Senior Pet Care Programs

Our Senior Care Program is a formal program that is designed to help our clients provide the best possible healthcare for their pets as they get older. We are recommending the same types of things that we as veterinarians, technicians, and front office support staff members feel strongly about doing for our own pets (i.e. regular check-ups and testing and prompt medical treatment for any problems that we find). We all recognize that pets are a very important and well-loved part of the family. We want to keep them happy, healthy, and with us as long as we can. Through our Senior Care Programs, we can help you provide the same for your pet.

Frequently Asked Questions

At what ages are dogs considered to be in the senior category?

The age varies primarily based on the size of the dog. Once your pet reaches senior age category, more frequent visits to the hospital for examinations are indicated. This will be addressed as you bring your pet into our hospital for visits. Dogs are considered “seniors” at the following ages: 20 pounds or less at 8 years, or 20 or more pounds at 7 years.

At what age are cats considered to be entering their senior years?

7 years.

Why is it important for older pets to be examined and tested more frequently than younger animals?

As your pet ages, just as occurs in humans, many of their normal organ functions gradually begin to decline. Their eyes, ears, heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys may start to function less optimally, and this can lead to significant medical problems. It is more difficult for older pets to fight infections, and problems such as arthritis frequently set in. It is ideal for older pets to have their owners and veterinarian work closely together to find and treat problems as early as possible. It is our goal with the Senior Care Programs to help you identify your pet’s medical problems as early as possible. With early diagnosis, just as is true for medical problems in humans, we have a much better chance of success. We want to keep you and your pet together for as many years as possible!

How can I best tell how old my pet is in human years?

The first year of your pet’s life is roughly equivalent to about the first 15 years of a human, and 2 pet years are equal to about 24 human years. After that, each year for a pet is equivalent to 4 human years. This age comparison table provides general age comparisons:

Dog/Cats Human
1 year 15 years
2 years 24 years
4 years 32 years
7 years 45 years
10 years 56 years
15 years 76 years
20 years 96 years

What types of tests are done in the Senior Programs?

There are three different levels of testing. All three programs include a thorough consultation during which your veterinarian will discuss various health issues with you regarding your pet. The consultation is followed by a thorough physical examination. Various lab tests and, in some cases, radiographs (x-rays) and an electrocardiogram (ECG) are done as part of your pet’s overall evaluation. These tests vary among the various program levels and your veterinarian will help you decide which program will best suit your pet.

What types of things will be discussed during my pet’s routine health check consultation?

These issues include questions and discussion about the following:

  • Any Signs of Possible Medical Problem – Vomiting, change in water consumption, change in urination, stiffness, or decreased activity
  • Nutrition – Is your pet eating the correct food for his or her age and condition?
  • Behavior Issues – Is you pet still mentally sharp, or do you notice any signs of dullness, decreased recognition of you or surroundings, aggression, etc.?
  • Vaccination History
  • Preventative Health Programs – Heartworm tests, fecal exams, etc.
  • Any other pertinent points that you feel are important and would like discussed
  • Any recommendations for follow-up health care will be made after the consultation, examination, and lab tests have been evaluated.

What are some of the things that a veterinarian looks for on physical examination of an older pet?

Below are listed, by area, some of the changes that your veterinarian will be evaluating as the physical examination is performed on your senior pet:

  1. Eyes – Vision quality (normal, decreased, absent), clouding, redness, discharge, evidence of decrease in tear production, squinting, eyelid tumors, swelling around eyes
  2. Ears – Redness, discharge, pain, abnormal odor, growths
  3. Mouth – Evidence of dental or gum disease, broken or painful teeth, growths on the gums or around the tongue, color of the mucous membranes
  4. Nose – Presence of abnormal discharge or swelling
  5. Heart – Presence of murmur (soft, medium, or loud)
  6. Breathing – Normal? Rapid? Labored?
  7. Abdomen – Enlarged organs (liver, kidneys), internal growths, pain, fluid
  8. Skin & Hair – Dryness, flaking, abnormal odor, hair loss, infection, skin tumors
  9. Bones & Joints – Pain, difficulty in rising, limping
  10. Body Weight – Normal? Below normal? Overweight?
  11. Attitude – Depressed? Disoriented?

Can’t I just wait until my pet gets sick before I start having tests done?

This is not a wise approach, because the more advanced a problem becomes, the more difficult it is to treat successfully. Early detection of a condition is always the best approach. Often your pet will show only subtle signs to something that may be of great concern.

How frequently should senior pets be examined by a veterinarian?

It is best that your senior pet be examined at least twice a year. This is so that a physical examination and discussion of your pet’s condition can be performed. Remember that your pet will age at a faster rate than you will! Examining your senior pet twice a year is similar to you going to your physician for a check-up every 2 years. We recommend that blood and urine tests be performed once a year for your senior pet unless otherwise indicated.

Contact us for more information on the types of medications that we offer.

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West Des Moines Office


8:00 am-6:00 pm


8:00 am-6:00 pm


8:00 am-6:00 pm


8:00 am-6:00 pm


8:00 am-6:00 pm


8:00 am-12:00 pm