You’re likely familiar with the thorough physical exam and history taking that Dr. Man and our team perform during your pet’s wellness visit at Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital. As your furry pal ages, their visit and medical needs will change as well. While we strongly encourage annual wellness testing to record your pet’s baseline normal values, these tests become even more important once your four-legged friend reaches middle- to old-age. Some of the most common diseases and illnesses we identify in senior pets through physical exams and diagnostic testing include:
- Hypo- or hyperthyroidism
- Dental disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Cushing’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
Although pets can be afflicted with these conditions at any age, we find them more often in older cats and dogs. With routine semi-annual exams and testing, we can discover these issues at the earliest stage, which can allow us to make simple diet and supplement changes to help your pet live the life they deserve. We also rely on routine diagnostic testing to monitor your pet’s stable, but ongoing, disease processes.
What diagnostic tests are recommended for my senior pet?
Depending on your pet’s age, breed, and health status, we may recommend multiple diagnostic tests to monitor their health. For example, cats are prone to developing kidney disease later in life, yet performing baseline blood work will help us monitor your cat’s kidney function over the years. Running a blood chemistry panel will allow us to check kidney enzymes, while a urinalysis will inform us of your cat’s ability to concentrate urine. Dr. Man has highlighted the importance of senior wellness testing in his video blog about a cat diagnosed with diabetes.
During your pet’s wellness exam, we may recommend any combination of the following tests to best monitor their changing health:
- Complete blood count — A complete blood count (CBC) quantifies the total number of your pet’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, dividing them into their unique types that allow us to identify infection, anemia, clotting issues, or cancer-related processes. This test cannot fully diagnose a problem, but can guide us to more definitive diagnostic testing.
- Blood chemistry panel — A comprehensive blood chemistry panel imparts information on organ function, and blood glucose and electrolyte levels, and can help us identify kidney or liver disease, diabetes, Addison’s disease, and a slew of other conditions.
- Thyroid level testing — Many older pets develop thyroid issues that interfere with metabolism, create skin changes, and cause different behaviors. Dogs tend to become hypothyroid, while cats develop hyperthyroidism. Check out Dr. Man’s video blogs on diagnosing and managing a dog with hypothyroidism.
- Urinalysis — A tablespoon of your pet’s urine helps us complete the story of your furry best friend’s health. We can check for diabetes severity by searching for glucose spillover or ketone formation in the urine, or see how well the kidneys are concentrating urine in a cat with suspected kidney failure. We also can confirm signs of infection, inflammation, or crystals that are often the culprits of your pet’s urinary issues.
- Blood pressure testing — Age-related diseases may also cause disturbances in your pet’s blood pressure. For example, cats in kidney failure tend to have an elevated blood pressure, beyond the normal stress-induced level from visiting a veterinary hospital. This elevation can lead to retinal detachment and blindness, so we highly recommend routine blood pressure testing as part of our senior pet wellness program.
- X-rays — Digital x-rays and consultation with a veterinary radiologist are crucial for evaluating heart and lung changes, searching for bone abnormalities that can indicate arthritis and to help us detect certain cancers of the spleen, liver, intestines, stomach, and kidneys.
These tests are vital for monitoring your senior pet’s health. Pets age much more rapidly than people, so semi-annual testing allows us to keep a close eye on your best friend’s health and well-being as they age.
What are potential disease signs in senior pets?
Pets—especially cats—are masters at hiding illness, injury, and disease, but you can learn to recognize potential issues in your furry pal as they age. Some of the most common age-related disease signs include:
- Drinking and urinating excessively
- Change in appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loose stool
- Change in hair coat or skin health
- Limping or lameness
- Sudden weight change
- Difficulty performing normal functions (e.g., seeing, breathing, urinating, and defecating)
- Decrease in stamina when exercising
- Noticeable changes in eye clarity
- New or changing lumps or bumps
Together we can eliminate waiting for potentially serious life-threatening disease with symptoms that just “suddenly appear.” Give us a call now to schedule a wellness check for your best friend.