Senior Care/Geriatric Workups, Part 1: Old Age is not a disease.

"He’s never been sick before. I mean, he’s been slowing down, kind of grumpy-acting, but he’s just getting older."

Bad arthritis slows you down, abscessed teeth make you grumpy, kidney failure makes you sick, and a weak heart keeps you from playing like you used to.  If these problems are detected earlier, they can be repaired or kept from progressing.  Unfortunately, the early warning signs are frequently dismissed as "just getting older".

Everybody gets older, but some get old and still feel pretty good, while others get old and feel pretty bad.  Everybody gets gray hair and wrinkles — that IS a part of "just getting older".  We know that as we get older, we are more prone to have arthritis pain, heart disease, skin problems, dental problems, kidney failure, liver problems, cataracts, dry eyes, bladder control problems, hearing problems and cancer. The thing to remember is that these are DISEASES — they are NOT a normal part of "just getting older". If that were true, EVERYONE would have every one of these diseases, just like everyone gets gray hair and wrinkles.  Since they do not, it follows that as pets age, some develop one set of diseases, some develop others.  Therefore these ARE diseases that can benefit from treatment.  They are NOT normal aging.

When your pet gets older, you don’t always recognize changes in behavior as signs of disease.  Tomorrow I’ll post a checklist of things to look for in your aging pet.  They may not all be "red flags", but they are all worth talking about with your veterinarian.

I don’t know that every pet over the age of seven should have a big diagnostic work-up as part of an annual or semi-annual wellness check-up.  On the other hand, it’s certainly not a bad idea to have more information that you can obtain from the physical exam.  There’s only so much you can tell from the outside of the animal and it would be great to have more information about how the insides are functioning.  Basic blood tests and a urine specimen can do a lot to act as an "early warning system".   If you have any "red flags", a Senior Care panel of tests is a good way to screen for diseases that have been scooting along under your radar.  Maybe your pet isn’t "just getting older".  Tune in tomorrow.

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