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Celebrate seniors...Duke

Hi! It’s Sue here, long time reader, first time blogger! I was asked to contribute my own recent senior dog experience as we are celebrating seniors for the months of November and December.

“oh, she/he’s just getting old”…..

We hear this often at the front when a client mentions that their pet is slowing down, limping, eliminating, inappropriately etc. And, recently, with my own 15 year old dog, my family and I were having the same thoughts.

It’s kind of amazing to read that Duke is 15! Where does the time go? He has been a mainstay in our family since his rescue 10 years ago. Duke has been with us through many changes including a new grandson! 10 years……Anyway, I digress.

For a 15 year old gentleman Duke has been doing relatively well. Of course at 15 there are bound to be some issues and he has been dealing with some hip/knee problems. We have managed to keep him comfortable with medications such as Metacam and Gabapentin.

However, lately we were noticing some bigger changes in his activity level as well as shifts in behaviour. Also Duke has always been a very good eater, so when he was reluctant/unable to eat, it was a huge red flag that his health was seriously declining. It was to the point where we were starting to have discussions as a family whether it was time to say goodbye to our boy.

After much heartfelt discussion, we felt it would be best to run some diagnostics to see if there was anything we could do. So into work he came….

Dr. Stapley Chase recommended we do a senior bloodwork panel and urinalysis to start. To our relief, both came back relatively normal! The first hurdle was cleared.

Upon full physical examination, there was some pain detected, (both in his joints and his mouth) so the next step was xrays. Duke is not the easiest patient to work with (but hey we need to cut him some slack as he’s 15, hard of hearing and doesn’t see too well) so to do xrays or look in his mouth would require sedation. This way Duke’s stress level could be kept to a minimum for the procedure. One little roadblock was that Duke has a heart murmer, so we needed to run an EKG first.

Once again, xrays and EKG showed some changes, but nothing too alarming for a 15 year old dog, all of which made us happy, but I was still concerned that once his mouth was open they would find something terrible going on.

The sedation made it easier (and much safer!) to get a look at his mouth. But yet again, while there was a fair amount of tartar, there was nothing abnormal seen.

Let me tell you, all this happy new is great, but it begs the question, what is going on with Duke??? Well diagnostics is like a puzzle in that you have to put all the pieces together, so we were just missing that crucial piece.

We decided to have one of our awesome technicians Teresa clean the tartar from his teeth. And lo and behold there was the missing puzzle piece! Behind a back molar was something hard and black wedged up under the gum! When she chipped it away (never did figure out what it was, but he is a scrounger) it became obvious that the tooth was decayed and Dr. Pat extracted it.

And now, thanks to the good care and concern he received, he is back to his bouncy, sometimes cranky, 15 year old self!!

Duke’s story is probably more involved than most senior pets, but what I’m really trying to convey is that changes may not always be put down to “just old age”. They can be signs (subtle or severe) that something is happening and an examination by your veterinarian could be the best thing you could do for them.

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