What's In A Senior Wellness Exam?
Did you know your pet is considered a "senior" as early as the age of 7? A 7 year old cat is considered to be 44 in human years! Their bodies undergo changes at a much faster rate. Just like humans, older pets need extra attention when it comes to their health!
Studies have shown that pets receiving routine veterinary care and proper care at home have an increased life expectancy, so pet parents have the direct ability to improve their quality of life by the care we provide. Twice yearly senior wellness testing will ensure they live long and happy lives, but what do they include? That's why we're here to tell you all about them!
What is Senior Wellness Testing?
Wellness testing is the term given to a group of tests that is performed specifically to detect signs of early disease in a pet that is apparently healthy. Pets cannot tell you how they are feeling, and as a result, disease may be present before your are aware of it! If a disease or condition can be found before a pet shows signs of illness, we can often take steps needed to manage or correct the problem before irreparable damage is done. Wellness exams are very important for a geriatric pet, since there is a greater chance that underlying disease can be present.
When is Wellness Testing Usually Done?
We recommend twice a year full physical exams! Senior care for your pet should begin at 7 years of age, since this is the time when most pets can start showing signs of aging. Our doctors may recommend more frequent testing depending on specific health concerns.
Below is an example of a yearly comprehensive exam schedule:
First wellness exam to include:
Senior health exam
Vaccinations based on age and health status
Heartworm testing for dogs
Fecal (intestinal parasite) exam
Senior blood and urine profile
Ultrasound with Telemedicine consult
Discussion of dental care and nutrition
Second wellness exam (six months later) to include:
Senior health exam
Blood pressure check
Eye pressure check (think: glaucoma in humans)
Schirmer Tear Test (think: dry eye in humans)
Vaccinations if needed
Recheck of any previous abnormal lab work results
What May My Vet Do at a Senior Wellness Exam?
Senior blood work - a senior blood panel should be done every year after your pet turns 7. These panels can give us a baseline for down the road if they become ill or as a comparison at the time of their next blood work. These blood panels can give us readings on your pet's thyroid level, kidney and liver values, white and red blood counts, glucose levels, and much more. If your pet does begin to show signs of arthritis and other joint pain, there are many different medications and/or joint diets that our doctors can recommend to help ease the pain and extend your pet's life comfortably.
Biochemistry profiles are also included in wellness testing, which are a series of tests performed on serum--a component of blood. These tests provide information about how well the various organs of the body are working, and help to detect the presence of some metabolic diseases. If minor abnormalities are found on the biochemistry profile, our doctors will request that you repeat the tests at a later time; this may be in a few days, a few weeks, or several months. In some cases, a more extensive diagnostic may be recommended.
Urinalysis is expected to be completed at a wellness exam as well, which involves an analysis of the chemical components in urine. Urinalysis provides information about how well the kidneys are working, identifies the presence of inflammation or infection, and may detect the presence of underlying metabolic diseases such as diabetes. This testing is necessary for a full assessment of the urinary system.
Finally, there's thyroid testing. The thyroid gland is like a thermostat, and it sets the metabolic rate of the whole body. The most common thyroid diseases in the dog is hypothyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid does not produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormones. The function of the thyroid gland should be tested if your dog shows unexplained weight gain, lack of energy, recurring skin or ear infections, hair loss on the body and tail, or has high cholesterol levels in the blood.
Other Potential Issues to Look For
Other issues to watch for include weight management, urinary incontinence, and oral health problems. Weight management is key in keeping your senior pet healthy! An overweight or obese senior pet is often less active and therefore requires fewer calories. A senior pet that is overweight is a lot more susceptible to other diseases as well. Be sure to speak with our doctors about your pet's weight and their recommendations on getting your pet to their ideal weight!
Urinary incontinence is caused when the muscles in and around the bladder weaken, thus causing unwanted accidents around the house. Fortunately, there are medications and supplements that can be prescribed to help fix this situation. With oral health, if your pet has not received a professional dental cleaning by age 7, they probably have some nasty plaque buildup by now. This can leave your senior pets susceptible to an array of diseases that can affect the other organs in their bodies. We highly recommend scheduling a dental cleaning for your pet and are happy to help with any concerns you may have.