Senior Dog issues, does it warrant an old age panel/xrays - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-06-2015, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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Senior Dog issues, does it warrant an old age panel/xrays

I haven't been on here in some time. I have some concerns about my Meika, who is now 10 yo.
Recently, as in the past 3 months, she has been putting up her hackles more and more. Just walking to the back door stimulates her to put her hackles up. She has also had some fecal accidents while rising up from a laying position a few times. This week she has been trying to chase the cat, odd behavior for her. She even will slide on the tile, falling on her side trying to catch the cat. She seems "out of sorts", confused; almost puppy-like and clumsy.

Vet had me add the typical Rimadyl for any possible hip pain. I am assuming pain is causing her hackles to go up? Has anyone experience this with their dog? Should I insist on an old age panel and further exploration? Vet said give it a week or so.

Am I overreacting with my obviously aging dog?

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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-07-2015, 01:41 AM
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No. Get them done. I am still bitter towards my vet that didn't recommend x rays for sailor. I feel like they are partly responsible for his death. I didn't even know x rays were an option for a dog as part of preventative care. No vet ever told me. Then one day. BAM! Sailor died. IF I had been like "okay sailor is getting older, let's do some x rays to make sure everything is okay" he might still be here today. I could have done the x rays,seen that there was something wrong, and started treatment. He was older so it's not like he would have lived forever, but he could have lived another year or two.

I strongly believe it should be a requirement for all vets to present the option of x rays to a client when their pet becomes a certain age.

Anyway, yes, go ahead and do it, whether something is wrong or not. Your dog is a senior, and it's a smart idea to get it done to make sure their health is on track. Don't let the same thing that Hapenned to me happen to you and your pup.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-07-2015, 10:36 AM
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I think every senior should get blood work very regularly. We did it twice a year for my last senior dog, once he became elderly. I would also x-ray any senior limps, imbalances, or other issues--as you never know what you're going to find in a dog advanced in years.

Here's an example: I had a 12 y.o. dog with known hip arthritis in the rear from a previous xray who started limping suddenly in the front, and the vet said "probably elbow arthritis, given his age, and we could xray to be sure; it's very likely just going to show arthritis, but if we xray, we'll at least have a baseline to start with to see if it gets worse over the next 6 months or year." So we x-rayed. It turned out to be osteosarcoma (bone cancer).

In your dog's case, with some new physical behaviors, I would definitely want full bloodwork (with thyroid), and a physical exam (to look for the reason she's leaking poop), including ortho exam (clumsiness). Let the good, thorough ortho exam dictate where you xray.

Last edited by Magwart; 03-07-2015 at 10:38 AM.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-07-2015, 10:51 AM
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By the way...

I'm generally a supporter of sticking with a vet who's known the dog it's whole life. BUT....I want a vet who is proactive and aggressive about inquiring into anything wrong with my seniors--and my vet knows I'm willing to pay for that. All vets have to strike a tough balance with clients between trying to save them money where it can be reasonably saved and appearing money-motivated recommending every test under the sun. That balance is esp. hard with senior care, as it gets expensive very quickly. It may be time to have a talk with your vet about the level of care you want and are able to pay for to keep your senior dog at optimum quality of life.

Your vet may be going far to one side of that cost spectrum because he thinks saving money is what you want. In other words, he's trying to provide good customer service based on what he knows about his client, or based on other similar clients in his practice. He needs to hear from you that you are willing to be aggressive with care, and ready to take on the cost.

My vet knows if there's a differential that's scary in his mind, I want to test for it and rule it out, and I never complain about the cost of good care--so he talks with me about those differentials, and the value of the testing options. We've had that conversation, through two different senior dogs with cancer. Try opening up the dialogue with your vet about the quality of senior care you want and are willing to pay for, then let him or her take it from there.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-07-2015, 12:26 PM
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This is what my vet missed by not recommending x rays. Super enlarged heart and massive fluid in the abdomen and all over. I would have seen this starting in Sailor's body and been able to do something. If money allows, please please get the x ray's. It can save you a world of hurt later on. Trust me.
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Last edited by BARBIElovesSAILOR; 03-07-2015 at 12:28 PM.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-07-2015, 12:36 PM
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From what it sounds, it sounds like there is something going on with nerves more than just pain. Pain can cause physical reactions, but the fecal incontinence, the ataxia. I definitely would be doing bloodwork more often than not with a senior. And I do agree with being more aggressive with diagnostics. ****, I get paranoid about all kinds of things with my dogs now. With as much as hemangio gets goldens, I'm almost tempted to start ultrasounding my golden every year now that he'll be five soon. That is a bit overdoing it, but you sadly never do know. :/

