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 important 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 to your dogs needs.
5. “How’s my dog’s food?”
Decoding pet-food labels can be tough, and sometimes picking up a 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 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 you 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 uralysis 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--more or less--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 because early diagnosis is such 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 you vet’s methods, making you a better caretaker in between visits. Look and feel across your dog's body on a relugar basis 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, its very important that you 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 condition, 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.
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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.