Many dogs begin to encounter age-related physical changes between seven and ten years of age. Senior dogs should receive semi-annual examinations, so that disorders can be found and treated early, and ongoing medical conditions can be evaluated. We may recommend additional diagnostics, such as bloodwork, urinalysis, blood pressure readings, or radiographs to monitor your pet’s health. This care is necessary to keep your senior pet in the best possible health for the longest possible time.
Comprehensive Health Evaluation
Comprehensive semi-annual health evaluations are critical to the long-term health and well-being of your pet in his or her senior years. Because pets age faster than people, major health changes can happen quickly, especially in senior pets. Semi-annual exams can help us find small problems before they adversely affect your pet’s health. This evaluation will also include a nutritional and weight assessment, discussion of any behavior issues, and a dental evaluation.
Vaccinations protect against preventable infectious diseases and help your pet live a long, healthy life. We take your pet’s lifestyle and risk into consideration when developing a vaccination schedule so that your pet does not receive any vaccinations that he or she doesn’t need, but ensuring protection against contagious diseases that are preventable. We prefer to schedule vaccine boosters on a rotating schedule for most patients, providing a lighter burden on the immune system.
Rabies: This vaccine protects against a fatal disease that can be transmitted to humans. Rabies has been detected in foxes, coyotes, and bats in Oregon, and all counties in the state require that dogs be current on their rabies vaccination. The first rabies vaccine protects dogs for 1 year, and subsequent vaccines provide protection for 3 years.
Leptospirosis: This vaccine protects against a life-threatening bacterial infection that is transmitted by the urine of many species of wildlife (squirrels, opossum, raccoons, rats and mice, and sea lions). It can be transmitted by ingestion or through small abrasions in the skin, and can be transmitted to humans. Oregon and Washington have experienced increasing numbers of cases in the past 5 years, including cases in city dogs who were presumably infected by urban rats and mice. We follow the recommendation of the State Veterinarian of Oregon and recommend this vaccine for all dogs. Two initial booster vaccines are required, then annual vaccination thereafter.
Bordetella: This vaccine protects against kennel cough and is recommended for all dogs who go to doggie day care, dog parks, groomers or boarding facilities. The intra-nasal vaccine provides immunity for 1 year after a single administration. We also carry the injectable vaccine, but it needs to be boosted in 3-4 weeks when administered for the first time.
We follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for at least annual deworming of all dogs, both to protect dogs, and also their owners from internal parasites that can cause severe disease, including blindness in children and adults. We use an oral medication called Drontal Plus which treats roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. Many monthly heartworm preventatives treat most of these internal parasites, except tapeworms. Your veterinarian may recommend annual deworming even if your dog is on a monthly heartworm preventive, based on his lifestyle or if he has a history of having fleas (which are part of the tapeworm lifecycle).
Annual Intestinal Parasite Screening
We recommend annual internal parasite screening for all dogs. We test for hookworm, whipworm, roundworm, plus protozoa coccidia and giardia, which love to infect standing water in our wet weather (and which our routine dewormers don’t treat). When we also recommend annual deworming, we wait two weeks to have you submit a fecal sample for analysis, so we can ensure the effectiveness of deworming. Dogs with heavy loads of internal parasites may test positive for hookworms, roundworms, or whipworms, even after receiving a broad-spectrum dewormer.
Annual Heartworm Testing
Heartworms are spread by infected mosquitoes, and the number of cases in the Portland metro area is on the rise. Dogs traveling to Southern Oregon, California, and Hawaii (or elsewhere in the US) have an even greater chance of becoming infected. Heartworm disease is fatal if left untreated, and treatment can be both painful and expensive. We follow the American Heartworm Association recommendation for monthly prevention and annual testing of all dogs, which involves an inexpensive blood test.
Just as our physical exam is used to evaluate your pet’s health, blood and urine testing provide an exam of your pet’s internal organs, and can help uncover underlying medical problems that may not be obvious from the physical exam. Baseline testing at 7 years of age followed by annual screening can help us monitor your pet’s health, and allow us to catch illnesses early, before it’s too late. Depending on your dog’s health status and use of prescription medications, your veterinarian may recommend annual, semi-annual, or quarterly screening labwork to monitor your pet’s organ function.
Monthly Flea Prevention
We recommend monthly flea and heartworm prevention for all dogs year-round. We offer a variety of preventives, and can make a recommendation for a product that will best suit you and your pet based on lifestyle and preferences. We carry the following products:
Heartgard Plus—oral prescription product that prevents heartworms and treats some internal parasites (roundworms and hookworms). It is a soft flavored chew, and does not need to be given with a meal. This product requires a negative heartworm test annually.
Comfortis—oral prescription flea preventive that kills fleas very quickly (within 4 hours of administration), and the main ingredient is used in organic farming. It is a flavored pill that must be given orally with a full meal.
Frontline Plus—over-the-counter topical flea preventive that kills fleas within 12 hours of administration.