With younger dogs, I am more willing to try things in stages. With older dogs, you are dealing with the slow accumulation of how the body has been aging on top of potential of things suddenly growing or not functioning well. The liver won't recover as easily, the kidneys have dealt with years of filtering and usually aren't as good as they were. You can have things change within months instead of years once they get older. Things to think about.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-09-2015, 05:35 PM
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When it comes to the senior Hooligan's medical care, I've learned the hard way to have a thorough physical (including full body x-rays, blood/urine tests, etc) done once a year and sometimes a check-up 6 months later. I've had a few guys who lost control of their bowels which was always caused by a physical problem.

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-09-2015, 06:46 PM
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GSDs do not last forever. It is sad, but the average lifespan has gone from 12-14 down to 10-12, which means that we know some live to 13 or 14, but many die at 9 or even 8.

It is questionable what types of treatment and surgeries we should subject an elderly dog to. If we are not considering the companion we have raised for many years, it is easy to say we would not put the dog through a procedure that will require significant recovery or pain with a limited prognoses, possibly to eek out a few more months of life.

We are almost guilted into going to any expense for our dogs, when sometimes the kind thing to do is to wait until the quality of life is poor and then ease the ending as a final gift to our beloved companion.

But that doesn't mean there is no merit in diagnosing what is going on with our dog within reason. With a proper diagnosis and some understanding of the condition, we can make the best decisions for our dog. With complete information, we can find the best supplements, pain medications, therapies to make their last years with us more comfortable.

Vets take a lot of heat. The vast majority of pet owners want them to be thorough, and not to break the bank doing so -- not necessarily in that order. If a vet suggests a variety of senior care preventative tests, the general public tends to think they are just trying to get the most out of the old dog. And when a vet sees a dog with a problem that 90% of the time or better is a specific problem and treats for it, with the understanding that the owner should let them know within so much time, whether the dog is doing better, if it turns out to not be what the vet thought, the vet takes a hit.

Really, we have to be proactive. If we want bloodwork and x-rays, we should flat out say it, and not take no for an answer. If a vet won't do it (why wouldn't they?) then go to another. But I don't think it is helpful at all to blame a vet after the fact, if there were tests that could have been run and not run, probably to save the owner money -- that is how a good portion of veterinary medicine works. The vet ought to provide you with possibilities of what might be going on, and choices -- whether to run extra tests to have extra confidence in a diagnoses, or to start a therapy and use results or lack of results to determine the next step.

The choice is really ours. And our vets should not be faulted for not aggressively demanding we follow one course or another. They are our like our VP in charge of heathcare, but we are still the president of the company, and we need to take the info the VP gives us and make the decision. That is on us. It is also on us to determine whether or not our VP is doing the job the way we want it done. Waiting for the company to fail, and then pointing the finger at the VP is not good management.

That is the beauty of sites like this. There is probably someone or several people out there that have seen what you are seeing, and can give good advice that we can share with our vets. Sometimes, yes we have to go back and say, I want you to run this panel, or let's discuss this possibility. GSDs are a common breed with a lot of health issues related to the breed, but we really cannot expect vets to be 100% versed with all the hundreds of breeds out there, and what problems are most likely with respect to breed.

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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 03-09-2015, 09:22 PM
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I don't think you are overreacting, personally I would wait the week out like the vet said (unless it gets worse) then if no improvement I would get tests done to figure out what's going on. You never know, your girl may still have many good years left in her. I thought when Shasta was 10 we were close to the end, now she's 15+ and still doing well. Good luck and I hope your girl improves
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 04-11-2015, 08:09 AM
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Helpful. My 12 year old is limping. The vet put her on Rimadyl but did not take an x-ray. since the limping is continuing, I will take her back for an x-ray.

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