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AAHA Releases 2019 Canine Life Stage Guidelines

AAHA Releases 2019 Canine Life Stage Guidelines
Dogs face unique challenges and health risks in each stage of their lives, ranging from weakness in puppyhood to joint issues in seniority. New guidelines from the AAHA can help your veterinary team manage each patient’s individual needs. Photo: Arina Miroshnikova/Shutterstock.com
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Lakewood, Colorado – No two dogs are alike, and their veterinary care should be as individualized as they are, says the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) in releasing its 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines. Each individual dog’s age and various lifestyle factors should be considered by the veterinary healthcare team when making recommendations, from vaccines and parasite prevention to dental health and nutrition.

The AAHA’s 2019 guidelines are designed 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.

What Are Canine Life Stages?

The guidelines recognize four distinct canine life stages, outlining focused areas of healthcare that are important as the dog matures, and emphasize preventive healthcare strategies and recommendations based on the dog’s age, size, lifestyle, and breed. The guidelines provide the following recommendations for managing 10 health-related factors at each of the first four canine life stages: lifestyle effect on the patient’s safety, zoonotic and human safety risk, behavior, nutrition, parasite control, vaccination, dental health, reproduction, breed-specific conditions, and a baseline diagnostic profile. 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.

“Veterinary teams are busy enough trying to fit all they can into a canine wellness appointment,” said AAHA Chief Executive Officer Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (Emeritus). “Now, they have a reliable framework to assess life stage-specific issues, which allows them to efficiently individualize the care they provide their patients.”

Additional resources aid in staff training and client education and include checklists for discussion during veterinary visits at each life stage, body and muscle condition score charts, recommendations for when to spay or neuter a dog, a canine lifestyle assessment form, and more.

The guidelines are an update and extension of the 2012 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines, as well as the AAHA/IAAHPC End-of-Life (EOL) Care Guidelines published in 2016. 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. The new guidelines do not discuss the EOL stage, but the AAHA encourages practice team members to become thoroughly knowledgeable with the EOL guidelines, too. The four stages that are discussed are 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.

The 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines available in the November/December 2019 issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (JAAHA) or online.

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