Senior, or geriatric, pets should see their veterinarian at least twice a year, more often if there are indications that something may be wrong. Early detection of a health problem could denote easier and less costly treatment. As with humans, animals are living longer today, therefore, are increasingly suffering from some of the same disease processes. Cancer, diabetes, kidney and liver failure, arthritis, vision trouble, cognitive dysfunction, and dental disease are just a few ailments commonly seen in senior patients. Consequently, geriatric pets require more extensive exams that should entail:
A Veterinarian/Client Consultation
The client, or pet owner, should mention any changes in the pet’s behavior or health. A few examples are unusual lumps or bumps, trouble getting around or seemingly disoriented. Possible dental issues should also be brought to the veterinarian’s attention such as lack of appetite, bad breath, drooling or pawing at the mouth.
A Physical Examination
The veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination which would include palpation of the patient’s abdomen and musculoskeletal system for any abnormal signs. The veterinarian will also listen to the patient’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope to check for any problems such as a heart murmur. The eyes, ears, teeth and skin will also be examined.
Blood work, urinalysis, radiographs and other testing may be performed should the veterinarian deem it necessary. A fecal examination will also be performed to check for any intestinal parasites, regardless of the patient’s parasite control status.
Heartworm preventative, flea and tick control, and vaccinations will be recommended by the veterinarian and the veterinary staff based upon the particular patient. Depending on findings during the physical examination, a dental cleaning or other diagnostics or procedures may also be suggested.
Pet owner should take extra care to be alert regarding changes in their pet’s health. A veterinarian should be contacted immediately should the patient begin to experience unexplained weight loss, excessive water intake and urination, lethargy, loss of appetite, changes in behavior, vomiting or diarrhea, lameness or with any other indications of failing health.