Old Dogs Need Regular Doctor Visits

“Dr. Randolph, I appreciate that you send me reminders for Daisy, but she’s an old dog and that’s why I don’t bring her in to the clinic any more.”

Appropriate medical care for your older dog can enhance his longevity as well as his quality of life.

This is actually a common sentiment, despite the poor logic.

Think in terms of your elderly parents or grandparents. Read (click) here to understand just how appropriate this analogy is. As people get older we experience typical aging changes of arthritis, heart disease, kidney failure, liver problems, vision deficiencies, the list goes on and on.

And, just as with people, there are treatments and/or medications for these infirmities for dogs.

Renal failure (kidney disease) is a very common ailment in older dogs. Diagnosis is made by a combination of physical examination, history and
laboratory testing of blood and urine. Treatment is primarily diet-based with a low-protein, phosphorous-restricted food. In addition, medications are used to reduce gastric (stomach) inflammation and stimulate appetite.

Arthritis is much more common in geriatric dogs than cats. It is typically manifested by a dog’s unwillingness or inability to:

  • go for long walks
  • run to chase a ball or other favorite toy
  • jump over obstacles he used to clear easily

Nutramax makes their chondroprotective (cartilage-saving) neutraceuticals (Cosequin and Dasuquin) in sizes for dogs under and over 60 pounds. In addition, several NSAIDs (non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs) are approved by the FDA. They can reduce pain and inflammation in arthritic joints and restore painful dogs to greater freedom of activity.

Heart disease, especially congestive heart failure (CHF) secondary to mitral valve prolapse is a common finding in dogs under 30 pounds and an occasional finding in larger dogs. In either case medication helps to extend life expectancy and improve comfort by reducing pulmonary edema (fluid in the air sacs of the lungs). In many cases the ability to exercise is returned.

Heartworm disease is easily prevented with monthly medication. All dogs, indoor, outdoor and indoor/outdoor need to be on heartworm preventive. The vast majority of dogs who contract heartworms can be treated successfully and go on to live a normal lifespan.

Cataracts tend to occur earlier in dogs than in cats. Small-breed dogs develop cataracts more frequently and at younger ages than large-breed dogs. When they do, board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists add to quality of life by surgically removing them.

Cancer can occur at any age, but, as in people, the incidence increases as dogs age. Semiannual examinations are recommended for all age groups, but their value skyrockets when it comes to discovering cancerous growths early. Many malignant lumps can be surgically excised for a cure. Others require additional treatment, which can range from palliative to aggressive and can include chemotherapy and/or radiation.

When flu season rolls around each year, what portions of the human population are urged to get vaccinated? The very young and the very old. Likewise, because of their aging immune systems, older dogs should also continue to receive vaccinations on the schedule your pet’s doctor recommends.

Canine Influenza (H3N8) is becoming more widespread. Most boarding kennels and veterinary hospitals now require this protection for dogs in their care. With holidays approaching, now is the time to obtain this protection.

Most important of all, as always, is the physical examination. That can be performed annually, but semiannual examinations are twice as good at identifying problems early. Early diagnosis of a lump, heart murmur or other problem early gives your canine best friend a huge head start toward a return to normalcy.

See you next week, Dr. Randolph.


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