The Ageing Canine Toolkit (ACT) is part of a major study, the “Old Age Pets (OAP) research project”, recently funded by British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) PetSavers at the University of Liverpool.
The ACT includes an owner checklist for home triage, along with a leaflet containing information that ties in with the checklist topics and provides a comprehensive background about the more common health problems affecting aged dogs.
A poster is also available for practice waiting rooms that depicts the checklist and includes a QR code to give clients easy access to the digital version of the leaflet.
Dogs are living up to twice as long as they did 40 years ago which has implications for their healthcare and well-being.
The recognition of diseases in dogs is often dependent on owners reporting physical and behavioural changes to their vet, but many find it difficult to differentiate from “normal” age-related changes (signs of ageing) and signs indicating possible disease that would benefit from veterinary advice and treatment.
As part of the ACT checklist, answers of “yes”, “no” and “maybe” are coded according to traffic light colours red, green and amber to aid recognition of areas of concern.
Clients are encouraged to seek advice from their veterinary practice for any red or amber responses.
The questions are grouped into health topics such as “dental”, “mobility” and “weight changes”, representing some of the main reasons why senior dogs visit the vet.
But the ACT checklist does not shy away from the more challenging issues such as “behaviour”, “confusion” and “quality of life”.
A separate section explores concerns over the sensitive topic of “end of life”.
The leaflet recommends working through the checklist at least every six months and keeping completed versions for comparison, to monitor dogs as they age.
Some clients may benefit from advice and guidance from Registered Veterinary Nurses or Patient Care Assitants on how to complete the checklist for the first time.
BSAVA has curated a collection of articles, podcasts, lectures and book chapters to support veterinary professionals in caring for senior dogs.
Professor Carri Westgarth from the University of Liverpool said: “We conducted this research project kindly funded by BSAVA PetSavers in order to help owners and veterinary professionals provide great care for our loved pets as they age.
“Our investigations uncovered common physical and behavioural signs in dogs that owners observe and for which support from the veterinary practice would be beneficial.
“Our simple evidence-based checklist is designed to engage owners and importantly stimulate efficient discussion with their veterinary team.”
Free digital copies of the leaflet and poster can be downloaded here, where veterinary professionals can also request Free printed copies for their practices.
Physical copies are freely available at BSAVA Congress in the BSAVA Lounge throughout the event.
For more information about the OAP project and the Ageing Canine Toolkit, visit the website.