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Life Stage Checklists

Click for printable life stage checklists for all life stages, puppies, young adults, mature adults, and seniors.

Review these tables to establish checklists to determine if your canine patients are receive optimum care for their specific life stage. When applicable, a link has been provided to other AAHA Guidelines for additional information. 

General (PE and Consultations)

Refer to the AAHA/AVMA Preventive Healthcare Guidelines.

Enrich each wellness consultation by discussing, reviewing or checking the following items:

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All Ages

  • Thorough physical exam should include the 5 vital assessments: TPR, pain, and nutritional assessment (which includes body weight, BCS/MCS)
  • Transportation advice – safety (restraint), motion sickness, anxiety
  • Boarding/grooming advice
  • Consult about any current medications and supplements, nutraceuticals, herbs
  • Frequency visit recommendations
  • Provide or recommend appropriate client education online resources

Puppy

  • Evaluate congenital disorders
  • Microchip/permanent identification
  • Discuss future exam frequency q 3–4 wk

Young Adult

  • Evaluate congenital disorders
  • Address the special needs of working/service dogs
  • Educate owners on signs of early orthopedic disease and OA. Collect pet owner observations of mobility and activity at home. Evaluate for the presence and stage of OA during PE.
  • Exam frequency 6–12 mo

Mature Adult

  • Address the special needs of working/service dogs
  • Educate owners on signs of early orthopedic disease and OA. Collect pet owner observations of mobility and activity at home. Evaluate for the presence and stage of OA during PE
  • Exam frequency 6–12 mo

Senior

  • Body mapping
  • If sedated or anesthetized for any procedure, this is an opportunity for a more comprehensive physical exam (oral, abdominal palpation, orthopedic evaluation, etc.)
  • Educate owners on signs of early orthopedic disease and OA. Collect pet owner observations of mobility and activity at home. Evaluate for the presence and stage of OA during PE.
  • Educate clients on the need for more frequent examinations (at least every
    6 mo) in conjunction with appropriate diagnostic screening tests

Lifestyle and safety risk assessment

Decrease the risk of preventable accidents by understanding your patients' environment.

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All Ages

  • Discuss/emphasize daily exercise needs appropriate to age, breed and temperament
  • Exercise/mental stimulation/ enrichment appropriate for age, breed, and temperament
  • Exposure to other animals (wild/domestic)
  • Housing, confinement, temperature, humidity, and sanitation including general safety considerations
  • Exposure to toxins (plants/hazards), infectious, and parasitic disease (boarding, grooming, dog parks, geographic location, travel, exposure to other animals)

Puppy

  • Increased awareness of hazards at this age (plants, puppy-proofing, foreign body awareness)

Young Adult

  • Increased awareness of hazards at this age (plants, puppy-proofing, foreign body awareness)

Senior

  • Evaluate necessary environmental adaptations for mobility, sight, and hearing
  • Increase awareness of the impact of mobility or vision issues in responding to environmental challenges (ability to move out of the heat, cold, navigate in the dark)

Zoonoses and human safety

Refer to the AAHA Infection Control, Prevention, and Biosecurity Guidelines.

Mitigate the risks to humans benefiting from living in close proximity to dogs.

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All Ages

  • Clients should be informed on zoonotic risks relevant to their pets, themselves and family members, including but not limited to common endoparasites (e.g., hookworms, roundworm, tapeworms), dermatophytosis, toxoplasmosis, geographically relevant ectoparasite-transmitted diseases, rabies, Salmonella, and Campylobacter spp.
  • Family member risk factors to zoonotic disease transmission
  • Bite prevention education
  • Feces removal from environment
  • Discuss risks of raw food

Behavior 

Refer to the AAHA Behavior Management Guidelines.

With behavior problems being a leading cause of euthanasia, be sure to review these recommendations at every visit and life stage.

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All Ages

  • Fear and stress-reducing handling and previsit anxiolytics
  • Specific evaluations for behaviors of concern
  • Discuss normal behavior
  • Ask open-ended questions about changes and any specific client concerns
  • Advise that behavior recommendations and consultations are available
  • Evaluate emotional and behavioral history

Puppy

  • Begin socializing and handling from neonate
  • Educate on sensitive periods
  • Identify problem behaviors that need further treatment
  • Educate on selecting appropriate trainers
  • Address desensitization/ grooming needs
  • Discuss bite inhibition
  • Discuss the benefits to crate training relative to housetraining, safety, and comfort
  • Encourage appropriate socialization based on the individual

Young Adult

  • Evaluate current behaviors of concern in relation to normal behavior
  • Ask open-ended questions regarding behaviors that often result in relinquishment or euthanasia (house training, separation anxiety, unruly behaviors, storm and nose phobias, aggression, social relationships)
  • Recommend continued training classes for behavior, socialization, and well being
  • Educate on selecting appropriate trainers
  • Encourage adult training and active lifestyle based on the individual.

