Dr. Ryan Ridgway | Southwest Mobile Pet Care
Annual medical exams are important in maintaining good health and are often forgotten as many veterinarians have moved away from annual vaccinations. A year to our pets is much longer when you compare their lifespan to ours, and a lot more can change in their health in that time. For them, an annual exam is the same as a person going to their doctor every 5-10 years. As our pets age, annual exams become much more important so we can pick up early signs of age-related diseases.
Thanks to advancements in pet care and veterinary medicine, our pets are living longer than they ever have. Because of this, diseases due to age that were not common previously are being seen more often, the same as we see in people. These include kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis to name a few. Sound familiar? How about mammary tumours and prostate cancer?
Annual exams are extremely important for detecting disease in its early (and more treatable) stages. With age, your pet’s organs, such as the liver and kidneys, begin to lose their ability to function from normal wear and tear. Most age related diseases develop slowly over time and only become readily apparent once the damage is severe. For many pets, these diseases are only picked up once the organs have failed enough that other signs such as hair loss or increased urination is noticed. Unfortunately, at this point our treatments are generally aimed at reducing the symptoms and preventing damage to the functioning parts of the organ. If it had been caught earlier by running medical tests, preventative measures could have been put in place and risk factors could have been minimized which would have slowed the progression and in some cases prevented the failure.
Your veterinarian and their staff are integral team members in your pet’s health. They have the expertise and education to ensure your pet is as healthy as possible. By thinking about the questions I outlined in a previous article before your pet’s annual visit, you can help your veterinarian determine any diagnostic tests that should be run before the disease gets too advanced. The earlier we are able to diagnose age-related diseases, the better; our treatments for age-related diseases generally rely on preventing damage to the healthy organs, rather than reversing it. So you can see why we would want to start treatments before there is too much damage.
Once your pet reaches their middle age, approximately 5-6 years depending on the breed, your veterinarian will likely begin promoting blood work, just like your doctor does for you. For wellness monitoring, blood and urine tests monitor your pet’s kidney and liver function as well as blood sugar levels. Annual blood work in older pets is the best way to make sure we get preventative treatments on board to maintain the organ’s health rather than dealing with symptoms. Not only can this save you expensive veterinary bills because your pet has to be hospitalized, but we can delay the onset of age-related diseases and in some cases, prevent them entirely.