What is wellness testing and why does my veterinarian recommend it?
December 7th, 2017
Wellness testing is screening of your pet for abnormalities/diseases prior to the pet actually showing symptoms. Wellness testing helps us uncover any problems brewing with your pet that we otherwise wouldn’t be aware of. The two main wellness tests we do are looking at your pet’s blood and urine. Wellness testing is also known as preventative medicine because it prevents diseases and problems from escalating in your pet because we are able to intervene early on with support to either slow down the disease process and/or treat the problem. Wellness testing can add years to your pet’s life. For example, a lot of senior cats have kidney issues and unfortunately by the time they start showing clinical signs the kidney is already 70% damaged and this cannot be reversed. Doing basic urine and blood testing can catch kidney issues early on and means we can get your cat on an appropriate food and possibly supplements to substantially slow the kidney disease down, thus adding years to your cat’s life. Wellness testing allows us to intervene with our pet’s health with mild, non-invasive treatments when a disease is just in the beginning but not yet an emergency. This can save a lot of money down the road because the likely alternative is not finding out there is a serious problem until the animal is showing emergent clinical signs and probably requiring emergency veterinary treatment.
So what do each of these tests show? Well, blood work of your pet allows us to see how their kidneys and liver are functioning. It also looks for infection, shows us any thyroid issues going on and tests for diabetes and can tip us off to cancer in your pet, etc. Yearly blood work allows us to catch diseases early on which often makes the prognosis better and often gives us more treatment options. On top of that, it gives the veterinarian a great baseline of what is normal for your pet so that from year to year we can see any changes that have happened. It allows us to see the very early signs of something going on. Sometimes dogs and cats are very good at hiding illnesses and pretending that they feel fine. Blood work is able to detect illnesses that could not be known through a physical exam. Blood testing really completes the whole annual health checkup.
Urine testing in your pet is called a urinalysis. A complete urinalysis involves looking at a drop of your pet’s urine with a refractometer which tells us the specific gravity of your pet’s urine which basically just means the concentration of the urine. The concentration of your pet’s urine tells the doctor a number of things. It can indicate renal disease, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, etc. The second thing we do is test the urine for a number of different parameters including red blood cells, white blood cells, glucose, protein, etc. Each of these things can indicate a number of things going on if they are abnormal. The third thing we do is look at the urine under a microscope to identify any crystals, casts, bacteria, white blood cells or red blood cells that may be present. The doctor then takes all three of these factors into account, looks at the big picture in conjunction with a physical exam and will come up with a diagnosis from there.
If yearly wellness testing is not something that fits within your budget bi-annual wellness testing is still beneficial. Something to consider when it comes to wellness testing is your pet’s breed, age, medical history and gender. For instance, a 15 year old canine ideally should have wellness testing twice a year as things can change rapidly in our older patients. The goal is always to find nothing or to produce normal values. In most cases with basic wellness testing, nothing abnormal is found but it sure is nice to have the peace of mind that the furry members of your family are happy and healthy!
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