When it comes to figuring out when your dog’s officially a senior, the “7 human years to 1 dog year” ratio we’ve all heard about can’t be taken literally, since size, breed type and other factors influence the aging rate. However, with that in mind, many vets recommend beginning senior screenings around age seven to eight to establish baselines and catch potential health problems that may not yet have surfaced.
These baseline tests include complete blood counts (chronic inflammatory conditions, platelet problems, anemia and some cancers), serum chemistries (diabetes, liver conditions, kidney impairment, digestive problems, hormone imbalances) and urinalysis (kidney function and bladder health). Specialized screenings—EKGs; chest X-rays; and thyroid, glaucoma and blood pressure tests—are also available and are sometimes recommended, depending on your particular dog’s type and history. Establishing baselines helps your vet more easily detect potential problems as your dog ages.
Vets also recommend paying increased attention to the standard “maintenance” issues, including dental care, diet and nutrition, and weight and parasite control. If you haven’t already done so, talk to your vet about vaccinations. Depending on your dog’s lifestyle and local legal requirements, it might be time to reduce their number or frequency. As much as possible, keep your senior sweetie active and engaged in daily living. And finally, switch from an annual to a twice-a-year exam schedule—dogs can develop problems more quickly as they age, and a health issue that starts within a few weeks of a routine vet visit could develop into something more serious by the time the next annual exam rolls around.