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I Love Old Dogs! – Dr. Karen Whala

Maryweather ran the race in the comfort of her backpack!

I LOVE old dogs! I love the quirks that they develop that only their owners can love. That distant look in their cloudy eyes when they stare hard at you trying to understand what you’re asking them, the uncanny ability to always be under your feet or that very sheepish look in their face when they accidently ‘went’ in the house. It seems the older they get, the more closely they tug at your heartstrings and endear themselves. I often wish our dogs and cats would live a lot longer than they do.

Luckily there are ways to increase the lifespan of our pet pals. Besides the methods discussed in previous blogs such as maintaining an ideal weight, regular exercise and preventive care and good nutrition (all of which we humans know too well for ourselves), our pets should also get regular check-ups and senior pet lab screens. This involves regular blood tests and oftentimes x-rays and ultrasound to identify early cancers, endocrine or degenerative diseases. Our pets get similar old-age diseases that people get and the earlier we can identify them, the more likely treatment will be effective.

So at what point is your pet considered a senior? Well this largely depends on the breed or size of your dog. In general, small breeds tend to live longer than large or giant breeds. For example, a Chihuahua or Dachshund is considered geriatric at 12 years of age while a giant breed such as a Great Dane is elderly at 6 years! Thus a pet parent who wishes to be proactive and identify disease conditions early should begin annual to twice yearly senior pet screening depending on the size of their dog. This allows your veterinarian the opportunity to detect tumors or conditions when they are subclinical (when pet is not showing any symptoms) and thus be much more effective at managing, treating or curing a potentially deadly condition.

My personal dog Skeeter is on the downward slope of the aging curve…sigh, and though not quite geriatric (technically 1 more year to go), I have already begun annual senior pet screenings. I tell him that it’s for his own good (and mine) that I subject him to a few needle pokes and tests every year! I want him to be as healthy and happy for as long as possible…both for his benefit AND mine!