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January 01, 2020

AAHA updates Canine Life Stage Guidelines

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

Veterinary teams should consider each dog’s age and lifestyle factors when making recommendations on care, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. On Nov. 6, AAHA released the 2019 Canine Life Stage Guidelines, an update and extension of the 2012 edition.

According to the abstract: “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.”

Malinois family

The guidelines recommend that the following 10 health-related factors be evaluated 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.

Specific objectives of the guidelines include the following:

Broadening the focus on the individualized approach to the veterinary visit.

Emphasizing preventive health care strategies and recommendations based on age, size, lifestyle, and breed of the dog.

Providing a framework and outline on focused areas of health care that are important during the maturation pathway at each canine life stage.

Providing resources and relevant information for practice teams to enable them to develop an individualized preventive health care plan for each dog.

Providing information and communication strategies to make compliance easy by facilitating adherence to recommendations that protect canine and human health.

Resources include checklists for discussion during veterinary visits at each life stage, a chart for body and muscle condition scoring, recommendations for when to spay or neuter a dog, and a canine lifestyle assessment form.

The 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines are available in the November/December issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and online at AAHA website along with resources.