Mature Adult

  • Routine evaluation for cognitive changes, anxiety/phobias and cognitive dysfunction
  • Ask open-ended questions regarding behaviors that often result in relinquishment or euthanasia (house training, separation anxiety, unruly behaviors, storm and nose phobias, aggression, social relationships)
  • Recommend continued training classes for behavior, socialization, and well being
  • Encourage adult training and active lifestyle based on the individual

Senior

  • Routine evaluation for cognitive changes, anxiety/phobias and cognitive dysfunction

Nutrition

Refer to the AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines and AAHA's updated BCS/MCS chart.

Remain a trusted resource for nutrition advice by discussing these topics at every life stage. 

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All Ages

  • Regularly evaluate for needed change in nutrition/diet based on reproductive and health concerns
  • Conduct screening or extended nutritional assessments as indicated. See AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines  for additional information
  • Discuss supplement use
  • Use of medical records for trends/weight, BCS/MCS
  • Modify diet per BCS/MCS
  • Evaluate the feeding schedule, food choice, and quantity

Puppy

  • Evaluate breed and size for targeted nutrition
  • Discuss establishing a feeding schedule and good feeding and watering habits

Young Adult

  • Evaluate breed and size for targeted nutrition
  • Establish target weight range based on BCS and MCS; important to discuss risk of weight gain after sterilization
  • Emphasize weight control and benefits to overall health; discuss the ideal weight and muscle condition for the patient.

Mature Adult

  • MCS is especially important to evaluate as it pertains to mobility in aging dogs
  • Emphasize weight control and benefits to overall health; discuss the ideal weight and muscle condition for the patient

Senior

  • Identify and address comorbidities
  • MCS is especially important to evaluate as it pertains to mobility in aging dogs
  • Emphasize weight control and benefits to overall health; discuss the ideal weight and muscle condition for the patient.

Parasitology

Help prevent endo- and ecto-parasites at every life stage.

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All ages

Puppy

  • Discuss prevalence in puppies and zoonotic potential
  • Early deworming beginning at 2 wk of age and repeating every 2 wk until started on year-round control
  • Discuss high prevalence of intestinal parasites in puppies; perform more frequent fecal examinations in the first year of life
  • Start on heartworm preventive as early as label allows (usually by 8 wks of age)
  • Start on flea and tick control as early as label allows (usually 6–8 wk)

Young Adult

  • Continue year-round control for intestinal parasites
  • Perform fecal examination for intestinal parasites 1–4 times/yr depending on lifestyle and use of preventives.
  • Continue on heartworm preventive throughout all life stages
  • Test annually for heartworm infection beginning at 7–12 mo of age
  • CAPC recommends year-round control for fleas and ticks throughout all life stages.
  • AAHA/AVMA Preventive Healthcare Guidelines recommend year-round flea control and tick control based on risk assessment.
  • Test annually for tick-borne infections beginning at 7–12 mo

Mature Adult

  • Continue year-round control for intestinal parasites
  • Perform fecal examination for intestinal parasites 1–4 times/yr depending on lifestyle and use of preventives.
  • Continue on heartworm preventive throughout all life stages
  • Test annually for heartworm infection beginning at 7–12 mo of age
  • CAPC recommends year-round control for fleas and ticks throughout all life stages.
  • AAHA/AVMA Preventive Healthcare Guidelines recommend year-round flea control and tick control based on risk assessment.
  • Test annually for tick-borne infections beginning at 7–12 mo

Senior

  • Continue year-round control for intestinal parasites
  • Perform fecal examination for intestinal parasites 1–4 times/yr depending on lifestyle and use of preventives.
  • Continue on heartworm preventive throughout all life stages
  • Test annually for heartworm infection beginning at 7–12 mo of age
  • CAPC recommends year-round control for fleas and ticks throughout all life stages.
  • AAHA/AVMA Preventive Healthcare Guidelines recommend year-round flea control and tick control based on risk assessment.
  • Test annually for tick-borne infections beginning at 7–12 mo

Vaccination

Refer to the AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines.

Be prepared to discuss and individualize serology, core and noncore vaccines at each life stage.

