what should an annual check up for older dog include? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 08-14-2007, 04:13 PM - Thread Starter
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The title says it all...if you take your dog (esp. older) for annual check ups (physical exam, heartworm check, rabies vax, etc), what is the scope of the visit, and about how much does it cost?

Does your dog get a blood pressure profile? Blood work? Twice yearly de-worming (without signs of worms)?

I've been going to a new vet for about a year (b/c of a move), and at each of the two annual check ups we've been to, they've pushed a lot of preventive care that I don't think is necessary. They say my dog (12 y.o GSD) looks great for her age, her teeth are great, she acts younger than she is, they can't believe she's 12. They then proceed to tell me that there are so many things they can catch early if they do blood workup, blood pressure, etc. to the tune of several hundred more dollars. They can catch a crisis early before it's a crisis...but at 12, there's going to be something that ends her life. If/when she gets a fatal illness, I plan of course to make sure she's comfortable, but not extend her life by months just becuase we can. So a huge workup to see if anything is wrong, when she has no symptoms, seems useless, right?

Also, do you give your dog a preventive de-worming med twice a year if the dog has no signs of worms? My dog has never had worms in the 11 years I've had her, she's mostly inside or in our pretty sterile suburban fenced yard, with no other dogs. She's not at high risk for worms, why start treating something that's not there? When I tell the vet that, she looks at me like I have two heads and I can just imagine what she's thinking about why can't I just be a good complient little client.

I'm thinking of switching vets, but wanted a sense of what is reasonable. Am I on track here or just fussy becuase I miss our old vet?
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#2 of 7 Old 08-14-2007, 04:29 PM
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Vets are geared toward curing disease and preventing death. That's the whole culture. So they can't imagine why you wouldn't want to know if your dog has a thyroid issue (and by medicating you can get her another year), or if her heart is getting enlarged (and by medicating you can buy her six months), or whatever. If you do not share that philosophy, which is absolutely acceptable and doesn't make you in any way a less than perfect owner, just refuse the profiles. You're absolutely right that at her age the routine care is not going to make THAT much of a difference--six months or a year at the outside, if something is found--and the end-of-life care you'd give her would not change. As long as she is happy and not in pain, you have no obligation to treat her as though she's a ticking time bomb.

And no, we don't routinely worm. I don't know very many vets who do, actually. We bring in a fecal sample if we want to know if worming is necessary.
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#3 of 7 Old 08-14-2007, 04:35 PM
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When our older dog got regular geriatric check ups it included the usual physical exam and we did blood work. But our dog was not in good health. He had a bad case of arthritis and was on medication for it so just like my dh's cardiologist likes to keep up on his liver enzymes due to his meds, we did the same with our dog.

We don't give meds without a medical need. We don't worm our dogs on a schedule either. We don't even do fleas meds because I haven't ever had a flea problem in the 10 years we have lived in the desert. I'm more interested in vets that practice evidence based medicine than in following an arbitrary schedule.
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#4 of 7 Old 08-14-2007, 06:14 PM
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Well our situation is a bit different now, as our oldest dog has been diagnosed with a problem which we are currently treating to extend her life (the treatment is not particularly costly in our opinion). She seemed like a super healthy and surprisingly active dog even at her 13 year check - but she went downhill in a 6 month period.

Prior to this problem being diagnosed we hadn't done enough preventative tests in my opinion and we then went on to have our younger (only 10 instead of 14 like the older one!!) dog tested semi-extensively to see how he was doing overall. Thankfully he's in good shape for now! (I'll note that our 8.5 year old white shepherd passed away in his sleep completely unexpectedly the day our oldest dog was diagnosed with kidney failure - so we are probably more paranoid now than would be normal)

I think preventative tests are a good idea if they will diagnose things that are treatable and not more costly than you are able/willing to pay. For example, our dog has chronic kidney failure and her main treatments at this point are two types of medicine and a special diet. She also requires more vet visits than she used to. We are more than willing to pay for this as long as her quality of life is maintained.

I don't think you need to do major bloodwork or testing too often - maybe every 2-3 years in the early years and probably yearly after 10 years of age. Our dog was really, really sick because we didn't see symptoms of her disease until it was quite advanced. She would have done better if we'd done testing and caught it earlier.

Still, ultimately if you feel the vet is pushing expensive testing for no reason (we don't bother with the de-worming either) then you should certainly consider a new vet. Having a good vet is really important!

Laurie wahm (virtual paralegal) of 3 wonderful boys (11, 9, 5). 1st by c-section for breech, 2 by VBAC (one miscarriage between child #1 and #2).

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#5 of 7 Old 08-15-2007, 12:51 AM
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ABand3, It is a good idea to get a baseline panel while your dog is healthy rather than wait until a crisis. I would recommend a chemistry panel, complete blood count (CBC) and Thyroid. We don't do heartworm checks every year because our animals are on preventative year-round. We only need to worm for tapes once or twice/year but the cats need every 3-4 months (hunters that bring 'gifts' to the dogs). My vet could care less about fecals unless the owners suspect something or the vet wants one for diagnostic purposes. Oh yes, I would also recommend a thorough gross examination.

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#6 of 7 Old 08-15-2007, 12:12 PM
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I would suggest doing the bloodwork, it can catch a LOT of things before they become a serious problem. The deworming is optional imo, especially if your dog is on a heartworm preventive that has an intestinal dewormer in it.
I have worked with 7 different vets and each one is totally different. I worked with one vet that wanted to do EVERYTHING possible, just to be safe, even if it was really necessary. If that's not the kind of care you want for your pet, I would change.
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#7 of 7 Old 08-15-2007, 12:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for the feedback - it makes me think I should consider doing the bloodwork - but, I really need to talk to DH and decide what we're willing to do in terms of medication and treatment if something is found. I'd rather not know something is brewing if it means then we'll have to make an angonizing decision about how much we can afford to pay to delay something that might be fatal anyway. The dog seems happy and not in pain, so I really hesitate to open a can of worms. I will think on it more though, based on everyone's advice.

I do think I need to find a new vet though, one who seems a little more open to clients being informed and refusing testing. I just don't click with who we have - I need a good ol' country vet, who's ok with animals being animals, not the posh vet now where people are willing to pay big bucks for every possible treatment.
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