AAHA releases updated Canine Life Stage Guidelines


No two dogs are alike, and their veterinary care should be as individualized as they are.

To help veterinary practitioners tailor the care they provide each patient and efficiently guide preventive healthcare strategies based on each canine patient’s unique needs, AAHA has released the 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines.

AAHA Senior Veterinary Officer Heather Loenser, DVM, told NEWStat how the guidelines have changed since the 2012 version: “We’ve simplified the life stages from six to four—puppy, young adult, mature adult, and senior,” Loenser said. “We’ve also included ‘end of life’ as a life stage.” (Learn more about the end-of-life stage in the 2016 AAHA/IAAHPC End-of-Life Care Guidelines.)

Loenser said this simplification allows for more direction on how to individualize a canine patient’s care based on their life stage.

“We have online checklists for practice teams to reference on the fly, as well as printable checklists to incorporate into every wellness visit,” Loenser added. “We’re trying to help our colleagues cover important topics like the dog’s lifestyle.” That includes safety, behavior, nutrition, parasite prevention, vaccination needs, and much more. “Using these checklists will help the team focus on what the individual dog at her specific life stage requires.”

The new guidelines emphasize preventive healthcare strategies and recommendations based on age, size, lifestyle, and breed. They also provide resources and relevant information for practice teams to enable them to develop individualized preventive healthcare plans and effectively communicate with pet owners about those plans.

Loenser says the updated guidelines don’t shy away from the tough questions: “We also tackle the paradigm shift on when to spay and neuter dogs, giving recommendations for small and large breeds.

“I’m not going to sugar-coat it though,” Loenser adds. “Making recommendations in large-breed female dogs remains complicated and warrants nuanced client education to balance the competing risks.

“We also provide veterinary teams and pet owners with a robust resource center to help implementation of the life stage–based recommendations.”

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. They are available in the November/December issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and at aaha.org/caninelifestage.

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