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All Ages

  • Evaluate risk assessment and use of non-core vaccinations as indicated, as per current AAHA guidelines
  • Evaluate current information about use of serology/vaccine titers

Puppy

  • Core and noncore (if indicated) vaccines finishing at 16–20 wk
  • Consider antibody titer testing for the purpose of determining protection from infection from CDV, CPV, and CAV2:
    • Measuring antibody levels (quantitative or qualitative) provides a reasonable assessment of protective immunity against CDV, CPV, and CAV2.

Young Adult

  • Continue CORE vaccines per current guidelines:
    • Distemper, Adenovirus-2, Parvovirus, +/- Parainfluenza: Administer a single dose of a combination vaccine within 1 yr following the last dose in the initial vaccination series. Administer subsequent boosters at intervals of 3 yr or longer.
    • Rabies: Administer a single dose of vaccine. In most states and provinces, veterinarians are allowed discretion in administering either a 1-yr or a 3-yr labeled rabies vaccine. The interval between subsequent doses is determined by the product label of the last vaccine dose administered (i.e., either 1 yr or 3 yr). For state-specific information on rabies immunization and law, www.rabiesaware.org
  • Continue appropriate NONCORE vaccines per current guidelines and re-evaluate lifestyle and exposure risk: Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi, Influenza (H3N8, H3N2), Leptospira (4-serovar):
    • Where risk of exposure is sustained, administer a single dose 1 yr following completion of the initial 2 doses, then annually thereafter.
  • Consider antibody titer testing for the purpose of determining protection from infection from CDV, CPV, and CAV2: Measuring antibody levels (quantitative or qualitative) provides a reasonable assessment of protective immunity against CDV, CPV, and CAV2.
  • The frequency of antibody testing should be based on clinical judgement but is reasonable to
    perform antibody testing at least as often as the interval or booster vaccination.

Mature Adult

  • Continue CORE vaccines per current guidelines:
    • Distemper, Adenovirus-2, Parvovirus, +/- Parainfluenza: Administer a single dose of a combination vaccine within 1 yr following the last dose in the initial vaccination series. Administer subsequent boosters at intervals of 3 yr or longer.
    • Rabies: Administer a single dose of vaccine. In most states and provinces, veterinarians are allowed discretion in administering either a 1-yr or a 3-yr labeled rabies vaccine. The interval between subsequent doses is determined by the product label of the last vaccine dose administered (i.e., either 1 yr or 3 yr). For state-specific information on rabies immunization and law, www.rabiesaware.org
  • Continue appropriate NONCORE vaccines per current guidelines and re-evaluate lifestyle and exposure risk: Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi, Influenza (H3N8, H3N2), Leptospira (4-serovar):
    • Where risk of exposure is sustained, administer a single dose 1 yr following completion of the initial 2 doses, then annually thereafter.
  • Consider antibody titer testing for the purpose of determining protection from infection from CDV, CPV, and CAV2: Measuring antibody levels (quantitative or qualitative) provides a reasonable assessment of protective immunity against CDV, CPV, and CAV2.
  • The frequency of antibody testing should be based on clinical judgement but is reasonable to
    perform antibody testing at least as often as the interval or booster vaccination.

Senior

  • Continue CORE vaccines per current guidelines:
    • Distemper, Adenovirus-2, Parvovirus, +/- Parainfluenza: Administer a single dose of a combination vaccine within 1 yr following the last dose in the initial vaccination series. Administer subsequent boosters at intervals of 3 yr or longer.
    • Rabies: Administer a single dose of vaccine. In most states and provinces, veterinarians are allowed discretion in administering either a 1-yr or a 3-yr labeled rabies vaccine. The interval between subsequent doses is determined by the product label of the last vaccine dose administered (i.e., either 1 yr or 3 yr). For state-specific information on rabies immunization and law, www.rabiesaware.org
  • Continue appropriate NONCORE vaccines per current guidelines and re-evaluate lifestyle and exposure risk: Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi, Influenza (H3N8, H3N2), Leptospira (4-serovar):
    • Where risk of exposure is sustained, administer a single dose 1 yr following completion of the initial 2 doses, then annually thereafter.
  • Consider antibody titer testing for the purpose of determining protection from infection from CDV, CPV, and CAV2: Measuring antibody levels (quantitative or qualitative) provides a reasonable assessment of protective immunity against CDV, CPV, and CAV2.
  • The frequency of antibody testing should be based on clinical judgement but is reasonable to
    perform antibody testing at least as often as the interval or booster vaccination.

Dentistry

Refer to the AAHA Dental Management Guidelines.

Improve the quality of life of all your patients by insuring they have a pain-free mouth.

