All pets need routine preventive healthcare to stay in tip-top shape, and to catch diseases in the early stages before they become an issue. As your furry friend ages, she needs an extra boost to remain healthy. Although age is not a disease, medical conditions arise more frequently in older pets, which makes biannual physical exams important for staying on top of any problems. 

Let’s see how routine preventive care enabled Leroy the elderly Labrador to live a long and happy life. 

Leroy the elderly Labrador

Although Leroy’s spirit was as exuberant as ever, his body couldn’t keep up anymore. As the frigid Idaho winter gripped the region, Leroy’s joints ached more and more. With increased pain came decreased activity, and Leroy began to gain weight.

Leroy’s suffering attracted the notice of his owners, who realized that Leroy’s slowness when trying to rise was caused by more than old age, and they scheduled an appointment to pinpoint the cause of his pain.

During Leroy’s exam, our veterinary team scored his body condition as an 8 out of 9, an increase from his 6 out of 9 score six months ago. Also, his fur was thinning, his hair coat was generally dull with flaky skin, and the brightness in his eyes seemed dimmer. Overall, Leroy was a pathetic pup.

Leroy was 8 years old, so our list of possible diagnoses was short. He looked like a textbook case of canine hypothyroidism, with the signs of weight gain, hair loss, dull hair coat, flaky skin, and mental dullness. He also appeared stiff and uncomfortable when rising and lying down, and he was slightly lame when he walked, suggesting osteoarthritis, a common disease in older pets. 

Based on our physical exam findings, we recommended further diagnostic testing. To see how we could best treat Leroy’s stiff gait and discomfort, we took X-rays of his spine, hips, and knees, and discovered that his hips were the main reason for his pain. His spine also had mild osteoarthritis signs, but both hip joints showed dramatic bony changes, degeneration, and inflammation. While we couldn’t cure Leroy’s osteoarthritis, we could manage his discomfort and work to preserve his remaining joint cartilage.

In addition to Leroy’s less-than-stellar X-rays, we learned that he suffered from a low thyroid hormone level, along with high cholesterol. For whatever reason—usually immune-mediated or because of thyroid gland atrophy—Leroy’s thyroid gland wasn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, so we prescribed a thyroid supplement to help boost his metabolism, which hypothyroidism affects.  

To help Leroy feel like a young pup again, we formed a plan for managing his osteoarthritis pain and obesity, in addition to his thyroid supplementation. We sent him home with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to combat pain, joint supplements to preserve cartilage, a prescription diet to help shed pounds and support joint health, and the thyroid supplements. We also scheduled Leroy to return for stem cell therapy, an innovative regenerative treatment that promotes new growth and healing in damaged tissue.

Leroy was like a new dog at his progress visit. He entered our hospital with a spring in his step, and when he hopped on the scale, we saw he had lost a few pounds. Leroy was on the right track, with a new lease on life. Over time, his hair grew back, his stiffness dissipated, and his weight was relatively ideal. 

How a routine exam helped Leroy

Without these medical care measures, Leroy would have suffered and continued to decline. Routine wellness exams and preventive care help extend senior pets’ lives, and increase their comfort and quality of life. Remember, age is not a disease, but it does come with many manageable medical conditions. 

Age-related diseases can be subtle, making signs easy to miss. We recommend wellness exams with baseline blood work every six months to monitor your senior pet’s health. Call us to schedule your pet’s preventive care to ensure you enjoy many happy years together.