Why early detection testing is very important for your senior dog

One of the biggest challenges of dog ownership can be identifying when your precious pet is unwell. Since he can’t verbally tell you he is feeling sick or has been injured, your dog is relying on you to detect changes in his physical appearance or behavior that indicate he needs medical attention. However, before you get to this point he will probably try to mask his illness. This isn’t because he doesn’t want to get better. Instead, it is a natural instinct that ensures that he doesn’t appear vulnerable. This instinct is so strong that it prevails even when there is no threat present.

The importance of early detection testing

However, as with all health conditions - however serious - early detection and treatment can significantly improve the outcome of your condition. In some cases, it can even save the life of the sufferer. This is just as true for your dog and one of the main reasons why veterinary early detection testing is recommended for canines, regardless of their age.


Nevertheless, wellness checks and early detection testing is especially important for your senior dog. This is because, like us, your older canine will be at increased risk of ill health as he ages due to the natural deterioration of his body and the way that it functions. Some of the natural physical changes to dogs that occur with age include to the:

  • Digestive system

  • Endocrine system

  • Nervous system including brain changes

  • Cardiovascular system

  • Musculoskeletal system

  • Skin and nails


While many of these changes, such as memory loss, poor hearing and lung volume decrease are unavoidable and untreatable, the deterioration of your senior dog’s immune system means that he will also be more susceptible to other, potentially serious health problems. They could also progress significantly faster and cause more damage to your older canine’s body. Many of these, such as diabetes and arthritis, can be effectively manage. Others, such as cancer, will require prompt action and treatment. By ensuring that your dog undergoes early detection testing which could pick up any potential health problems before they can progress into something severe, you could help ensure that your furbaby enjoys comfort and the best possible health in his remaining years.

What is included in early detection testing?

Early detection testing should be done on a regular basis throughout your dog’s life. During his adult years this will normally be an annual event, but as your dog gets older, your vet will almost certainly recommend that you visit for wellness tests at least every 6 months. Monitoring your older dog’s health on a regular basis makes it much easier for your vet to detect any minor changes that might signal the onset of disease, or the deterioration of an existing health condition.


Your senior dog’s early detection testing will typically include 4 main types of testing:

  • A complete blood count (CBC). This looks at how many red and white cells are present in his blood. Too few red blood cells indicate anemia, while a high white cell count would suggest his body is already fighting disease.

  • A biochemistry profile. This primarily checks the balance of chemicals in his blood to see how his organs and body systems are functioning.

  • Urinalysis. Your dog’s urine can tell your vet about his hydration level, as well as about kidney, liver and bladder function.

  • Thyroid hormone testing. Dogs are more likely to develop thyroid problems as they age. This test will check for hypothyroidism.


In addition to the tests listed above, your vet will also perform a thorough physical examination of your dog. This nose to tail check will allow your professional to spot changes that might indicate a problem, such as cloudy eyes, swollen joints or abnormal lumps and bumps. Together with the results of the internal tests, this information can be used to monitor your senior dog’s health and track anything concerning so that it can be acted upon promptly, if necessary.


If your senior dog has not having regular early detection testing, it is important to begin this as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment for early detection testing at our veterinary offices in Nashville, TN, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.