Preventive care is the most important component of health care in all stages of life. You can help extend your pet's healthy years and quality of life by providing nutritional support, keeping vaccinations and heartworm prevention current, scheduling routine wellness examinations every 6 months, and providing regular dental care. Since older animals have a higher incidence of such conditions as heart disease, diabetes, major organ failure, benign and malignant tumors, and degenerative joint disease, early diagnostic testing to help detect these unseen conditions is an important part of the Senior Care Wellness Program.
For practical purposes, we consider dogs over the age of 7 to be "seniors." Although genetics, nutrition, and environmental influences are important, body weight may provide a more accurate indicator. In general, small dogs (less than 20 pounds) tend to have a longer life expectancy, and therefore age slower than larger breeds. In reality, old age is not just a chronologic measurement of years lived, rather it is a measurement of the function of body systems subsequent to the effects of aging.
Proper nutrition can help prolong the life of your pet. There are several premium dog food companies (Science Diet, Iams, Eukanuba, Purina, Pedigree) that have designed a diet specifically for older, less active dogs. These diets include antioxidants to help slow the effects of aging, glucosamine and chondrointin to help support healthy joints and cartilage, reduced calories to aid in weight management, and highly digestible carbohydrates to promote a healthy digestive process. You should provide plenty of fresh water and weigh your pet every 60 days on the same scale, keeping a record of the weight.
Most pets need professional dental cleaning once a year. Periodontal disease is the most common infectious disease in dogs, and seniors are especially susceptible. The problem begins when plaque and tartar accumulate on teeth, harboring bacteria that can infect gums and roots. If left unchecked, chronic infection of the oral cavity can spread bacteria to the bloodstream and infect major organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs. A professional dental cleaning is the only method to restore dental health and alleviate pain.
Four basic wellness tests are used to diagnose the health of your pet.