Senior Pet Care

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

No pet parent likes to think about their pet being ‘old.’  But the fact is that pets age faster than people.  Older people need special medical care and nutrition, and so do older pets.


The average lifespan for dogs and cats varies based on species and breed, but we are seeing small to medium sized dogs living 13-15+ years, larger breeds living 10 years or more, and cats living into their late teens.  Most dogs & cats are considered senior pets around 7 years of age (the exception is giant breeds such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, etc-they are considered seniors around 5 years of age).


As we age, our doctors want us to come in more often for preventative care.  The key word there is preventative.  Routine exams and testing tell our doctors what is ‘normal’ for us, and allows them to detect changes or problems much sooner, rather than waiting until we are very ill.  The same applies to our pets!


Suburban Animal Clinic recommends (and strongly encourages!) all pets of 7 years of age come in for a complete exam every 6 months.  As with any exam we perform on your pet, we look for changes in the eyes, any signs of dental disease, and changes in muscle tone and joints that could signal discomfort.  Our veterinarians will palpate or feed the abdomen to feel for abnormalities in the internal organs such as the kidneys, spleen, liver, stomach and intestines.  We also listen to the heart and lungs for any arrhythmias, murmurs, or abnormal sounds in the lungs.  Heart murmurs are one of the most common incidental findings on a routine exam for older pets.  Dental disease, arthritis, and eye changes are on that list as well.


Suburban also recommends blood work on all senior pets at least annually.  This can be done at the same time they are in for vaccinations, or it can be done at the six month senior visit to help spread out the cost.  Blood work is evaluated for any signs of organ disease or metabolic problem, and often tells us there is a problem before your pet shows any signs.  Many senior pets have year after year of normal blood work, but this allows us to watch for trends and slight changes that could signal an impending problem, as well as to tell us what is ‘normal’ for your pet when he is healthy.


We recommend the following routine blood tests:

-          CBC: Complete Blood Count: Looks at the condition and values of red and white blood cells, platelets (clotting).  Looks for signs of infection or anemia.

-          Profile: Blood Chemistry: Checks liver health, kidney health, blood sugar, electrolytes (signal of cardiac function as well as other organs).

-          Thyroid: A common problem in older dogs is low thyroid, while cats typically have high thyroid level.


We may also recommend the following tests:

-          Urinalysis: Not just for diagnosing a urinary tract infection, performing a urinalysis can aid in determining the kidney health of your pet.  Kidney disease is usually seen first in the urine, then on a blood chemistry test, all before you see symptoms in your pet.  The earlier kidney problems are diagnoses, the better.

-          Eye Pressure: Pets can develop Glaucoma just like people can.  A quick, simple, painless test using an instrument called a Tonopen can measure the pressure in the eyes.  An eye pressure that’s too high signals glaucoma.  Glaucoma is painful, so we will determine a treatment plan to keep your pet comfortable. 


-          Blood Pressure: Pets can have high blood pressure, same as people.  Sometimes a high blood pressure goes along with other diseases.  We try to give you and your pet a few minutes to settle into an exam room and calm down a bit before we take a reading.  Since pets tend to calm with this as time goes by, we take several readings and average them together.  If your pet has high blood pressure, we will prescribe medication.

-          ECG: Gives a visual of the electrical function of the heart.  Helps detect arrhythmias.  We have the capability of doing a CardioPet, which is an ECG that we can send over the phone to a specialist to look at.  This is often done prior to an anesthetic event on pets with a potential heart issue to help us determine an ideal anesthetic protocol.

-          X-Rays: Allows us to view the bones and internal organs of the body.  We can look for arthritis, irregularities, masses and foreign bodies (anything that is in the digestive tract that shouldn’t be there!).


Our goal is to help you help your pet live a long, healthy life.  By coming in for regular exams and following doctor’s recommendations, we can detect potential health problems before your pet becomes very sick.  When necessary, we can refer you to a specialist for evaluation or more extensive diagnostics and treatment.  The sooner we detect a possible problem, the sooner we can initiate a treatment plan and hopefully slow the progression of the disease.


Suburban Animal Clinic is located in West Columbus off I-70 near I-270. Suburban Animal Clinic serves Galloway, Hilltop, West Side, Georgesville, West Jefferson, Grove CityGrandviewUpper Arlington (including OSU Campus area), Hilliard and Dublin.