The guidelines are an update and extension of the AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines published in 2012. A noteworthy change from the earlier guidelines is the division of the dog’s lifespan into five stages (puppy, young adult, mature adult, senior, and end of life) instead of the previous six. This simplified grouping is consistent with how pet owners generally perceive their dog’s maturation and aging process and provides a readily understood basis for an evolving, lifelong healthcare strategy.
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.
With appropriate care, oral and dental disease and associated pain can be prevented or minimized. Because so many dogs are affected by dental and periodontal disease, dental care must be incorporated into each dog's preventive healthcare plan and discussed at every visit.
Cats have become the most popular pet in the United States, yet statistics about veterinary care for cats remain troubling. Although most owners consider their cats to be family members, cats are substantially underserved, compared with dogs.
At the initial puppy visit, discuss the dog’s reproductive future. Monitor older dogs for neoplasms of the reproductive organs.
The 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines focus on life stages that require different approaches to preventive care. The spectrum of care within each life stage is affected by the age, size, lifestyle, health status, and breed of the dog.
Guidelines are offered to guide the veterinary practitioner in designing a comprehensive, individualized wellness plan for each stage of a dog’s life.
Canine behavior is influenced by developmental age, experiences, breed and environment. Although genetics have a significant influence on behavior, individuals are a function of their genetics and their experiences. Because behavior problems continue to be a significant cause of relinquishment and euthanasia, it is essential that behavioral evaluations and interventions be incorporated into each patient’s veterinary visit.
Nutritional assessment should be part of every visit to the veterinary practice. Evaluation of the body condition score (BCS), muscle condition score (MCS), and nutritional factors can reveal a need for change in the feeding practice.
To achieve optimum feline health care, veterinarians must help owners to understand and appreciate the importance of regular preventive care for their cats at all ages.