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With the advancement in veterinary medicine, animals are living longer than ever before. With the increased life span comes an increase in illnesses and dieseases such as osteoarthritis; kidney, liver, and heart disease; tumors and cancers; hormone disorders; weight and mobility changes. As pets reach their golden years, it is important for pet owners to work closely with their veterinarian on a senior health plan that works best for their pet.

When are pets considered senior pets? The general rule is pets become senior pets between the ages of 6-8 years old. Generally, small breed animals live longer than large breed animals, and cats live longer than dogs. Once your pet has reached his/her golden years it is important to talk to your veterinarian about the course of preventative senior wellness care for your pet. 

At Hecht Veterinary Hospital, we recommend yearly wellness examinations for all young healthy patients, and every six month wellness examinations for all our senior healthy patients. Wellness examinations are one of the most important steps a pet owner can take to keep their pets healthy. When an animal enters the senior years, these examinations are more important than ever. These examinations are needed to catch and delay the onset or progress of disease and for the early detection of problems such as organ failure and osteoarthritis.  During the exam, your veterinarian will ask you a series of questions regarding any changes in your pet's activity and behavior, and will conduct a complete examination of all of your pet's body systems. During the examination, your veterinarian may recommend running laboratory testing. 

Laboratory testing helps the veterinarian understand the status of your pet's health. Laboratory testing on your healthy pet will help the veterinarian determine your pet's baseline values so that if or when your pet is sick, your veterinarian can compare the base line values to the current values to determine whether the values are abnormal. Subtle changes in these values may signal the presence of an underlying disease. During the senior years, laboratory tests are recommended every six months. Hecht Veterinary Hospital recommends the the following test:

CBC (Complete Blood Count) - This test measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in a given sample of blood. This test helps the veterinarian diagnose anemia, infections, and leukemia.
Blood Chemistry Panel - This test measures electrolytes, enzymes, and chemical elements. This test helps the veterinarian dtermine how various organs are functioning. 
Urinalyisis - This test measures the presence of one or more specific substances that normally do not appear in urine, such as protein, sugar, white blood cells or blood. This test also measures dilution or concentration of urine.
Thyroid Panel - This test mearsures thyroid levels. This helps the veterinarian diagnose hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

Depending on your pet's condition and other factors, other test may be recommended by your veterinarian. These test include heartworm tests; feline leukemia/feline immunodeficiency virus test in cats; cultures; x-rays; ultrasounds; special opthalmic evaluations; among others.

To help ensure your pet lives comfortably during the senior life stage, it's critical to work with your veterinarian to tailor a senior wellness plan that is best for your pet. Be sure to monitor behavior and physical conditions and report anything unusual to your veterinarian. The following is a list of signs that could become a problem:

  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Dull hair coat
  • Increased water consumption or urination
  • Increasing size of the abdomen
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty standing or walking
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Change in housebreaking
  • Inability to chew dry food
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Foul odor coming from mouth

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