making vaccinations just as important to our older patients as when they were young!
iv) Regular weight checks – free here at Daisy Hill! – will help you to detect changes in weight.
v) Routine cleaning by brushing or with dental diets is very important as your dog ages, as excess bacteria in the mouth can be absorbed and cause problems elsewhere in the body.
vi) Exercise maintains muscle tone, reduces obesity, and stimulates your pet mentally.
vii) Correct nutrition based on your dog’s age and stage of life is very important. Make sure your dog is on a premium diet for seniors or a diet specific to any medical problems your dog may have.
viii) Look at your dog’s environment – get down to your dog’s level, or watch them for a couple of hours. Are there things that they used to do that are now difficult? Ramps are often a lot easier for a dog compared to stairs. You can get ramps to help your dog get into the car also. Elevating their bowls will also often help older dogs as they no longer have to bend down to eat or drink.