Pets face a variety of disease processes as they begin to enter their mature, senior, and geriatric years. Some common diseases include: arthritis, dental disease, and cataracts. These illnesses are often spotted by owners at home who notice their older dog is no longer climbing the stairs, or while snuggling their cat they notice bad breath. If not noticed by the owner, a veterinarian will, in most cases, find these problems on annual physical exam. However, there is a large list of common diseases that elderly pets face that are not as easily detected from the outside. These illnesses can greatly impact the quantity and quality of later years of our senior pets.
Riverside Small Animal Hospital has put together a longevity program for pets over the age of seven years. The longevity program includes a physical exam but also includes the all-important blood work and urinalysis panel. This panel gives the veterinarian a chance to see what is going on inside the pet’s body and will often reveals clues to early stages of disease that otherwise would not have been detected on physical exam. Blood work can reveal information about the health of the kidneys, heart, liver, and endocrine system. Disease effecting these systems include diabetes, hypo and hyperthyroidisim, pancreatitis, cancer, renal, heart, and liver failure.
Our story this month is about a feline named Jazzy. In October 2010, Jazzy’s owner brought, the then, nine year old Jazzy in for a wellness screen with Dr. Matt Nicol. On physical exam Dr. Nicol noted that he had moderate tartar and plaque on his teeth and was overweight. Dr. Nicol discussed the benefits of running a senior panel and Jazzy’s owner decided to go ahead with it. The veterinary technicians at the clinic collected his blood and urine and ran it in the in-house laboratory. Dr. Nicol was able to have almost all the results within twenty minutes and the results for the thyroid test in half an hour.
Jazzy’ s lab work came back almost completely normal, except for his kidney values. The laboratory equipment showed that Jazzy’s creatinine was mildly elevated. When he checked the urinalysis results Jazzy’s urine was more dilute than it should have been. These were signs of early renal insufficiency. Dr. Nicol was then able to formulate a plan to help prolong the health of Jazzy’s kidneys. The first step was to place him on a low protein veterinary diet. Next, he recommended continuing to monitor Jazzy’s kidney values for any change so that if necessary appropriate medication could be implemented. Twice a year for the following years Jazzy has had his kidney values checked and over time not only did Jazzy’ s creatinine levels stabilize, but they improved slightly. Though his renal insufficiency has not been cured the veterinary team and Jazzy’s owner were able to slow the progression of kidney disease to allow Jazzy to live a longer, healthier life, and minimize the use of medications.
Without performing the wellness screen Jazzy’ s renal disease would not have been diagnosed until he’d become very sick. Often, patients with untreated renal disease are only diagnosed when they are losing weight and have advanced disease. At the visit wher Jazzy was diagnosed, he had actually gained weight since his previous visit, which would have left no clues for a doctor performing a physical exam. With the knowledge of Jazzy’s renal insufficiency his owners are now equipped with information to care for him into his senior years. Jazzy’s family repeated the complete senior panel again this year to ensure no other problems were arising. Now twelve years old Jazzy is stable in health and his family are looking forward to many more happy years with him.