As your Dachshund ages, your veterinarian may recommend doing a “senior blood panel” during their annual exam.
Note: My veterinarian actually did not mention the senior blood panel to me. I had to ask her about it because I read about a friend’s dog getting one. In some cases, you may be the one that has to request a senior blood panel from your vet.
Your first reaction may be to resist it: your dog appears to be healthy, and is only a year older than last year, so why spend all that money?
The fact is, however, that as your dog ages he or she is more likely to suffer from certain health issues and diseases.
If you catch the issue before it is noticeable due to physical symptoms, you may have a much better chance to treat or manage it successfully before permanent damage occurs.
Being proactive about your Dachshund’s health can save you a lot of heartache, and money, in the long run.
What Exactly is a Senior Blood Panel?
A senior blood panel consists of a variety of diagnostic tests designed to detect early signs of diseases.
Just as we visit our doctors more often as we get older, dogs also should be taken in for these screenings at least every 12 months once they enter their senior years (after an average of 8-9 years old for small dogs).
In addition to a routine physical exam, there are four primary diagnostic tests that will be performed during a screening: thyroid hormone testing, complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, and a biochemistry profile.
Additional testing may be done depending on the overall health, and family health history, of your Dachshund.
If results from any of the four diagnostic tests show reason for concern, your vet will likely conduct more extensive and specific testing in order to accurately diagnose your dog’s health issue so that action can be taken.
A senior blood panel will check for
Even if nothing is found (that’s what we all hope for), this “senior blood panel” is important because it gives baseline results to compare other results too. It will be easier to catch when something is elevated, or below what it should be at.
What Tests Are Included in a Senior Blood Panel
A senior blood panel typically consists of the 4 primary tests below.
Thyroid Hormone Testing
The thyroid is responsible for regulating the metabolic rate of your Dachshund’s body. The hormones produced by the thyroid control this metabolic rate successfully when they are produced in the correct amounts.
When a dog acquires a thyroid disease that disrupts this process (hypothyroidism being the most common), it’s likely that they will exhibit inexplicable weight gain, loss of hair, or lethargy.
Certain dogs are more likely to experience thyroid problems than others, and more extensive testing will be done if your vet feels your dog is predisposed to the disease.
A senior blood panel typically consists of a thyroid test, complete blood count, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. Your veterinarian may suggest additional tests based on your Dachshund’s health history.
Complete Blood Count
A complete blood count (often referred to as a CBC) is a blood test that will determine the cellular components within your dog’s bloodstream.
This includes the number, shape and size of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, as well as the presence of any abnormal cells.
These results can be a big clue for your vet about any diseases your dog already has or may acquire, the most common being anemia and certain types of leukemias, such as lymphocytic or granulocytic leukemia.
A urinalysis will examine the chemical components of your dog’s urine, as well as any solid material that may be present on a microscopic scale.
These results can be a big indication of the functionality of your dog’s kidneys, and can also be used to diagnose diabetes, amongst other diseases.
Analysis of your Dachshund’s urine can, surprisingly, reveal a lot about their health.
Note that the likelihood of kidney disease increases greatly in geriatric dogs, so make sure you’re getting this diagnostic test done at least once a year, if not bi-annually.
A biochemistry profile includes a multitude of tests that analyze your dog’s blood plasma (the liquid portion of their blood) for a variety of substances such as enzymes, hormones, and substrates.
These results can give insight into the vitality and functionality of various organs, and certain diseases that may be associated with them.
When Should I Start Doing a Senior Blood Panel for My Dog?
As the name implies, these tests are important for all senior dogs. When a dog is considered to be a senior can be confusing though.
The “senior” designation has some to do with age but other factors also matter like weight, breed, and physical health.
Typically, dogs are considered geriatric if they are between 5-10 years of age. Smaller dogs typically age slower so they aren’t considered senior until they are 8-10 years old.
If your dog has had previous health issues your vet may recommend that these tests be performed sooner.
If your dog is super healthy, they may say it’s ok to wait.
Small dogs, like Miniature Dachshunds, are considered geriatric at 8-10 years old.
Ideally, you will get these tests done before your dog’s health begins to fail. That way your vet knows what “healthy” test results look like.
It gives them a baseline to help interpret future results. Having this baseline can help your vet recognize health issues sooner.
Is All That Money Spent on Testing Worth It?
Although these tests cost money, keep in mind that when a disease or health issue goes undetected you are risking higher expenses down the road.
If your dog’s medical issue is detected because of a health crisis, the vet bills can quickly mount and end up well into the hundreds of dollars if not thousands.
Early treatment is both more effective and less costly, meaning even though you spend money to have these tests performed routinely you spend less in the long run.
Proactive Health Monitoring
Our dogs are part of our family. They brighten our days, get us through hard times, and make us feel complete. We want to ensure that we keep them healthy, especially as they enter their senior years.
A senior blood panel is an effective and proactive approach to detecting common diseases as early as possible that geriatric canines are predisposed to.
Doing so can help enhance the quality of life for your furry friend, and aid in ensuring he/she lives a long and happy life.
About the Author: Through her 17 years of owning and caring for Dachshunds, and almost 10 years researching and writing about them, JW has become a respected expert in the Dachshund community. Read more about her here.