Health screening is not just for seniors. Screening your young pets establishes baseline values for comparison with future test results. It also detects diseases at early stages.
Dogs and cats are usually considered seniors when they are 7 years old. As your pet enters his senior years, frequent health screenings are recommended to detect age-related diseases at an early stage.
11-year-old little lamb Adriel is here for a Comprehensive Health Screen.
HEALTH SCREENING CAN DETECT DISEASES AT AN EARLY STAGE
Many animals do not display pain or signs of diseases that may have developed. Early detection through health screenings, pain control and treatment can prolong the quality of your pet’s life. Health screening, even when your pet is young and healthy, provides useful “baseline” values for comparison with future test results.
Some common age-related health problems are osteoarthritis, kidney/liver/heart diseases, tumours or cancers, hormonal disorders like diabetes or thyroid imbalance.
Regular physical examinations can also detect odd lumps & bumps which are common in old dogs & cats. Fine needle aspirations or biopsies are often needed to determine if the lump is benign or malignant. Lab tech Janice will examine the cells under a microscope after Dr Sandhya Nair extracts a sample from the lump.
Sunshine was adopted from a shelter by Jeanne Tan. At 12, she still looks young & loves food & outings. However, she is living with degenerative joint disease & generalised muscle wasting on her limbs. Getting up from a resting position is sometimes difficult. Diet, supplements, hydrotherapy & pain relief (when needed) will help manage the condition & prolong Sunshine’s quality of life.
Veterinary acupuncture is available at Mount Pleasant (North) by Dr Jimson Chan. It can be useful in cases of functional musculoskeletal problems such as degenerative joint disease (arthritis) which results in pain & inflammation, behavioural changes (irritability, depression), reluctance to participate in normal activities (standing, walking, jumping), limping & paralysis.
SENIOR PETS SHOULD SEE THEIR VETS EVERY 6 MONTHS
Senior pets age more rapidly during their golden years. It is estimated that 6 months of your senior dog’s life is equivalent to 2 to 3 human years. Therefore, your old dog and cat should see the vet every 6 months with a Health Screening done every year.
Anchor was seen by Dr Kasey Tan for rhinitis (nasal inflammation) & high blood pressure. At a grand old age of 20, Anchor should be seeing her vet at least every 6 months.
A routine Health Screening includes:
- Physical Examination
- Complete Blood Count
- Blood Chemistry Panel
- Faecal Analysis
- Thyroid Profile
A Blood Chemistry Panels helps to detect liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes mellitus and other hormonal diseases.
Depending on your pet’s health, X-rays or ultrasound may be needed to confirm a diagnosis. Especially when there are signs of heart, lung, kidney or liver disease.
TO VACCINATE OR NOT TO VACCINATE
Most pet owners would agree that routine administration of vaccines has been an excellent control for infectious diseases. What may be debatable is (i) the duration of immunity and (ii) how frequent vaccines should be given, especially for senior pets.
As much as we worry about over-vaccination, under-vaccination is also a real concern.
For dogs in Singapore, vaccines for Canine Parvovirus, Canine Distemper and Canine Adenovirus (Hepatitis) are considered core vaccines. Canine VacciCheck Antibody Test is available at our 9 clinics to measure the amount of antibodies present for these 3 diseases. The test results would help determine if your dog requires additional vaccination.
Luna & Pong, Mount Pleasant Animal Clinic (North), collect blood from 13-year-old Miko the Cocker Spaniel for the Canine Antibody Titer Test.
Upon receiving the titer test results, you & your vet can decide if your dog needs additional vaccination. The decision may depend on your dog’s age, current state of health, lifestyle (e.g. whether she is mostly an indoor dog, socialises with other dogs regularly or is boarding at a shelter)
DENTAL CARE FOR PETS
It is estimated that 85% of all pets have periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old, which can cause pain and sensitivity in the mouth. Protect your senior pet’s teeth with regular brushing and a thorough dental check-up every 6 months.
Big smiles for Ginger & Woffles after their dental!
Older dogs are at higher risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma & “dry eye” (insufficient tear production). Early detection & treatment can prevent blindness.
“Gracie is 15 & blind from cataracts (surgery is not advised due to existing heart problems). When you have blind dogs at home, do not move your furniture around as they cannot adjust to it quickly. Also don’t leave things on the floor that they might trip over. Sometimes, Gracie pees or poos outside of the newspaper. We learn to be very patient & not get angry as she is already old & blind. She is my responsibility from the day I brought her home.” ~ Wan Ling with Dr Kasey Tan
some tips for families with blind dogs or cats
- Get down on your hands and knees to see the world from your pets’ level to look out for things that can potentially hurt them, e.g. sharp table edges or drawer handles.
- Keep the floor clear of objects that your blind pets might trip over.
- Try not to rearrange furniture in the house as it would confuse your blind pets & cause them to bump into things.
- Put bells on other dogs or cats in the household so your blind pet knows where they are.
- Keep beds, food and water bowls at the same place every day.
- Place non-slip rugs at certain areas in the house to let your blind pets know where they are.
- Don’t startle your blind pets. Use vocal cues to let them know where you are. Call their name when entering the room and before touching them.
other ways to make life better for our senior pets
- Provide a quiet space with a comfortable but firm bed for arthritic pets.
- Divide a meal into smaller portions throughout the day.
- Provide easy access to litter boxes or garden for elimination (e.g. gently-sloped ramp).
- Raise food and water bowls to a comfortable level.
- Provide non-slip floor surfaces to help your arthritic pet get up and walk more easily.