Vet Care For Older Dogs


Regular professional vet care for older dogs is essential to their health. Preventive veterinary care can add years to the life of your dog and help keep it happy and healthy for as long as possible.

Because many of our pets are living longer, the earlier the diagnosis of a disease can be made and treatment started, the better the outcome. Many animal clinics and hospitals have also developed special preventive care programs for older animals. Treatments can include combinations of various diagnostic tests including blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays, and EKGs. Your veterinarian can tell you which tests are pertinent for your dog.

Your dog’s life-long health is partially determined by the health of its father and mother on the day it was conceived. Vaccinations, nutrition, dental care, heartworm prevention, and other treatments your dog has received throughout its life have a direct impact on its current health. The healthier a dog is when young, the more likely it will stay healthy as it grows older.

Weight management and diet
Your dog should be weighed at every visit to your vet. Unusual weight gain which can lead to obesity is one of the most common and preventable diseases in older dogs. And an unexplained weight loss may be the first sign of a disease. Your vet can recommend which foods and supplements your dog should be fed based upon his weight, health, and breed. The digestive systems of older dogs do not handle sudden changes in diet very well. If your vet recommends an adjustment in diet, make any changes slowly over the course of a week or longer, gradually replacing the old diet with the new one your vet has recommended.

Medical and behavior history
One of the main ways your vet will use to determine if your dog has contracted a disease is through the use of an accurate medical history. For this reason it is important to monitor your dog and keep accurate records of any sign of disease and unusual changes in behavior . Your vet will ask questions such as ”When did this symptom first appear?”, ”Is it getting better or worse?”, and ”Is the dog demonstrating the symptom at all times or intermittently?”. These are questions that only you will be able to answer. If you are not sure whether certain behaviors or observations are indicative of a disease, be sure to mention them to your veterinarian.

Physical exam
Older dogs should receive regular physical exams. How often these exams should be scheduled depends upon the health of your dog. At the very least, your dog should have an annual physical. For some older dogs, two or more exams a year may be indicated. A physical exam should include an examination of the mouth, teeth, gums, tongue, and throat. A rectal exam is also an important part of a physical exam for an older dog. Your vet will examine the inner pelvic area, internal lymph nodes, the lining of the colon, and in the male dog, his prostate gland.

Ophthalmic exams
As dogs grow older, eye exams are also recommended. Older dogs are more at risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma, and ”dry eye,” a condition in which there is insufficient tear production. Ophthalmic exams will help identify these problems and may prevent permanent damage to the eye.

Vaccinations
Because the immune system of an older dog may not function as well as it did during the dog”s younger years, it’s important to keep your dog up-to-date on all vaccinations. Ask your vet which vaccines your dog should receive, and how often.

Urinalysis
Many veterinarians will recommend a urinalysis for older dogs. A urinalysis encompasses a series of tests which provide an abundance of information for the vet in determining a dog’s health. A urine sample is usually easy to obtain, and the test results are quickly available to the vet. If you notice any changes in the color, odor, or amount of your dog”s urine, or any difficulty urinating, it is important that a urinalysis be performed.

Blood count
There are many blood tests that can be performed on your pet. The specific tests needed will be recommended by your veterinarian. In addition, a chemistry panel may be run to evaluate the various chemicals, enzymes, proteins, hormones, waste products, and electrolytes in your dog’s blood. The chemistry panel is a valuable tool in identifying diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and several hormonal diseases.

Thyroid testing
Thyroid testing may also be recommended by your veterinarian, based upon the results of the physical exam, the breed of your dog, and any signs of thyroid hormone deficiency or excess. Dogs who need to take thyroid medication will need to have their thyroid hormone levels checked at regular intervals.

X-Rays
If your dog has a history of heart, lung, kidney, liver, or gastrointestinal disease, x-rays may be recommended. As a dog grows older, it is helpful to have available an x-ray of the chest and abdomen taken at an earlier date while the dog was in prime health. If the dog later develops signs of disease, these ”normal” x-rays are valuable in providing a baseline by which to evaluate the x-rays taken after a disease process has started. In most cases, a dog who has or has had cancer will have x-rays taken, especially of the chest, to look for any spread of the disease.

Vet care for older dogs is far more important that it is for puppies or young adult dogs. Older dogs need regular veterinary care to prevent disease or diagnose it at its earliest stage. Many veterinarians have special programs to monitor dogs in their later years of life and can institute changes to keep your dog healthy and make his senior years a wonderful time of life.

