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2012 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines

Guidelines are offered to guide the veterinary practitioner in designing a comprehensive, individualized wellness plan for each stage of a dog’s life.

Life stage definitions

For practical purposes, rather than attempt to calculate age equivalents to humans, this task force suggests that life stage should be defined not just by age, but also by characteristic (e.g., puppy, senior, geriatric).

The individualized approach

Encourage clients to acclimate dogs to safe travel prior to the veterinary visit. Plan appointments to minimize wait and create a quiet, calm environment. Train the veterinary team in low-stress handling techniques. 

Checklists for each life stage

In addition to standard body systems review, a thorough history includes asking about a variety of items, including the daily routine and using open-ended questioning techniques when appropriate.


Hypotension is a common complication during anesthesia and is defined as BP values of systolic <80–90 mm Hg, mean <60–70 mm Hg, and diastolic <40 mm Hg.


Arrhythmias commonly occurring perioperatively include sinus tachycardia, sinus bradycardia, atrioventricular block, and ventricular arrhythmias.


Tachycardia , HR >180 bpm in cats 3 and HR >150– 190 bpm for large and small dogs, respectively, 44 during anesthesia deserves special mention, because it should prompt the anesthetist to run through a list of rule-outs and not simply assume it is a response to inadequate anesthetic depth.


Hypertension , defined as a mean arterial pressure >120–140 mm Hg or a systolic arterial pressure >160–180mm Hg, 44 is uncommon in the adequately anesthetized patient, even in patients with primary hypertension, because of the negative cardiovascular effects of inhalant anesthetics.


Hypoventilation can be estimated by observing respiratory rate and depth (very subjective) and can be quantified using capnometry. Hypoventilation can cause hypercarbia, with subsequent respiratory acidosis, and hypoxemia. Thus, hypoventilation should be corrected.

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