Older pets can remain healthy, happy, and active well into their later years if they are carefully monitored throughout their senior life. These important senior health checks are vital, as they enable early detection of any disease, which allows treatment to be started promptly. Our veterinary practice frequently runs senior pet screens for all older pets, to ensure that your pet is kept healthy and continues to enjoy a good quality of life.
WHEN DO PETS NEED A SENIOR HEALTH SCREEN?
For dogs and cats we start to offer our annual senior health screens when they turn 7 years old as, even though they are still in their prime, we find that this is the time that they might start developing underlying health problems. This also gives owners the chance to become familiar with any signs of illness that they need to monitor their older pet for and allows our vets the opportunity to regularly monitor your pet.
Once dogs and cats reach 11 years old we offer them a twice-yearly health screen. We increase our health screens to every 6 months for our elderly pets to ensure that we can quickly pick up any new signs of illness, reassess any treatment plans, and add in any lifestyle changes that might make your pet’s life more comfortable.
WHY ARE SENIOR HEALTH SCREENS NECESSARY?
Many health problems that affect our pets can become more common with age and, if left untreated, may shorten your pet’s lifespan. Most of these conditions require lifelong treatment, but if treatment is started early then it is more likely to be successful and the illness might be easier to control. Our senior health screens help to detect any early signs of illness, so pets can promptly receive treatment, which will give them the best quality of life possible.
Common senior health problems that our vets might want to check for include:
- Hyperthyroidism (Cats)
- Kidney disease
- Hyperadrenocorticism/Cushing’s Disease (Dogs)
- Sight loss
- Hearing loss
- Cognitive dysfunction/ageing behavioural changes
- Dental disease
EARLY SIGNS OF HEALTH PROBLEMS
Health problems that affect senior pets can be difficult to detect because they often start before any signs of illness are shown. When pets do show signs of illness, these signs are often subtle and begin very gradually, so can be difficult for owners to recognise.
There are, however, several signs that owners of senior pets should be aware of, as they may indicate that a health problem is present:
Often this will start with pets emptying their water bowl more frequently, so owners may start to notice that they are refilling their pet’s water bowl more often than normal. Sometimes our vets might recommend that you measure the amount that your pet is drinking to find out if your pet’s water intake has increased.
This might be seen as your pet needing to urinate more frequently, so you might find that your pet has started asking to go out to urinate during the night. Otherwise, you might find that your pet is urinating in inappropriate places, or showing a loss of toilet training. If you have a cat who has outside access then it can be difficult to spot a change to their urination habits.
To accurately assess whether your pet is losing weight you need to weigh your pet regularly, which will enable you to detect any early weight changes. You should not rely on visually assessing your pet’s weight because by the time you can see any weight loss, your pet will have lost a significant amount of weight. If you want to regularly monitor your pet’s weight then you can bring your pet into our practice for monthly weight checks.
CHANGE IN APPETITE
This can be seen as either a decrease or increase in your pet’s appetite. Often this change in appetite is also accompanied by weight loss. These changes may occur gradually or quite suddenly, but all changes to your pet’s appetite needs to be investigated by one of our vets.
CHANGE IN BEHAVIOUR
Some health problems that affect our senior pets will also cause them pain, but often our pets will hide any signs of pain and will instead display subtle changes to their behaviour, such as growling when touched. Also, some elderly pets can show signs of changes to their memory that might result in losing their toilet training, forgetting they have been fed, and making them restless at night.
REDUCED EXERCISE TOLERANCE
Health problems affecting a senior pet’s mobility can be common. These problems often start very gradually and might only be noticed when they impact on your pet’s ability to exercise. Sometimes you might also find that your pet appears to be stiff after they have been asleep, or you might detect that your pet is also lame and unable to move around as easily as they used to.
If you notice that your pet has started showing any of the above signs then you should bring your pet in to see one of our vets. This will enable any illnesses to be quickly diagnosed so treatment can be started as soon as possible and your pet’s quality of life can be improved.
HOW CAN WE CARE FOR OUR SENIOR PETS?
The senior health screens that we offer at our practice will involve a thorough health check for your pet and provide us with the opportunity to address any concerns that you might have about your pet’s condition.
Our senior health screens will usually include several checks:
- Weighing your pet
- Urine test – we will often ask you to bring in a fresh urine sample to your pet
- Blood test
- Blood pressure check
Depending on the results of these tests, your pet might be started on treatment, and our vets might advise frequent visits to monitor your pet’s progress. Our vets might also discuss any lifestyle changes that you can make to help your pet adapt to their condition and improve your pet’s quality of life.
We believe that just because a pet is elderly it does not mean that they should have to compromise on their quality of life. However, we know that to keep older pets happy then they need regular veterinary checks, which we offer with our senior health screens. We also know that pets can become ill between these health checks so our veterinary team is always available to answer any questions and concerns that you may have about your pet.
Our pets’ lives are short compared to ours, so as they age each year that passes is equivalent to between 5 and 9 human years, depending on the breed. That’s why senior screening tests are so vital as our pets age. We recommend annual screening in pets 7 years and over, and twice-yearly in those 11 years and over. We offer affordable senior screen packages which includes a blood test, urine test and blood pressure check for just £99. Please contact us for more information
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