The Mid-Year Senior Pet Checkup

If your pet is over 7 years of age, a “senior mid-year check up” is highly recommended and very important for maintaining the overall health of your older pet.

The senior mid-year check-up is an extension of the yearly annual health checkup and blood screen. The annual health checkup and blood screen are given to all healthy pets at the time of their annual vaccinations. It is now recommended that your older pet receive a yearly, senior mid-year checkup approximately 6 months after the annual health checkup. We are in the process of sending reminders to the owners of all senior pets. The “senior, mid- year wellness check-up” complements the annual health checkup by adding procedures and tests that are important in detecting age-related problems.

The term “senior pet” describes that life stage where an animal’s gradually declining external physical appearance finally becomes noticeable. These external changes are accompanied by an internal decline in organ function, sensory function and mental function. It is generally accepted that the senior stage begins at about 7 years of age for the average dog and 9 years of age for the average cat. It represents the transitional phase between “adulthood” and “old age”. For a pet that has reached the aging milestone of 7 to 9 years, it is highly recommended that a routine semi-annual program of comprehensive health assessment be performed.

Statistics show that cats and dogs are living longer. We all cherish the companionship of our four legged friends. It is important that we help ensure that these extended years are the happiest and healthiest possible. By working closely together, pet’s owners and their veterinarian can make a significant difference in the life of their senior friend. Aging pets can represent major challenges for both the pet owner and their veterinarian. Although senior pets look older they often act quite healthy when in fact progressive organ deterioration has reduced their organ reserves to a dangerous level. Twenty percent of pets over 7 years of age appear normal but have sub-clinical disease (disease with no visible symptoms). An apparently healthy senior pet, living with reduced organ reserves, is no longer as resilient as when he or she was young. What would have been only a mild stress to the pet’s system when young is now capable of throwing the animal into organ failure with often life-threatening consequences. The job of the pet owner and the veterinarian is to minimize the factors in the pet’s life which progressively diminish organ reserves and to detect signs of organ weakness so that steps can be taken to support and strengthen that organ. If owners of senior pets wait until their pets are ill enough to show obvious symptoms of organ damage before bringing their pet in for an exam then it becomes much more difficult for the veterinarian to preserve the pet’s quality of life and to ensure that this quality life continues for as long as possible.

The senior, mid-year check up includes a health exam and certain recommended screening tests. In its initial stage and simplest form it includes an electro-cardiogram (ECG) to evaluate the heart, an early warning test for kidney disease, an evaluation of the pet’s eyes for glaucoma and tear duct obstruction. It also includes a “body condition evaluation” and a chest and girth measurement. The chest and girth measurements can be used to detect not only obesity but also abdominal distension, which could indicate internal organ enlargement or abdominal fluid accumulation.

The senior mid-year checkup also includes client education about prevention and early detection of age related diseases. A waiting room questionnaire will be given to pet owners on arrival at the veterinary clinic and will provide the veterinarian detailed medical, behavioral, dietary, and elimination history. An additional benefit of the pet history questionnaire is its value in educating pet owners about exactly what they need to watch for in the future. A well informed and observant pet owner can provide their veterinarian with a wealth of pertinent information.

Early detection of disease can enhance and prolong the quality of life and increase treatment success in senior pets. Early detection of disease protects and enhances the human animal bond by keeping your pet happier and healthier longer. We at Woodside Animal Clinic strongly believe, as we are sure you do too, that the very special relationship you have with your pet is well worth protecting.

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