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I used to joke that when Hudson became randy towards other dogs, both male and female that it was the French part of the Pyrenees coming out in him. He has that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ that no canine can resist.  
So I could find no Christmas gift more befitting to him than a ‘Whoopie Pie’ especially since they’re everywhere up here in New England and not surprisingly, Hudsy snarfed it up.  
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Bad News: Charlie the AmStaff Could Be Euthanized as Early as New Year’s Day

It’s the end of the year — but apparently not the end of stereotypes against certain breeds of dogs. The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office is refusing the save the life of Charlie, the American Staffordshire Terrier who was sentenced to death after attacking a U.S. Park Service police horse in August. That means Charlie, who had no previous incidents of aggression, could be euthanized any time after New Year’s Day.

AmStaffs, as they’re known, resemble Pit Bulls, and we’d really hoped that the year after the death of Lennox — a dog put to death in Northern Ireland only because he looked like a Pit Bull — would bring a change in government’s inability to look beyond breeds and to the individual dogs in question.

On Dec. 27, Deputy City Attorney Margaret Baumgartner rejected an offer from Charlie’s owner, David Gizzarelli, to remove Charlie to his Los Gatos home and rehabilitate, train, and practice extreme caution with him. Baumgartner offered no specifics.

“The city will not return Charlie to Mr. Gizzarelli as it does not believe that there are any restrictions that would adequately protect the public safety,” she wrote.

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Illustration by Morgan Spicer

Baumgartner and all other city officials have refused for weeks to respond to media questions about the case. The rejection means that Charlie's life can be taken as early as Jan. 1. Gizzarelli and his attorney, John Mounier, will appeal the ruling at a hearing tentatively set for today. 

The case against Charlie is riddled with problems. San Francisco euthanizes only about 10 dogs a year, most of whom have a long history of aggression or have killed another dog or seriously injured a human. None of those standards applies to Charlie, who was 18 months old at the time of the attack, had no history of aggression, and had never seen a horse before. 

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Charlie as a younger dog.

In addition, evidence suggests that U.S. Park Police Officer Eric Evans, who was riding Stoney the horse, misrepresented and exaggerated numerous facts during a hearing on the incident. And despite the weak and insufficient evidence submitted against Charlie, San Francisco Police Officer John Denny ordered Charlie's euthanasia without considering any options for restrictions such as "red tagging" the dog, a common requirement in San Francisco that would have required Gizzarelli to place a visible tag on Charlie and post warnings on his home. In addition, Charlie would be required to be leashed and muzzled in public for three years. 

According to Mounier, it is also problematic that Denny investigated the case, presided over the hearing, and ordered Charlie’s death.

“He’s wearing two hats in this case,” Mounier told the San Francisco Examiner. “In every other aspect of society, that’s wrong.” 

Unofficially, the city and county of San Francisco has offered to spare Charlie’s life if Gizzarelli agrees to give up ownership of his dog and pay for his rehabilitation. Charlie now requires behavioral rehab because he has been confined to a small kennel since Aug. 23, surrounded by kennels containing truly vicious dogs. But the city has offered no specific reasons for confiscating Charlie.

Gizzarelli has no history of mishandling or mistreating his pet. He has acknowledged his responsibility for the Aug. 6 attack and agreed to pay the $ 1,200 veterinary bill.  

The city has not only refused to explain its unprecedented harsh stance against Gizzarelli, but it has also launched a whispering campaign to besmirch his reputation. The city attorney’s office released documents to  reporters outlining an argument Gizzarelli had with his stepfather in July that resulted in mutual threats of violence. Gizzarelli was arrested, but no charges were filed. 

In addition, there are questions about an Animal Care and Control report that claims Charlie showed aggression toward an employee in July, the month before the attack. The report is extremely irregular in that it states in capital letters that Gizzarelli was not to be told of the incident.

If the city failed to warn Gizzarelli about the alleged aggressive behavior, they denied him the opportunity to exercise caution with Charlie -- and then the city might be responsible, to some degree, for the attack on Stoney. 

Gizzarelli said the city’s proceedings against Charlie have been unfairly biased.

“ACC and the city of San Francisco stack the deck against Charlie and any other dog or guardian they take a disliking to,” he wrote in a letter to Mayor Ed Lee and ACC Director Rebecca Katz. “The system is rigged and does not offer a fair and impartial chance to a dog or to a guardian.”

More than 109,000 people have  signed a petition calling for Charlie's life to be spared. Follow the Help Save Charlie Facebook page for up-to-date information; we hope to report back with good news for Charlie and Gizzarelli.


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