Dogs age faster than humans. As I discuss in another blog, small dogs add 4 years for every human, calendar year while large dogs add 8 years for the same time period. This accelerated aging means problems can develop faster, seemingly overnight, and progress faster than the same problems in humans. Chronic kidney, liver or heart disease can start younger and progress faster. Cancer can develop, grow and spread much faster than our own.
Like in human medicine, scientific advances are providing better treatments so dogs can have a high quality of life with diseases once thought to be a “death sentence.” Even certain cancers, when diagnosed early, can now be managed as chronic diseases.
The key to improving the quality of life is early diagnosis. Early diagnosis allows more flexibility for treatment. Holistic and natural approaches are more likely to help when started early. Because of their accelerated aging, well dogs should be given a thorough physical exam by the veterinarian at least twice yearly, not once a year as recommended for humans. They should have urine and lab work performed yearly after 5 human years of age to detect changes in vital organs and blood cells. X-rays every 2-3 human years can pick up signs of early arthritis, back problems and changes of internal organs. More frequent monitoring of your dog’s weight and assessment of her nutrition program can improve life quality. We now know that dog’s maintained at a fit body weight live almost 2 years longer than unfit dogs. You and your vet can design and monitor a nutrition program to keep Fido fit!
Taking your dog to the vet only when it is scheduled for vaccinations, generally every 3 years, may delay the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that could have been found earlier. This decreases the success of medical intervention. Prevention and early detection are always cheaper than treating advanced problems.
Dogs with existing medical problems should be seen 3-4 times yearly and have more frequent lab, x-ray or ultrasound monitoring. Detecting early changes in the progress of the disease allows treatment changes that can slow the progression and increase life quality. Diets for medical conditions change can be tweaked to better manage the condition. The pain associated with arthritis and the skin and ear infections caused by allergies can be controlled better by starting proactive, preventative treatments before dogs are limping or constantly scratching and creating infected sores on the skin.
As we seek a better quality of life for ourselves, we naturally want to do the same for our dogs. Seeing the vet more often is an excellent start.