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An annual physical exam is a vital part of maintaining a healthy, happy, and long life for your dog. Since dogs age faster than people do and can't communicate when they are not feeling well, your veterinarian will gain valuable insights into the health of your dog.
As natural as the aging process is, it is nonetheless hard watching those we love get older. It is hard watching someone who was once vibrant and full of energy begin to tire and slow down. Aging is a sign that the end is nearing upon our loved ones and begins the difficult journey of coming to terms with this inevitable result. This process is same for our lovable furry, four-legged family members, but just because they are getting older does not mean they become destitute. In fact, medical advances have helped dogs live longer than ever before, and are proof that senior dog care is important.
When & How Often Should I Begin Senior Wellness Exams for Dogs?
Through regular wellness exams for your senior dog, you can help your pup enjoy his golden years with the best quality of life possible. There are many actions you can take, to keep you dog youthful, and focus on prevention together with your dog’s veterinarian. The best action to take is to visit the veterinarian for regular, senior wellness exams. The recommendation is that a senior dog (age ranges from 5-13 years old depending on breed) see the veterinarian every six months for a checkup.
What Happens at a Senior Wellness Exam for Dogs?
During your dog’s senior wellness exams, your veterinarian will run labs and do a physical examination to check for any early signs of oncoming illness and disease. Work with your veterinarian to devise a healthy living plan for your dog. This plan will cover special dietary needs, exercise, mental stimulation and even supplementation. These bi-annual visits are as important for your furry friend his health can deteriorate quickly as he ages. Early detection is the best way to help your dog treat and recover from diseases.
What You Can Do To Keep Your Dog Healthy
In between your senior dog wellness exams it is important that you help keep your dog healthy by rationing his dog food as suggested by your veterinarian. Remember to keep table scraps to a minimum. If you must share your food with your dog, note that as your dog gets older it will be more difficult for him to maintain a healthy weight balance, if permitted to eat whatever he chooses. Since our dogs are smaller versions of us, an extra two pounds could put your pooch at risk of diseases associated with obesity.
Additionally, watching your dog’s weight, it is important to keep your dog on a regular exercise plan. While he may not be jogging five miles with you, at a minimum you should take your dog for a brisk walk daily. Just like people, when your dog does not use his muscles he loses them as well as his mobility.
You should work some mental training into your daily activities to keep his mental state as sharp as it can me. This can be done by simply providing your dog with brainteaser toys, practicing and learning new tricks and continually training your dog to focus on your commands.
By working together with your veterinarian you can help your dog age gracefully and do everything in your power to make his senior years some of the best years of his life, and even help prolong his life through prevention!
Susan Wright, DMV works closely with wireless dog fence professionals as an expert. Dr. Wright is a veterinarian, writer, and dog owner. When she’s not working caring for family pets, she spends her time writing articles to teach tips on proper pet care.
By Niki Tudge | Submitted On April 10, 2010
Many pet owners underestimate the importance of an annual physical exam because their pet seems healthy. Annual exams provide an opportunity to prevent diseases, detect them early, or even avoid them altogether. Many diseases and ailments such as heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes are not often evident in early stages. Your veterinarian can conduct a comprehensive exam that includes a lab analysis, heart check, and dental exam to ensure top physical shape and optimum health for years to come.
Dogs age more rapidly than humans. In one calendar year the average dog can physically age 5-10 years in comparison. Medically, many changes can take place in that time. Once a dog reaches 8 years old it is considered to be geriatric. At this time, it is important to consider performing a "Senior Wellness Profile" which provides a more thorough work-up on major body systems such as the heart, liver, and kidneys as problems such as organ failure or cancer may develop and progress quickly if not detected. Many problems owners commonly assume are "old age changes" may actually be signs of underlying disease and can be very treatable.
What does a physical exam include? Your veterinarian has special training and experience in detecting subtle illness in pets and will conduct a very thorough "nose to toes" exam. Listening to the heart your vet can detect murmurs. Increased lung sounds may indicate early illness. Abdominal palpation may reveal pain in certain areas or abnormal size and shape of various organs or even tumors. Evaluating joint mobility may reveal arthritis. Checking out the eyes can detect early signs of cataracts or other ocular problems. Ears may be in need of cleaning or medication. Dental disease may be detected as well as signs of allergies or skin problems during a routine exam. It's easier for someone who doesn't see your pet every day to detect lumps and bumps that you may not have noticed. Comparing annual weights as well can determine if your dog is heading down the path to obesity or is slowly losing weight due to a latent illness or disease.
Annual examinations also give you an opportunity to talk to your Vet about training, hygiene, nutrition, and any other questions you may have. A few simple hygiene tasks added to your daily schedule can be very beneficial to your pet's quality of life and feeding a proper diet rates as one of the most important considerations in health maintenance. Around 75% of pets relinquished to rescue groups are due to behavioral problem. If you train your dog and ensure by doing so that you provide it a home for life this can be one of the most important health decisions you make for your pet. Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized in the US each year due to easily correctable behavioral problems such as barking, leash pulling, growling and snapping. With cats, in proper litter box habits and scratching at furniture are two of the more common reasons that cats are surrendered.
There are many steps that occur during your pet’s wellness exam. A history is taken about the pet’s lifestyle. Next, temperature, pulse and respiration The action of breathing. rates are recorded as well as the pet’s weight. Then the veterinarian will perform a head-to-tail exam. The pet’s eyes, ears, mouth, lymph nodes, heart, lungs, abdomen and musculoskeletal system are evaluated and recorded. Recommendations will be made for your pet’s health. These recommendations could include dental care, nutritional counseling, behavioral advice and pain management. Any needed vaccinations are performed based on your pet’s lifestyle and the duration of immunity of the vaccines. (Some pet owners choose to receive immunizations at “shot clinics.” While this is one way to ensure up-to-date vaccinations, you will not receive the many components that are part of a wellness exam and preventive healthcare for your pet.) Annual heartworm testing and intestinal parasite screens are performed to prevent zoonotic diseases (transmissible to people) and to prevent illness in your pet. Finally, based on the physical exam and lab work (if performed), recommendations are given to achieve and maintain optimal health for your pet.
Pets are genetically wired to hide any illness. Through routine wellness exams, preventable diseases like obesity, ear infections and dental disease can be addressed, and early screenings for arthritis, diabetes and kidney disease can be performed. The net result of routine wellness exams is early detection and prevention of disease, which means a healthier and longer life for your pet.
Leslie Sirmons, DVM is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and lives in McDade, Texas. Dr. Sirmons is a companion animal general practitioner and practices at Elgin Family Pet Center.