Updated on November 26, 2010
L.O.V.E. for Health
Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet products industry, and the award winning author of 23 pet care books and thousands of articles and columns. She hosts Pet Peeves radio at PetLifeRadio.com, and is the behavior contributor at cats.About.com, and publishes a free Pet Peeves newsletter available from www.shojai.com. Amy lives in N. Texas with a Frisbee-loving German shepherd named Magic and a crotchety old-lady Siamese wannabe called Seren. I’m delighted to present her guest post and to participate in her Golden Moments Senior Pet Blog Tour.
Dr. Nancy Kay
COMPLETE CARE for YOUR AGING DOG
CHAPTER 3—L.O.V.E. for HEALTH
It is important to be tuned in to your pet’s needs at any age, but vital when she becomes a senior citizen. . . .A good way to remember the special needs of your older dog is to use the acronym L.O.V.E. That stands for Listen With Your Heart; Observe For Changes; Visit the Veterinarian; and Enrich The Environment.
Visit the Veterinarian: Well-Pet Exams
An annual checkup for your dog is a good idea whatever her age. In the past, annual vaccinations were recommended, and that was a good reminder to get a physical examination at the same time. More recent studies indicate that annual vaccines may not be necessary. However, since dogs age so much more quickly than people do, an annual physical—or “well-pet” exam—is essential to ensure that she maintains good health.
The well-pet exam becomes even more important for aging dogs, because they have fewer reserves and can become ill literally overnight. Each year, mature dogs age the equivalent of about seven human years, so waiting 12 months between checkups leaves them at risk for major health changes. A twice-yearly visit for dogs over the age of eight makes more sense. That’s the equivalent to a middle-aged person getting a physical about every three years, says Dr. Tranquilli, a professor of veterinary anesthesia and pain management at the University of Illinois. “It makes all the sense in the world to get more aggressive with checkups, and for the veterinarian to ask appropriate questions with regard to overall behavior changes,” he says.
A veterinarian has a more difficult time diagnosing problems if he only sees the pet when she’s sick and has no way to compare to well-pet behavior, especially when looking for subtle disease. “I want to see the pet every year so I’ve seen him when he’s healthy,” says Steven L. Marks, DVM, a clinical associate professor of critical care at North Carolina State University. “If something changes, I want to pick it up early.”
A complete physical should include an oral exam, says Bill Gengler, DVM, a veterinary dentist at the University of Wisconsin. “You may not be able to do an in-depth exam until the animal’s asleep, but at least you can advise the owner that yes, there’s halitosis; yes, there’s gingivitis; and there’s calculus [tartar] on the teeth so we need to get it off.”
The veterinarian will listen to the dog’s heart and lungs, check her eyes, ears and teeth, exam her for parasites, and make a note of any behavior changes you might have noticed that could indicate a problem.
“As these animals get older, one starts looking at their liver, their intestinal track, their kidneys, at their heart, and various body systems, looking for those organs that could be failing,” says Johnny Hoskins, DVM, an internist and specialist in aging pets. “The number one cause of death in older dogs is cancer.” Looking at the outside of the dog and listening to her breathing and heart won’t detect organ failures or cancer. Geriatric screening tests help veterinarians go beyond the hands-on exam and take a look at the dog from the inside out.
Complete Care for Your Aging Dog is a DWAA Maxwell Award Winner, and the 2010 Amazon Kindle Edition has been revised/updated with “hot links” to the experts cited in the book. Amy Shojai, CABC is the award-winning author of 23 dog and cat care and behavior books, and can be reached at her website http://www.shojai.com
Please visit the remaining blog stops on the GOLDEN MOMENTS SENIOR PET BLOG TOUR
NOVEMBER 23rd Aging Dog/Cat articles on pet introductions, health benefits, and more at www.cats.About.com
NOVEMBER 27th telephone interview www.PetHobbyist.com.
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook
Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.
Free Christmas or Chanukah gift wrap with books purchased between now and December 25th (www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html).