At Veterinary Services we believe in keeping our pets happy, healthy and active for as long as possible. We do this by taking a preventative approach to their health care, including regular wellness exams. Our pets are living longer than ever, and some diseases become more common as they age. Subsequently, regular wellness exams become even more important.

When is my dog or cat a senior pet?
This is a common question pet owners ask us. The answer is a bit complicated, especially for dogs. The age when a dog becomes a senior pet depends largely on its size. A small-sized dog such as a Shih Tzu is considered a senior at approximately 9-10 years old. A medium dog such as a Beagle is considered senior at about 9 years old. A large dog such as a Labrador Retriever is a senior at about age 7-8, while a giant breed such as a Great Dane would be a senior at age 6-7. As you can see, this is a wide range of ages for dogs. When we characterize cats as a senior is a bit simpler because there is not as much variation in our pet cats’ sizes. Cats are typically considered seniors once they reach ten years of age.

Although we recommend regular wellness exams for all pets regardless of their age, there are specific changes that happen once our pets become seniors. These changes can happen quickly, so we recommend twice-yearly wellness exams for senior pets.

What happens at my senior pet’s wellness exam?
Before the actual physical exam, we will ask a series of questions about your pet. These questions will be about your pet’s activity level, appetite, water intake, elimination habits and behavior. These questions will help Dr. Wood assess the overall health of your pet, as well as address any concerns found in the physical exam.

During the physical exam Dr. Wood will check all of your pet’s body systems, typically from head to tail. She will examine your pet’s mouth and teeth for odor and inflammation; eyes and ears for discharge or redness; and skin for lumps, hair loss, or rashes. She will use a stethoscope to listen to your pet’s heart for any abnormal heart sounds, and to the lungs for abnormal breathing sounds. She will feel your pet’s abdomen for signs of pain or enlarged organs. Finally, she will move your pet’s legs and joints to check for signs of arthritis, such as pain, swelling, or decreased movement.

During and after the physical exam, Dr. Wood will go over any abnormal findings with you, as well as any recommended tests. At the end of the wellness exam, Dr. Wood will also make recommendations for diet, exercise, and supplements that can help keep your pet healthy. This is a great time to ask any questions that you may have.

What changes should I watch for in my senior pet?
There are changes that are common in almost all pets’ health and behavior as they age. While some of these can be considered a normal part of aging, we still want to know about them because they may indicate a treatable or even curable disease.

Some common signs of aging to watch for at home are a decrease in activity, changes in water intake and appetite, sudden weight loss or gain, limping, loss of hearing or vision, loss of housetraining and other behavioral changes. If you are noticing any of these changes, please give us a call!

Older dogs and cats are also more prone to tumors in or under the skin. We recommend that while giving your dog or cat the petting they enjoy, feel for any unusual lumps or bumps. If you find a lump, give us a call, and we can help you decide if you should bring your pet in right away to have it checked, or if it can wait until your pet’s next regular wellness exam.

The Takeaway
Regular senior pet wellness exams are an important part of prolonging your pet’s life. They often allow us to find and treat diseases and ailments early. Please call us today to schedule your senior pet’s wellness exam!