Friday, February 28, 2020

Why does my pet need testing if they’re healthy?

By Andrine Belliveau DVM

A common question at the vet is why a seemingly healthy pet requires any testing. At a “routine” veterinary appointment, we will often discuss heartworm/lyme testing for dogs, leukemia/FIV testing for cats, bloodwork, and fecal testing. The honest answer is that animals instinctually try to hide their illness or discomfort from others – it is a survival tactic. Since your dog or cat is not going to be as forthcoming as you are at the doctor, testing can help us determine if your pet is sick or painful long before they let us know. 

The first and most important part of an annual visit is the exam itself. We look for dental tartar on teeth, signs of an early ear infection or eye inflammation, evaluate the joints, and listen for any arrhythmias or heart murmurs. With a thorough physical exam, we can often identify many issues before the pet “acts” sick. 

One of the most common issues would be arthritic joint changes which we can palpate on examination before the dog or cat starts limping at home. Early identification and treatment allow us to minimize further joint damage and hopefully prevent the pet from becoming lame at home.

When we perform a fecal test, we are looking for internal parasites – many of these can affect people too! With high levels of worms, dogs will often develop diarrhea – an obvious sign to look for. But early in the infection, with lower levels of worms, dogs are often asymptomatic.  With annual fecal testing we can identify the problem before the pet – or their human family – gets sick.

Bloodwork allows us to look at red cell and white cell counts, as well as evaluate kidney and liver function. We also look at electrolyte levels and blood sugar. Statistics show that one-third of cats over the age of ten will develop kidney failure – we can identify this on bloodwork months before the cat acts sick.  By changing the diet (one of the components of kidney failure treatment) before the cat is symptomatic, we can often add months or years onto their lifespan!

Wellness testing is a very important cornerstone of veterinary medicine. If you are not sure if your pet needs an exam or testing – ask us.

Veterinarians are always happy to discuss what would be recommended for your pet based on their age and lifestyle factors.

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