November is Senior Pet Health Month
Why take an entire month to focus on just senior pets? Because being proactive about the health of our senior pets is critically important. Senior pets are at heighted risk for numerous diseases ranging from arthritis to cancers and from organ dysfunction (such as kidney disease) to endocrine disorders (like diabetes). Being vigilant in their care is key to catching these diseases, treating them successfully, and keeping our companions happy, healthy, and pain-free for as long as possible.
Before jumping in further, let’s first define what qualifies as a senior. Unfortunately, this isn’t a simple task. There is no concrete guideline that we can apply to all species or even all breeds within a species. The American Animal Hospital Association has offered the following strategy: a pet can be considered “senior” when it reaches 75% of its total life expectancy. For example, if we expect most domestic shorthair cats to live about 16 years, they would be considered a senior at 12 years of age. This is very different from a Great Dane, for example. With a life expectancy as short as 8-10 years, a Dane may be considered a senior as early as the age of 6. For the purposes of our Senior Pet Month, we will consider “senior” as dogs over 7 years of age, cats over 10, and horses over 18.
One of the most beneficial things we can strive for with our senior patients is an increase in veterinary visits and routine blood work screening.
Examinations are recommended twice a year for senior animals. A senior exam can allow us to:
● Identify slight muscle and/or weight loss that may indicate an underlying problem, even if they still have significant body fat.
● Identify arthritic conditions that can benefit from early intervention with supplements or medications. We can even use non-invasive laser therapy to allow patients relief!
● Identify dental abnormalities, that may be contributing to weight loss, pain, or other issues. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats, and is entirely preventable. It is also a common ailment of senior horses, contributing to weight loss and other medical complications.
● Discuss changes in dietary requirements and nutrition.
The benefits of routine blood work are also numerous:
● Even if your pet or horse seems healthy on the outside, they may be struggling on the inside. Cats especially tend to hind disease for as long as possible, so we often don’t see a problem until it is quite advanced.
● Furthermore, some of the most commonly affected organs in old age, the liver and kidneys, have a huge “reserve capacity”. This means that these organs are able to maintain some level of function until they are extremely diseased. This allows animals to “get by” for a long time before we see an external problem.
● Early detection and intervention often allows us more treatment options and better outcomes. That is, detecting diabetes before secondary complications arise allows for a better prognosis for the patient and hopefully avoids lengthy and often costly hospital stays.
● Even normal blood work has value as it gives us a baseline to compare to when illnesses arise in the future.
Because we believe that early detection is critical in the recognition and treatment of disease in all animals, but especially in seniors, we will be offering 10% off on all in-house bloodwork for senior dogs, cats, and horses all month with an exam! Running blood work on your dog, cat, or horse, is quick and easy. We are well equipped to run a wide range of blood work panels here in house.
We are also offering a 10% discount on all laser therapy packages, which is a painless, non-invasive way to help decrease inflammation and help with arthritis and other conditions in canine, feline, and equine patients.
To take advantage of our discounts, call us anytime to schedule an appointment for an examination. After a thorough exam, we’ll discuss with you any concerns we have found and walk through any treatment and blood work recommendations that are appropriate.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
Samantha (Sami) Thomas, DVM