Is my dog really a senior?

I’d like to introduce you to my handsome boy Lycan. He’s a sheltie that is as cuddly as he looks, and is great with my two kids. I’ve had him since he was a puppy and he was the perfect addition to our family. Even though I work as a technician I still feel bad when I have to take him to the vet. But once again it’s that time of year. Lycan and I head to the Vet’s office for his routine exam and vaccines. As Lycan and I make our way to the exam room with the technician I try to remember all those questions I had wanted to ask the doctor. The visit started with the normal questions about how he’s eating and drinking, if he’s vomiting or having diarrhea issues, and if I had any concerns that I’d like to talk to the doctor about. It wasn’t until after I answer the technician’s questions that she drops the bomb, the senior bomb. She started by saying, “Now that your pet is considered a senior…”, I had to stop her there.
“My dog is NOT a senior yet!” The technician reminded me that dogs that are 7 and older are considered seniors. No, my dog cannot be 7 can he? I start to think about when his birthday is and just how long I have had him, when the truth finally hit. Lycan IS a Senior. When and how did that happen?

Still in a bit of a daze, the tech began to discuss all the recommendations of care for a senior pet. Like the need for exams every 6 months. Since things can change very quickly in senior pets, seeing a patients more frequently gives the Veterinarian a chance to pick up on things earlier and to split up the diagnostic recommendations that come along with a senior pet’s care.

There would also be diagnostics that need to be done for Lycan. The technician explained the importance of yearly bloodwork and what it includes: a complete blood count, a blood profile, a thyroid level, and a urinalysis. I know from my own experience that the main reasons for the bloodwork is to check for kidney or liver disease, diabetes, and thyroid issues. By knowing this information we can hopefully catch issues early and get started on the correct treatment path to stop of slow down the disease. Hearing this about your own pet though is a bit scary.

The next recommendation is checking a blood pressure, obviously they would be checking for high blood pressure which can become a problem in senior pets. Chest radiographs are next on the list, this will allow the Vet to evaluate my pet’s heart and lungs. Heart disease can be common in older animals. An IOP is also recommended. What is an IOP? IOP stands for Intra Ocular Pressure. It checks the pressure in a pet’s eyes as an early test for glaucoma. Finally an ECG (an electrocardiogram) which checks for any abnormal rhythms of the heart.

WOW! The technician was not kidding when she said she would be discussing a lot with me, I haven’t even seen the doctor yet and I’m already starting to feel overwhelmed. The technician assured me that everything did not need to be done today and that the veterinarian would discuss a plan with me about where to start and how to proceed with the senior workup.

The technician asked if I had any questions. “Yeah I have questions! just none that I can think of or process right now.”

When the Vet came in and started her exam, I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t really paying attention. Instead I was imagining all the horrible things she was about to tell was wrong with my poor, dear Lycan. As she went through her exam she began to alleviate some of my anxieties. As she checks eyes she told me they looked good. She was starting to see some age related changes,but that was completely normal, his ears were clean, his teeth could use a cleaning, but she didn’t feel anything unusual with his neck, his belly, or when she listened to his heart.

As she did some stretching moves with all his legs she asks me how Lycan was moving around, if I was noticing any changes at home. I immediately answer NO, but she mentioned that she was getting some resistance on the exam of his hind legs that could be subtle signs of arthritis. I finally told her that I have noticed him moving slower when getting up from a laying down position. Why couldn’t I just say that before I don’t know. Maybe because I’m still in denial that my pet is a senior?

After she checks everything out, she goes over her findings. She talks to me about starting a joint supplement to support the joints and to slow down progression of any joint issues. She recommended starting with the senior bloodwork for now and then we could discuss the need for further diagnostics once we got the results back.

Working in this field you don’t always realize how stressful it can be to think of your pet getting older. Lycan is such an important part of my family that I didn’t even want to consider the fact that he was getting older, and that with age comes age related problems. Everything I knew as a technician went out the window when I heard he was seven. It made me feel better though to have that exam and to hear that he was still as healthy as I thought he was, and that he’s only now just starting to show signs of arthritis and getting older. It helped also to have a plan. I found myself curious about the results of the bloodwork.

In the end, Lycan went home with a joint supplement, a little bandage from the blood draw, and lots of treats. I left the vets office with only one thought, “I can’t believe my dog is a senior!”