Does my senior pet really need blood work?

Senior Wellness BoxerDogs and cats age more quickly than their human companions.  That being said, when a pet reaches seven years old, it is considered a senior – with the same types of health risks that humans face at advanced ages.  One thing that many veterinarians recommend is a senior blood panel.

There are many reasons a blood panel can be helpful.  If done consistently, annual blood tests can help a veterinarian track and evaluate the overall condition of a pet’s vital organs and health.  In addition, blood tests can help a veterinarian detect early signs of many serious health conditions such as: kidney disease, diabetes, hypo- and hyperthyroidism, and liver disease.

Senior profiles are more comprehensive and will provide a more thorough evaluation of your pet’s current health.  These panels can also provide a good look into the body’s response to medications and anesthesia.  There are different types of blood tests that can be done, all performing different functions.  A CBC, complete blood cell count, looks for adequate red and white blood cell numbers and checks their present condition.  The chemistry profile looks at various organ enzymes, glucose, proteins, electrolytes, and cholesterol.  Finally, senior panels also look at thyroid function, making sure it is not over or under active.  In addition, your veterinarian may need to check your pet’s urine for signs of disease.

Routine blood work is useful in many applications: to establish a baseline on a healthy pet to compare to later, to help diagnose a pet that is “just not right”, and in geriatric pets.  Speak to your veterinarian today to see if a senior blood panel is right for your best friend – it is the best gift you can give.


Senior pet care

Your pet ages more quickly than you do, making it essential that he/sBassettdog_jpg_jpghe be examined at least once a year and even more frequently as they approach their senior life stage. Often, pets begin to develop diseases  common to their senior human counterparts, such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, endocrine disease and cancer. These diseases can go unnoticed in their early stages, making preventive health care even more important.

The age at which a pet reaches the senior life stage varies breed and lifestyle. Additional annual screening for diseases and other age related problems should begin at age seven for most cats and small to medium sized dogs. Large and giant breed dogs should be screened starting at age five or six.  Wellness testing helps to establish healthy baseline  values and identify problems early, rather than waiting for obvious signs of illness. It is  recommended for all senior animals as well as any pet exhibiting one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Changes in your pets mobility
  • Noticeable weight loss or gain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Lumps, bumps or irritation to their skin
  • Issues with their teeth
  • Issues with their ears or shaking of head

These behaviors may reveal that further, more specific tests may be needed. Family  Pet Clinic in North Richland Hills, TX recommends blood work and a  urinalysis yearly to all of our senior pets. It helps to show slight  changes in the tests to catch illnesses earlier.

Remember that with your at home observations and yearly tests can  prevent or slow down the progression of some diseases. If your older pet is exhibiting any of the above listed behavioral changes, you are the first with a voice to help them find relief.

Senior Pet Care

Thanks to the advancements in veterinary medicine, pets are living longer than ever. However with this increased lifespan comes an increase in the variety of conditions and diseases that they are susceptible to including osteoarthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, cancer and diabetes. And because pets age faster than we do, health problems can progress much more rapidly.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, scheduling regular veterinary examinations is one of the most important steps pet owners can take to keep their pets healthy. AAHA recommends that healthy senior dogs and cats (age 7+) visit the veterinarian every six months for a complete exam and laboratory testing.

Your senior pet’s wellness exam should include the following:

•Health Consultation
•Physical Examination
•Diagnostic Tests
•Intestinal Parasite Test
•Overall Wellness Recommendation
•Vaccinations (if necessary)
•Blood Work

A visit to your veterinarian is imperative if you notice any of the following:

•Unexplained weight loss
•Excessive drinking and/or urination
•Loss of appetite or lethargy
•Behavior changes
•Diarrhea or vomiting
•Skin lumps, bumps or irritation
•Bad breath, plaque on teeth or bleeding gums
•Ear odors, redness, scratching or head shaking

Does My Old Dog or Cat Really Need Senior Blood Work?

At least once a day, we are discussing senior blood work with a client for their elderly cat or dog states Amanda L. Maus, DVM, at Catalina Pet Hospital in Tucson, AZ.  Clients want to know why we should do the lab work.  Will “bad” results change anything that they already do for their pet?  The answer is yes!  When we do blood work for a senior pet, we are looking for conditions that the pet may be hiding or for recently appearing symptoms.

Once we are able to identify certain diseases, we can develop a treatment plan that may include changing the diet and prescribing certain medications.  For example, a senior cat may come in for his or her annual exam and we notice that the kitty has lost one or two pounds from the last visit.  There are several diseases that can cause weight loss in senior cats such as diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid disease.  Let’s say the kitty is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland.  We are fortunate to have quite a few treatments options ranging from a prescription diet, pills, or radiation therapy.  By running some blood tests, we are able with certainty to address the specific cause of the cat’s weight loss and improve that patient’s quality of life!

If we can prevent or slow the progression of a disease, our senior pets are much more comfortable and can enjoy their remaining time with our families that much easier.

Submitted by:

Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
3801 East Fort Lowell Road
Tucson, AZ 85716


My Dog’s Stiffness or Limping is Just Old Age, Right?

cat, feline, joints, stiffness

Gabe, a 16-year-old domestic short hair cat, lies on a heated blanket to help his joints feel better.

When senior pets come into our office for their annual wellness exam, we ask slightly different questions of our clients then we did when their pets were younger states Amanda L. Maus, DVM, at Catalina Pet Hospital in Tucson, AZ.  Is your pet having any trouble jumping – onto the couch or into the car?  Is your pet slow to get up in the morning after laying down for a long time?  Has your pet seemed to slow down over the past few months? Is your pet limping or extra tired after a long walk he or she used to be able to do with no problem?  Has your pet lost interest in playing? Is your pet slow to lay down or seems to have trouble getting comfortable ?

All of these questions are aimed at discovering signs of pain in your pet. Pets are stoic creatures and do not cry or limp unless the pain level is very high.  If your answer yes to at least one of these questions, your pet may be having signs of arthritis or degenerative joint disease.  An x-ray of your pet’s legs or spine can help determine the location and extent of the disease.  Luckily, we are able to address this disease with lifestyle changes and medications, similar to how it is treated in people.

First, we address your pet’s weight in the form of a body condition score on a scale of 1-5 or 1 – 9.  If your pet is overweight, we can discuss either a change in feeding the current diet or consider changing to lower calorie food.  Daily moderate exercise in the form of walking or swimming helps with maintaining an ideal body weight as well as helps keep the joints mobile.

dog, canine, senior, arthritis, joints
Kona, a 9-year-old Rottweiler, takes Dasuquin, Metacam and Tramadol for his arthritis.

Next, we consider the use of medications.  Supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin and omega 3 fatty acids are easy ways to help support the cartilage and natural lubrication of joints.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a great way to provide pain relief and decrease inflammation in the joints.  If additional pain relief is needed, we consider the use of opiate type medications and medications that directly act on nerve and chronic pain pathways.

Finally, at home you can consider massage and range of motion exercises of the affected joint. A heated blanket or bed with padded bedding can really help soothe sore joints.  Additional therapies, such as acupuncture, may also help.

Instead of just blaming old age, we can try different lifestyle changes and medications that can provide relief for your senior pet.  Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you have noticed any of the above changes in your pet.  Together, we can develop a plan that is specific to your pets needs as they age.

Submitted by:

Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
3801 East Fort Lowell Road
Tucson, AZ 85716