While humans ideally visit their doctors for routine screenings and exams once yearly, dogs and cats should be seen more often. Since our pets age much more quickly than we do, one exam a year isn’t enough. The gold standard for our furry friends is to come in twice yearly. At the first visit, your pet receives any vaccinations he is due for, as well as testing for parasites and heartworm/tick-borne disease, and refills on heartworm and flea prevention. At the semiannual exam, we discuss dental care, update Proheart injections as needed, and run a blood profile.
Using blood work as a diagnostic tool makes sense when our patients are sick, or when they are aging, but why would your vet want to run laboratory tests on your young and apparently healthy pet?
Here are four reasons why these tests are important to consider.
1. To Determine A Normal Baseline For Your Pet–What qualifies as normal for blood values is usually a range, rather than one set number. Some pets will have a normal-for-them value that is higher or lower than the normal-for-them value for another animal. Establishing a baseline is best done when pets are young and healthy, so we can determine which changes are cause for concern in the future, and which are not.
2. To Screen For Underlying Disease–Many, many diseases progress silently, only showing symptoms when organ damage is considerable. For example, kidney disease in cats is extremely common, but symptoms don’t appear until the kidneys have suffered incredible stress. Early intervention is key in successfully treating kidney disease, and running annual blood work can identify this disease when it is still reversible.
3. To Tailor Medications To Your Pet’s Needs–The number of medications available to your vet is astounding. Conditions like chronic skin allergies (atopy), arthritis and separation anxiety that used to have a limited number of treatment options, all now have highly successful medication therapies. However, all medications are processed and eliminated by the liver and kidneys and most have side effects, some of which can be severe. For example, NSAIDS used to treat arthritis pain have side effects ranging from mild stomach upset to serious liver damage. Having blood values before starting a medication can help your vet choose the right medication for your pet and identify problematic side effects before they cause lasting damage.
4. To Make Surgery Safer–Pre-anesthetic blood work is included in all our routine surgical and dental procedures. Like oral medications, anesthetic agents are processed and eliminated by the liver and kidneys. Blood work prior to a surgical procedure tells the surgeon if your pet is healthy enough for surgery, if your pet has an underlying condition that would make surgery impossible, or if your pet needs a change in anesthesia protocol.