Recent life stage guidelines by the AAFP and AAHA (American Association of Feline Practitioners and American Animal Hospital Association) emphasize the importance of a thorough consultation and physical exam at all dog and cat life stages. Visit frequency and testing recommendations should be adjusted as your pet ages. Senior and geriatric pets should be seen at least semi-annually to allow for earlier intervention of chronic disease.
Laboratory testing (including complete blood count, chemistry panel, urinalysis, and infectious disease screening) is one of the best methods to identify some common medical conditions that may not be identified through a history and physical exam alone. Recent studies have demonstrated the widespread presence of laboratory abnormalities in healthy-appearing dogs and cats.[2,3]
As pets age, organ systems often begin to deteriorate due to factors such as genetics, breed, or their environment. Often, the exact cause of age-related illness is not determined. The good news is that many of these diseases can be effectively treated and monitored with early diagnosis. These include (but are not limited to):
“Patient trending” throughout the pet’s life can be very useful in predicting disease — as opposed to waiting for the pet to become symptomatic — and to test for severity of disease. With patient trending, the veterinarian performs diagnostic tests regularly over the life of the pet to look for subtle changes, such as changes in kidney values that may indicate early disease prior to elevations beyond the reference interval. Intervening earlier may allow for improved longevity and quality of life.