Pets are a lifelong commitment. Your commitment includes helping your pet age gracefully. Although many owners will claim their pet died of old age, it was often complicating factors that arose during their senior years. Arthritis, heart disease, hyperactive thyroid, and liver or kidney disease are health conditions commonly seen in senior patients at Wags and Whiskers.
Arthritis in Senior Pets
When you bring your pet in for their updated Rabies vaccination (required by Illinois law), Dr. McFarland has the opportunity to complete a brief exam upon the patient’s presentation for the vaccination. Upon physical examination, Dr. McFarland will visualize any stiffness or muscle wasting. Both of these symptoms characterize a patient with arthritis. Pain from arthritis and slowing down does not have to be a normal part of a patient’s aging process. For more information on Joint Care, please see our July blog.
During the physical exam, Dr. McFarland always listens to a patient’s heart; if she hears a heart murmur, she will note it on the patient’s chart. Upon hearing a heart murmur, Dr. McFarland will ask the client to describe changes in the patient’s behavior or physiology. For example, patients with heart disease will sometimes cough and/or have an intolerance to exercise. They may also be restless and unable to sleep comfortably. A swollen abdomen, decreased appetite, and decreased water drinking could also be present in advanced heart disease. When Dr. McFarland hears a heart murmur, she always recommends chest radiographs. Chest radiographs are a valuable tool. They are a tool to determine the type of heart disease the patient is suffering from and the severity of heart disease. To read more about heart disease in cats please see this article: Heart Disease in Cats.
To read more about heart disease in dogs please check out this article: Heart Disease in Dogs.
We have several prescription medications at Wags and Whiskers to help manage heart disease. When well-managed, patients can have a normal, active life.
Hyperthyroidism in Cats
Palpating a cat’s neck is also part of Dr. McFarland’s routine in a vaccine exam. She is checking for an enlarged thyroid gland along the cat’s trachea. When she finds a cat with an enlarged thyroid gland or a heart murmur, we recommend screening for hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is the overproduction of thyroid hormone. Too much thyroid hormone can cause a cat to lose weight, vomit, and have an unkempt, greasy hair coat. Dr. McFarland will require bloodwork to determine the level of excess hormones circulating and the proper medication dosage.
Senior Pet Blood Work
Although the doctor can observe some symptoms of the above-listed problems through physical examination, most other issues must be diagnosed or ruled out through a bloodwork screening. Senior bloodwork will provide Dr. McFarland with a lot of information about your pet’s health. Bloodwork will provide:
- A complete blood cell count.
- Electrolyte levels.
- Circulating thyroid hormone levels.
- Values that assist in determining the health of other internal organs.
Senior bloodwork is recommended annually for any pets above the age of 7.
Wags and Whiskers are committed to helping your pet age gracefully. We want you to get as many healthy years out of your furry family member as possible. Preventive care is the best medicine. It is important to find problems in their early development. Please call us today to schedule an exam for your senior patient!