To get the most out of every trip to the vet, you might find that preparing questions can make each visit more successful and informative. Preparation can be even more crucial when you have a senior dog. As you probably know, older dogs face a higher risk of disease, and with more complicated health comes more complicated health visits. Make sure you hit these basic questions to prepare your senior dog for any visit to the vet.
#1 “How’s my dog’s weight?”
This question is important at any age because a healthy weight is so important for a healthy body. Still, weight loss or weight gain can be a symptom of age-related diseases like Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, bladder stones, congestive heart failure, and diabetes. Even if your dog’s weight change isn’t related to a disease, a healthy weight can still affect cardiovascular, bone, and joint health.
#2 “How are my dog’s hips?”
Did you know that your dog evolved in the wild to hide their pain as a survival mechanism? This means your dog may be covering hip dysplasia and arthritis symptoms, making diagnosis very tough. At the very least, asking your vet to assess your dog’s bone health will ensure that your dog is getting the care they need, and if you're lucky, your vet will probably be able to help you learn how to discern the subtle signs of joint pain. Osteoarthritis in the knees can eventually lead to hip trouble, as can crepitus or the buildup of air where it shouldn't be due to bone damage.
#3 “How’s our exercise routine?”
Regular exercise can help keep arthritis, congestive heart failure, and obesity at bay. Still, if you haven’t adjusted your senior’s exercise routine to their body’s needs, you may be putting on too much stress. Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine a healthy plan for your dog.
#4 “Does my dog need a supplement?”
After your vet has assessed the state of your senior’s health, they will be able to determine which, if any, supplement is right for your dog. For instance, joint supplements can significantly increase your dog’s comfort level if they’re struggling with arthritis. Rather than have you pick and choose, your vet may be able to recommend you a specific supplement that more closely suits your dog's needs. In terms of supplements, your vet might suggest the Diamond dog food, especially the Diamond Naturals dog food for senior dogs.
#5 “How’s my dog’s food?”
Decoding pet-food labels can be tough, and sometimes picking up dog food from the “senior” section isn’t enough to meet your dog’s needs. If you bring in your dog’s food bag, your vet will be able to assess whether your regular or senior dog food meets your senior’s health needs or not.
#6 “What vaccinations are appropriate for my dog?”
Did you know that your dog needs to get vaccinations their whole life? Did you also know that some veterinarians actually believe we’re over-vaccinating our dogs? The best vaccination plan is one that you discuss with your vet so you can tailor it to your dog’s age, health needs, and lifestyle.
#7 “How’s my dog’s urine?”
It may sound like a funny thing to ask, but many age-related diseases, like bladder stones, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, cystitis, or UTIs, affect the way your dog pees. Having a conversation about your dog’s potty habits can help determine whether a urinalysis should be performed or not. In addition, how much your dog urinates can indicate to your vet the possibility of certain diseases such as cancer, kidney disease, or diabetes. If you've noticed a change in how much your dog urinates, talk to your vet about it.
#8 “Does my dog have any tumors?”
Fifty percent of all dogs over ten years old will have cancer at least once in their lifetime. Because the early symptoms of cancer can be subtle and early diagnosis is a big part of a successful prognosis, asking your vet to feel for tumors is good practice. Having the conversation will also allow you to watch and learn from your vet’s methods, making you a better caretaker in-between visits. Look and feel across your dog's body regularly and bring any new lumps or bumps to your vet's attention. Many times a lump will simply be a benign cyst, but it's always better to know.
#9 “How are my dog’s teeth and ears?”
Did you know that periodontal disease is the number one ailment to affect senior dogs? For this reason, you must take preventative measures and talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s dental health.
Ear infections are the second most common issue that vets see in their offices. Asking your veterinarian to inspect your dog’s ears will prevent any hearing damage that an ear infection might cause by catching the ear infection early enough for successful intervention. Additionally, hearing your vet check your dog’s ears will ensure that your dog’s hearing is still strong.
#10 “Should we do a blood check?”
Some vets recommend that senior dogs receive a blood test every 6 to 12 months. This will allow your vet to analyze your dog's complete blood count, blood chemistry, and thyroid and could help catch early signs of kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes. You'll be glad to get a treatment or prevention plan in place right away.
