Senior Siberian Husky Screening
When a Siberian Husky reaches the age of 7 to 8 years, your veterinarian may recommend a senior screening testing program. One dog year is approximate 7 human years, so your pet is approaching “middle age”. By performing a simple blood and/or urine test, medical problems can be identified months or years before the owners notice the disease. These tests can have life-saving consequences if discovered and treated early.
Siberian Huskies have a genetic tendency to get certain diseases more frequently than other breeds. These disorders include liver disease, hypothyroidism, arthritis, and some autoimmune related disorders. It is important to include tests for liver disease and hypothyroidism on any senior screening test. If your dog is taking any of the newer nonsteriodal (NSAIDS) anti-inflammatory drugs, it is of utmost importance to test the liver and kidney enzymes two to three weeks after starting the drug and then every six to twelve months thereafter. These drugs can increase the liver and kidney values with severe consequences. If you are planning to start these drugs, blood test before you start them and/or one to two weeks later while on the drug. These drugs are wonderful in reducing pain, and like all drugs in these categories, need to be monitored. If you veterinarian does not blood test, it is your job to insist on liver and kidney testing of your pet. Examples of the new anti-inflammatory drugs include Rimadyl, Metacam, EtoGesic, Dermaxx, and Zubrin.
Most senior blood screens include a package of basic tests. These include a CBC (complete blood count), a biochemical profile (checks the liver and kidney values, blood sugar value, protein levels, calcium level, cholesterol reading, and electrolytes), urinalysis, thyroid test, and a fecal exam. Other additional testing may be recommended including a blood pressure check, electrocardiogram, and X-rays of the chest and abdomen to evaluate the organs for any signs of enlargement or cancer. Even though this sounds like a lot of expense, most veterinarians will have a senior care package, which includes the basic bloodwork, thyroid screen, and urinalysis from $125.00 through $200.00.
All older intact male dogs should have an annual exam that includes a prostate and testicular evaluation. Females should have a breast exam to check for mammary cysts and masses, especially if they are not spayed or were spayed later in life. Male and female reproductive organs can become cancerous later in life, and an annual exam is of utmost importance. Cancer of the testicles can produce subtle changes, such as an uneven size of one testicle when compared to the other. Another common finding is an unusual hardening of one testicle when compared to the other. If this condition is found, your veterinarian will most likely schedule a castration to remove the testicles followed by a biopsy of the organ.
Heart disease, although very common in most breeds of dogs, is not a major concern in the Siberian Husky as a group. Older dogs can develop heart murmurs, hypertension, and congestive heart failure that need to evaluated through chest X-rays, blood pressure screenings, electrocardiograms, and ultrasounds. Cardiac drugs made for people can be used on dogs with specific diseases, which can dramatically increase their longevity and quality of life.
All senior pets should have an oral exam to check the teeth for periodontal disease and the surrounding tissue for tumors. Problems in the mouth tend to increase in severity as the dog ages. Oral infections caused by abscessed teeth can cause severe infection and inflammation in the mouth, which can cause spread of bacteria to other parts of the body. In dogs, periodontal disease is a risk factor associated with heart, kidney, and liver disease. Bad breath is evident and the dental and gum disease is easily seen on exam. Dogs can experience dental discomfort that may or may not be seen by the owner. The risks of anesthesia rarely outweigh the benefits from performing a dental cleaning with needed extractions in the older patient.
Lastly, be sure to have an eye exam done to check for any abnormalities including cataracts, glaucoma, and eyelid tumors. Siberian Huskies and other northern breeds have a genetic tendency to acquire glaucoma and cataracts at any age.
By having some basic screening tests preformed on your older Siberian, you may be able to extend the life of your pet by detecting disease early and starting treatment before the disease is evident.