By Megan McCorkle LVT
Is your dog is looking a little grayer in the muzzle? Does he seem to be sleeping more than their younger counterpart? The simple answer is your dog is aging. Do you find yourself wishing for ideas on how to best care for them as they age? Here are 3 simple things you can do to stay ahead of that pesky "aging" transition for your pet.
Stay ahead with biannual exams and annual lab work.
At age 7 it is suggested to begin biannual exams with your veterinarian to monitor even the slightest changes to their physical exam but also the internal changes we can’t see on physical. The gold standard in Veterinary Medicine is to have at a minimum - annual bloodwork to check internal organ function and immune responses in our pets. If it is recommended more frequently due to disease process or medications that your pet is taking, then more frequent bloodwork should be done so that you can monitor trends in lab work.
Veterinarians are trained in the fine art of Physical Examination, it's their superpower. These physical exams can tell them so much about our pets as subtle changes are often overlooked by pet parents. A sudden stop in panting while being evaluated orthopedically can indicate pain that only skilled doctors can pick up on. A flash of a light in the eyes of your pet can let them know if the cloudiness you see is an aging change or cataract forming. A subtle change in your pets’ gait- the way she walks, can tell the trained eye that there is some arthritis, a neurologic or even a metabolic concern to be investigated.
Bloodwork will fill in the puzzle pieces. Common aging symptoms can also include – weight changes, increase in appetite or drinking behavior, changes to urinary habits, and more. The bloodwork allows us to correctly diagnose these changes. It could be the difference between a UTI or developing diabetes. We may say, “Fluffy is drinking more and having urinary accidents because she has a Urinary tract infection.” Vs “Fluffy is drinking more and having urinary accidents because she now has diabetes.” A physical exam is not enough to determine the correct diagnosis. Speak to your veterinarian and have a plan for regular checkups and lab work to follow even the most subtle changes in your pet. We can also track trends to intervene with disease processes early as opposed to later stage diagnosis through routine bloodwork.
A healthy weight is can add years to your pets health and happiness
The final thing that we strongly recommend to keep your senior dog as healthy as possible is to keep him at his ideal weight (this should be determined by your veterinarian) and incorporate consistent exercise into his routine. Studies show that obesity effects 60 % of dogs in the United States making it the 2nd most prevalent disease in dogs. We know that obesity can decrease a dog’s life span by about 2.5 years. Consistent exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy weight, keep the joints lubricated, and help the muscles supporting the joints stay stronger.
Start your senior dogs later years off right by keeping him healthy through knowing his physical status inside and out and maintaining a healthy weight.
“His face might be white, but his heart is pure gold. There is no shame in growing old. “ -- anonymous senior dog owner.