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Caring for Our Senior Citizens

Published on October 1, 2015

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I have several pets at home – what veterinarian doesn’t? Each of these animals is special to me. I am a big advocate of preventative care with all my pets which include a yearly exam, urinalysis, and blood work. One of my dogs is a very handsome and distinguished older gentleman named Thorin.  He has been perfectly healthy his entire life, but as he ages I find myself more and more anxious about his health. I have found small masses and growths that terrify me. Every time he coughs I assume it’s cancer in his chest, and diarrhea usually means the beginning of inflammatory bowl disease or colon cancer. The logical part of me knows I’m probably overreacting, but the mother in me is apprehensive.

As a veterinarian at Pender Exotics, I have the unfortunate luxury of seeing some scary diseases seemingly come from out of nowhere. Our pets are much more stoic than most people and generally hide signs of sickness or pain (especially exotic animals). Because I have seen the worst, I do sometimes assume the worst with my own animals.

With all this knowledge and some common sense I try to find a balance when treating my own pets.  I weigh the invasiveness of the test versus the possible benefits and associated risk. Now that Thorin is older I do yearly chest x-rays and ultrasounds. Neither of these tests is very invasive. For me, the benefit of finding a tumor before it spreads or diagnosing early heart disease is worth the cost. I feel the same way about blood work. When he was younger we performed yearly blood work. Now that he is a senior citizen, I get a full senior panel every 6 months. Organ function can change slowly, and I may not see any change in his behavior, but a blood panel can tell me a lot. The hard part will be, inevitably, when I do find something abnormal. Do I want to put him through an invasive surgery, start life long medications, or do my best to keep him comfortable?  This is a hard decision to make and would have to be based on the severity and long term prognosis of the disease. His happiness and quality of life is all that matters to me

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Article by: Dr. Carroll

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