Another New Year, Another Year Older

posted on January 02, 2013 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

As January rolls in, we find ourselves and our pets becoming another year older.  Did you know that your pet ages more rapidly than we do, and can be affected by some of the same age related diseases?  Dogs over 50 pounds are considered seniors after the age of 5, and dogs under 50 pounds and cats are considered seniors after the age of 7.  Since they age quicker, we recommend yearly to twice a year blood work and examinations to help us detect health issues early.

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There are a number of tests we may recommend based on your pet’s age, symptoms, and health status.  These include a variety of blood tests such as a complete blood count, chemistry panel, and thyroid tests, a urine test, or other tests as necessary.

A complete blood count, or CBC, is a blood test that looks at the number, size, shape, and color of the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets or clotting cells, and the amount of protein in the blood.  This test can help alert us to problems such as anemia, infections, clotting disorders, dehydration, blood parasites, or even cancer.

A chemistry profile is another blood test.  It looks at liver and kidney values to help alert us to problems such as liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, other metabolic diseases, and even cancer.  We may recommend a chemistry profile before starting your pet on medications, as many medications used to treat the diseases seen in older animals are processed by the liver and/or kidneys.  We need to monitor the values to make sure your pet can safely handle the medications before and during the treatment.

Thyroid tests look at the amount of thyroid hormone circulating in the blood.  Older dogs are prone to low thyroid hormone, which can lead to skin and hair problems and weight gain.  Older cats are prone to high thyroid hormone, which leads to signs such as vomiting and weight loss with an increased appetite.

A urinalysis is a test run on the urine looking for signs of infections, stones or crystals, or early signs of kidney disease.  It can also show signs of diabetes and liver disease.

These tests are important to help us monitor for signs of the many diseases that can affect older pets.  With careful monitoring we can help catch these problems early, which can help us mitigate the signs and give your pet a longer, healthier life.