10 Questions To Ask Your Vet About Your Senior Dog at Your Next Visit
Senior dogs have special needs, and asking the right questions at their annual vet visit will ensure that all bases are being covered. Since geriatric dogs are at a higher risk for disease, you’ll want to not only ask about their current health but also about what you can do to prevent and identify future problems. Here are the top 10 questions you should be prepared to ask the vet about your senior dog.
#1 “Is my dog a healthy weight?”
This question should really be asked at any vet visit, regardless of your dog’s age. Of course, with an older dog comes higher health risks, so be aware of any significant weight gain or weight loss, as it could be symptomatic of hypothyroidism, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, congestive heart failure, bladder stones, or diabetes. A healthy weight is also important for a senior dog’s joints, dog bones, and cardiovascular health.
#2 “Is my dog’s food OK?”
Many owners of geriatric dogs pick out their dog food brands by selecting a bag labeled “senior” and calling it a day. While many foods formulated for senior dogs will be perfectly fine for yours, others might not meet their specific nutritional needs. Bring a bag of your dog’s food with you to the vet, and they will let you know if you can keep feeding it to your dog or if you need to make a switch.
#3 “Is our exercise appropriate?”
Exercise can help keep senior dogs from developing arthritis, congestive heart failure, and obesity. However, your dog’s exercise routine will likely change as they get older, and they may not be able to be as active as they were once. Ask your veterinarian to recommend an exercise routine that is appropriate for your dog.
#4 “Do the hips look OK?”
Because dogs evolved to hide their pain as a survival mechanism, there may not be any signs if your senior dog is suffering from arthritis or hip dysplasia. Osteoarthritis in the knees can ultimately result in hip problems, as can crepitus, which is a buildup of air where it should not normally be. Your veterinarian will give your dog a once-over to assess their bone health and provide tips on detecting joint pain even if your dog is trying to hide it.
#5 “Could supplements benefit my dog?”
Supplements can work wonders on several health conditions that plague senior pets. For example, the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin can help relieve joint discomfort and slow the progression of arthritis. After your vet has examined your dog, ask if they would recommend any supplements or senior food. The Blue Buffalo Dog Food senior formula could be something they might suggest in terms of senior dog food.
#6 “Is my dog’s urine OK?”
This everyday act can say a lot about your dog’s health. Dogs who begin urinating more or less may be suffering from a condition such as kidney disease, cancer, or diabetes, and many age-related diseases such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, bladder stones, urinary tract infection, and cystitis can all have an effect on how your dog urinates. Talking to your vet about your dog’s peeing habits can help in determining if a urinalysis or other testing is needed.
#7 “Does my dog have tumors?”
Cancer is not uncommon in senior dogs. In fact, fifty percent of all dogs over the age of ten will have cancer at least once. The initial symptoms of cancer can be difficult to spot, but asking your vet to check for tumors at each visit will help in early detection. That can benefit your dog’s chances of survival. Watch how your vet examines your dog for tumors so that you can do it at home between visits. Many lumps and bumps felt on senior dogs will end up being benign cysts, but it is better to be safe and contact your vet for a final diagnosis.
#8 “Are my dog’s teeth and ears OK?”
A dog’s dental health can impact their overall wellness, and periodontal disease is the number one condition affecting senior dogs. Talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to keep your dog’s teeth and gums clean or how you can treat an already infected mouth.
Ear infections are the second most common health problem treated by vets. Most veterinarians will check your dog’s ears as part of the physical examination, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. When your vet checks your dog’s ears for infection, they will also be checking their hearing, which can get worse with age.
#9 “Is blood work needed?”
Many veterinarians recommend that senior dogs get blood tests every 6 to 12 months. These tests allow your vet to examine your dog’s blood chemistry, blood count, and thyroid condition. Regular blood testing can also help to identify kidney disease, liver disease, and diabetes before they become severe. As with many other things, prevention is often the best treatment.
#10 “What vaccinations does my dog need?”
Most dogs will receive vaccinations when they are puppies and then continue getting boosters for the rest of their lives to keep the vaccines effective. Of course, not all vaccinations are appropriate for all dogs, so ask your veterinarian what is right for your senior.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.