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Felix Adamo/ The Californian

Columnist Sherry Davis.

I routinely take my dogs in for yearly check-ups, but I was sort of dragging my heels at getting Frank's done this year.

At seven years of age he is one of the healthiest dogs I've ever owned, but he is now considered a senior.

Studies have shown that as many as 23 percent of senior dogs that appear healthy upon physical examination have an underlying disease, and variables such as genetics, nutrition and environment all contribute to how a dog will be influenced by the aging process.

Since a couple of the tests I routinely have done were included, I decided to take Dr. Julie Mischke's recommendation and do the "Senior @ Seven Wellness Exam" on Frank. This exam includes laboratory tests so sensitive that they can detect the onset of diseases and conditions early, when treatment and prevention are most effective.

As well as a routine exam of his teeth and gums, eyes, ears, skin, coat and heart, Frank's exam included:

* Complete blood count

* Fecal exam

* Serum chemistry profile

* Heartworm testing

* Complete urinalysis

* Thyroid hormone levels

* Cocci serology for valley fever. (I had this done as an add-on.)

The good news? The tests not only showed that "the old man" is in great health, they also provided a baseline for measuring changes, gave me piece of mind and were worth every penny.

Having a Senior Wellness Checklist can help you observe behaviors and symptoms that may indicate a potential health problem. Those might include:

* Change in water consumption

* Vomiting

* Change in appetite

* Diarrhea

* Lethargic or depressed (listless behavior)

* Weight gain or weight loss

* Change in urine production

* Increased stiffness, trouble jumping or walking

* Constipation

* Bad breath or drooling

* Change in attitude (irritability)

* Lumps and bumps on the skin

* Change in sleeping patterns

* Increased panting

* Noticeable decrease in vision

* Breathing heavily or rapidly at rest

If your dog is experiencing one or more of these signs, inform your veterinarian.

-- Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/ owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.