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Vet Tips: What to expect at your senior dog’s veterinary exam


Here’s what you can expect from your dog’s veterinary exams when he is a senior. Check out our guides to what to expect from your puppy’s vet trips and your adult dog’s visits.


Meet Elton, a Jack Russell Terrier mix, at Friends For Life in Gilbert, AZ.

Senior-dog exams
(7 years and older):

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that senior dogs see a vet twice a year. But since smaller breeds generally live longer than larger breeds, different dogs are considered “seniors” at different ages. Work with your vet to determine what preventative care is best for your dog as he gets older.

With senior dogs, “blood work becomes increasingly important,” veterinarian and Pawcurious blogger Dr. V tell us, “because problems like kidney disease or liver disease may show up on blood work well before the pet is showing clinical signs of disease. Older pets are also often arthritic, and while those signs may be subtle, there is a lot your vet can offer to help your pet age gracefully and comfortably.”

Basic senior-dog exams usually include:

  • A full physical examination
  • Stool check for parasites
  • Vaccinations
  • Possible heartworm test and preventative
  • May also include blood work, radiographs or x-rays, urine testing, and more

Questions to ask the vet:

  • Is my dog the right weight?
  • Does he need all the vaccines he got when he was younger?
  • Are there any side effects of the vaccinations or heartworm preventative?
  • Does my dog need a professional dental cleaning or any tooth extractions?
  • If a procedure is necessary, what are the risks of anesthesia?
  • What websites do you recommend as a trusted source of information? (This can be especially important if your pet has just received a new diagnosis.)
  • Is my dog slowing down because of age, or could he have arthritis?
  • Should my dog go out more frequently to use the bathroom?
  • Is there anything I can do to help my senior dog get around better?
  • Should I change my dog’s diet or are there any supplements you’d recommend?
  • Is there anything I should be doing to keep my dog comfortable in the summer or winter?
  • Is there anything I can do to reduce my dog’s risk of cancer? Are there signs I should watch out for?
  • When should my dog come back for his next exam?

Learn more about caring for your dog during all stages of his life.

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More Vet Tips entries:

What to expect at your adult dog’s veterinary exams

What to expect at your puppy’s veterinary exams

Five ways to keep your cat calm at the vet

10 easy steps to get your cat to like — yes like — his cat carrier

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Article: Does My Senior Pet Have Dementia?

Article: Age-Related Health Problems by Breed

Article: Caring for Your Senior Dog

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