If you consider the 80-year average life span of a human in Canada, and compare that to an average of 10-12 years for dogs and 15-18 years for cats; it’s obvious that dogs and cats age much faster than people.
The signs of disease can appear very quickly, often too late for the most effective veterinary intervention. Wellness testing helps detect disease earlier and can help us be proactive in managing illness in your pet.
Wellness exams are key to the early detection of disease and successful management of your pet’s health.
Illnesses Common to Senior Pets
Diabetes – a disease that affects the body’s ability to use sugar. Untreated, diabetes leads to kidney disease, cataracts, weight loss, neurological problems, and can result in the death of your pet.
Hyperthyroidism – a disease primarily of older cats, hyperthyroidism is due to the overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. Excessive levels of thyroid hormone lead to weight loss, increased blood pressure, changes in appetite and can damage the heart and kidneys.
Hypothyroidism – older dogs can suffer from hypothyroidism. This is a lack of available thyroid hormone. This can cause weight gain, lethargy, poor hair coat, altered immune function and muscle weakness.
Renal Disease – renal (kidney) disease can occur in both dogs and cats. Cats and dogs, like people, have two kidneys but actually only need part of one kidney to function normally in order to be healthy. As pets age, so do their kidneys and the amount of properly functioning kidney tissue decreases. Beyond a certain point, pets will suddenly ‘go down hill’ as their kidneys go into failure. Realizing your pet’s kidneys have reduced function before they go into failure is vital to being able to manage their condition and slow down the rate of decline.
Cancer – pets get cancer just like people do. It is estimated that cancer is the cause of death for approximately 50% of pets over 10 years of age. While there is no one test to detect cancer, we can use Wellness Testing as well as other diagnostics to monitor your pet for suspicious indicators.
What’s Involved in Wellness Testing for Seniors?
This includes examining many of the body systems such as the cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) and neurological (brain and nerves) systems as well as evaluating weight, coat and body condition. Regular physical exams are essential to early disease detection.
A CBC (complete blood count) evaluates the blood to see if all the components are present in appropriate numbers. These include the red cells that carry oxygen, the white cells that fight infection and the platelets that clot the blood. The CBC may also look at the cells to make sure that they have a shape, colour and size that are normal for that cell type.
A ‘Chemistry panel’ is a series of tests to evaluate blood chemistries. These are factors such as glucose, electrolytes and liver and kidney enzymes. Endocrine panels specifically check for levels of hormones, such as thyroid hormone.
Evaluation of your pet’s urine can help identify problems in your pet’s urinary system (kidneys and bladder). However, urine testing can also provide information about liver function and other diseases like Cushing’s disease and diabetes.
Special Considerations for Senior Pets
These include food, medications and special exercise routines that can contribute to halting further damage and alleviating discomfort. When caught early enough, making some simple changes can even correct some of the damage that has already occurred.
We will discuss all of these options with you following your pet’s wellness evaluation.