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All ages

  • Evaluate the existence and adequacy of home care / daily dental hygiene
  • Perform oral exam and document assessment of dental condition

Puppy

  • Evaluate deciduous dentition; persistent deciduous teeth; extra or incomplete dentition; oral development; and occlusion.
  • Discuss acceptable chew toys for dental health/safety.
  • Evaluate developmental anomalies, permanent dentition
  • Home oral hygiene training can be started in puppies with erupted, permanent dentition. Juvenile patients actively exfoliating deciduous teeth may experience discomfort associated with home dental care efforts and negative experiences should be avoided.

Young Adult

  • Evaluate deciduous dentition; persistent deciduous teeth; extra or incomplete dentition; oral development; and occlusion.
  • Discuss acceptable chew toys for dental health/safety.
  • Evaluate developmental anomalies, permanent dentition
  • Consider 1st dental cleaning, oral exam and dental charting especially in dogs with malocclusions or unerupted teeth and in smaller breeds with crowded dentition. Evaluate gingival health, accumulation of plaque and calculus; missing permanent teeth should have intraoral dental radiographs taken to confirm that the teeth are truly not present.
  • Full mouth radiographs, dental cleaning/polishing, charting and scoring per AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.

Mature Adult

  • Evaluate the progression of any periodontal disease. Perform conscious and unconscious oral evaluation as indicated.
  • Full mouth radiographs, dental cleaning/polishing, charting and scoring per AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.

Senior

  • Evaluate the progression of any periodontal disease. Perform conscious and unconscious oral evaluation as indicated.
  • Full mouth radiographs, dental cleaning/polishing, charting and scoring per AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.

Reproduction

Guide pet caregivers to make the best choice for their pet's reproductive health.

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All

  • Examine genitalia of intact and neutered/spayed animals
  • Verify and document neuter/intact status.

Puppy

  • Spay/neuter discussion or breeder planning/ consult.
  • Review literature about advances in temporary contraceptive techniques.
  • Examine for midline tattoo or place midline tattoo after spaying.
  • Intact animals: Discuss hazards of roaming, appropriate breeding frequency, genetic counseling, and breeding ages (start and finish); consider Brucellosis testing.
  • Intact animals: Evaluate reproductive health including prostate, testes, mammary gland. Obtain history of female dog heat cycles

Young Adult

  • Spay/neuter discussion or breeder planning/ consult.
  • Review literature about advances in temporary contraceptive techniques.
  • Examine for midline tattoo or place midline tattoo after spaying.
  • Intact animals: Discuss hazards of roaming, appropriate breeding frequency, genetic counseling, and breeding ages (start and finish); consider Brucellosis testing.
  • Intact animals: Evaluate reproductive health including prostate, testes, mammary gland. Obtain history of female dog heat cycles

Mature Adult

  • Intact animals: Discuss hazards of roaming, appropriate breeding frequency, genetic counseling, and breeding ages (start and finish); consider Brucellosis testing.
  • Intact animals: Evaluate reproductive health including prostate, testes, mammary gland. Obtain history of female dog heat cycles

Senior

  • Intact animals: Evaluate reproductive health including prostate, testes, mammary gland. Obtain history of female dog heat cycles

Breed-specific screening

Educate pet caregives on inherited disorders in dogs and create a screening and monitoring plan.

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All

  • Evaluate and report findings for genetic/ developmental disorders/diseases that occur at higher frequency in certain breeds (e.g., osteoarthritis, neoplasia).
  • Consider DNA tests for breed identification in mixed breed dogs to determine risk factors for breed-specific diseases or tendencies.

Puppy

  • Discuss inherited disorders for all dogs in which breeding is being considered.
  • Educate new owner on breed-related considerations. Screen for abnormalities of dentition, portosystemic shunt, orthopedic, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems

Young Adult

  • Discuss inherited disorders for all dogs in which breeding is being considered.
  • Screen for orthopedic, ophthalmic, renal, hepatic abnormalities

Mature Adult

  • Discuss inherited disorders for all dogs in which breeding is being considered.
  • Screen for neoplasia risk, renal, hepatic, endocrine, cardiovascular abnormalities

Senior

  • Screening for neoplasia and late-onset disorders; ongoing management of breed-related conditions

BCS (body condition score); CAPC (Companion Animal Parasite Council); CAV2 (canine adenovirus-2); CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); CDV (canine distemper virus); CPV (canine parvovirus); MCS (muscle condition score); OA (osteoarthritis); PE (physical exam); TPR (temperature, pulse, respiration)

The 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines are supported by generous educational grants from Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, Elanco Animal Health, Hill’s ® Pet Nutrition, Inc., IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., Merck Animal Health and Zoetis Petcare.