As veterinary professionals, we see dogs at all stages of life, from puppyhood all the way to geriatric. As your pet ages, he or she may be more likely to develop certain medical conditions. With medical testing, several treatable conditions may be detected prior to clinical signs or severe illness.
When is a good time to begin testing your pet annually?
It is important to more closely monitor dogs as they enter the geriatric stage of life. Onset of older age in pets depends on genetics, body weight, and breed. Generally speaking, small breeds tend to live longer than large breeds. However, genetics can greatly modify this tendency in some dogs. Obesity can greatly shorten an animal's lifespan as well.
The following information is offered as a guide and is not true for every dog:
Small Breeds (up to 25 lbs.)
Average lifespan: 13-15 yrs.
Geriatric age: 9 yrs.
Medium Breeds (26-50 lbs.)
Average lifespan: 12-14 yrs.
Geriatric age: 9 yrs.
Large Breeds (51-100 lbs.)
Average lifespan: 11-13 yrs.
Geriatric age: 8 yrs.
Giant Breeds (100 lbs +)
Average lifespan: 8- 12 yrs.
Geriatric age: 7 yrs.
We recommend annual medical testing for dogs beginning at 8 years of age for small, medium and large breeds. Testing for giant breeds should begin at 7 years of age. Tests include complete blood count, blood chemistry profile, urine analysis, and electrocardiogram. The doctor will decide if any further tests would be indicated after examination.
EXPLANATION OF MEDICAL TESTING:
COMPLETE BLOOD COUNT
Checks red blood cells for following conditions:
- Anemia: decrease in red blood cell number
Causes: Kidney disease, Immune system disease (lupus, auto destruction of red blood cells, platelet deficiencies or destruction, cancer), vitamin deficiencies, gastric or intestinal hemorrhage, slowly bleeding internal tumors.
- Leukocytosis: elevated number of neutrophils
Causes: Systemic bacterial infection or inflammation in the body, leukemia (bone marrow cancer), immune system disease.
- Leucopoenia: decreased number of neutrophils
Causes: Systemic viral infection, leukemia (bone marrow cancer)
- Thrombocytopenia: decreased number of platelets, which are needed for blood clotting, and could cause severe anemia.
Causes: Autoimmune disease (lupus, cancer, unknown causes)
- Lymphocytosis: increased number of lymphocytes
Causes: Viral infection, leukemia (bone marrow cancer).
- Lymphopenia: decreased number of lymphocytes
Causes: glandular diseases, stress syndromes.
Blood is centrifuged to separate out and remove serum for testing. Serum contains chemicals which can be measured to determine if internal organs are functioning normally. The following are some of the tests performed:
- Blood Urea Nitrogen - Kidney function test
- Creatinine - Kidney function test
- Blood Glucose - Diabetes test, or pancreatic tumor
- Electrolytes (Sodium/Potassium) - May reveal glandular disorders
- Thyroid Test - Hypo or hyperthyroidism (16% of older dogs are hypothyroid)
- ALT, AST, ALK, Bilirubin - Liver enzymes; may be elevated from liver disease
- Amylase - May be elevated from pancreatic disease
This test may reveal abnormal heart rhythms which are not always detected with a stethoscope. Underlying heart disease may be detected and treated prior to clinical symptoms.
Urine is very helpful in assessing kidney function. It can also be helpful in diagnosing diabetes and urinary tract infections.
This is a routine screening test for intestinal parasites. Many dogs have parasites without clinical symptoms. Some animals have occasional intestinal problems, and some have chronic problems.
X-Rays will sometimes be recommended for certain breeds susceptible to heart disease, or abdominal tumors.
Results of testing will be discussed in detail. A written report of all tests and any recommendations for further testing, medical treatment, and or nutritional modification will be forwarded to the pet owner.