|Twice a Year Exams are a Good Idea
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) supports the idea of an exam every six months for your pet.
"Advances in veterinary medicine have led to an increased percentage of aging cats and dogs," says Dr. Jack O. Walther, AVMA immediate past president. "Unlike people, cats and dogs can't tell you where it hurts. An exam every six months enables early detection and treatment of potential medical conditions."
Consider these benefits:
1. Prevention of disease or injury
2. Enhanced quality of life and longevity
3. Better compliance for wellness services, including vaccinations, heartworm and flea preventives, diets, dental cleanings and diagnostics.
Aging pets need extra care
"Your pet ages seven times faster than you do; consequently, the potential for age-related disease also progresses seven times as fast," comments Dr. William Tranquilla, veterinarian and anesthesiologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital in Urbana. "Also, realize that large dogs age faster than smaller dogs."
During biannual visits, ask your veterinarian to do a lab analyses - complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exams and chemistry profiles. Having these tests done twice a year helps veterinarians detect any age-related disease that your pet may be developing before the disease progresses too far.
As your pet ages, the chances of its developing a life threatening disease such as kidney failure and cardiac disease increase. Prevention and early detection of these diseases are imperative to extend the life of your beloved companion.
Your pet's weight
Part of prevention includes controlling your pet's weight. This decreases the rate that your pet ages and definitely decreases susceptibility to serious diseases. Older dogs naturally decrease their activity and thus have reduced energy needs. Ask your veterinarian what diet and amount of food is best for your dog's age and activity level.
Be sure to monitor your pet's behavior too. "Behavioral changes are some of the earliest signs of disease," says Dr. Tranquilla.
Changes that may indicate a problem include confusion, decreased interaction with family members, inconsistent sleeping pattern, or loss of house training. You know your pet's behavior best, so trust your judgment.
Other behavioral changes are associated with specific diseases. Arthritis may become a problem in senior pets. Watch for stiffness, lameness, reluctance to climb steps or jump up and perhaps difficulty rising after lying down. Dermatologic problems may also increase with age because of metabolic changes. Increased water intake, increased urination, increased weight loss and decreased appetite may indicate developing kidney disease.
Dental problems increase with age as well. Watch for increased salivation, bleeding and inflammation, which may result in serious infection and loss of appetite.