Bloodwork and Wellness
Bringing your cat or dog to the veterinarian isn’t usually an enjoyable experience. After all, nobody likes going to the doctor. This is especially true when you go in for an emergency and learn that your furry friend has been secretly suffering from a disease and now requires ongoing treatment. Emergency and specialized healthcare appointments for your pet are time consuming, expensive, and probably not Fido-approved, even when these are lifesaving.
Regular veterinary visits and annual lab work may actually help to decrease the overall investment for the health of your furry friend. These can help your veterinarian to spot changes that are specific to your pet and in tracking those changes, potential health conditions can be spotted early. Early detection can mean less expensive treatment when more treatment options are available.
Your veterinarian plays an essential role in maintaining your pet’s health and wellness. Puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats all have different and individual health care needs. To prevent disease and give your pet the happiest life possible, talk with your veterinarian about creating a regular healthcare plan for your beloved pet.
What You Need to Know About Wellness Examinations
A wellness exam is a routine medical examination of a cat or dog who appears healthy, as opposed to pets who are ill. A wellness exam may also be called a check-up or physical examination. The focus of a wellness exam is to maintain the best health for your furry friend.
The frequency of wellness exams will depend on your pet’s age and overall health. During early months, wellness exams are recommended on a monthly basis. For average adult cats and dogs, annual wellness exams are standard, and semi-annual exams are recommended for middle aged, senior, and geriatric pets.
Pets age faster than people. A common misconception is that one human year equals seven cat or dog years, though it can actually be much more or less. Kittens and puppies reach maturity very quickly and are essentially adolescents after one year. Cats and dogs are considered to be the equivalent of a 15-16 year old human by their first birthday. During the second year, development slows down a little. The average two year old pet is developmentally at the same place as a 24-25 year old human. After that, the rate of aging is about 4 cat years, and 4-5 dog years, per calendar year. This will depend on the size and breed of your pet as well. Large breed dogs age more quickly than small breed dogs. By the sixth birthday, cats and small dogs will be middle aged, while larger dogs will be seniors. Cats of 15 years and older, or dogs who surpass their average breed life expectancy, are considered geriatric.
Your veterinarian will recommend how often your dog or should have a wellness exam based on their age, lifestyle, and health status.
What We Look For in a Physical Exam
During a standard wellness exam, our medical team will ask you questions about your pet’s diet, exercise, thirst, breathing, behavior, habits, urinary and excretory habits, and general health. They will also perform a physical examination on your furry friend. This involves observing their overall appearance, listening to their heartbeat and breathing with a stethoscope, and feeling areas of the body. Learn more about what your veterinarian will inspect for your cat or dog here.
Your veterinarian will also recommend that you bring a fresh sample of your pet’s feces to the examination. This sample will be processed and microscopically evaluated for parasite eggs. This is especially important for kittens and puppies, as their immune systems are still developing and they can be more vulnerable to intestinal parasites.
Based on your pet’s history and physical exam, your veterinarian will talk about preventive measures such as vaccination, parasite control, nutrition, skin and coat care, joint health, weight management, or dental care. Remember to bring up any changes you’ve noticed lately, ask any questions that you may have, and keep track of the most important action steps you’ll take following the exam.
What does a blood test look like? After taking them back to a treatment area, we will hold your furry friend steady and make sure they are as calm as possible. Then we safely draw a blood sample from the jugular vein, an easy-access vein in the neck. We may also use your pet’s hind leg if the jugular vein is not apparent. Our aim is to reduce discomfort and stress as much as we can. This entire process takes about 10 seconds for a calm pet. Pets who are fearful or agitated may take a bit longer, but our team will prioritize their general wellbeing and work with them gently to obtain the necessary sample. If you have any questions about how the blood draw process works, our medical staff will be happy to provide answers.
We also highly recommend heartworm testing for dogs on an annual basis. Colorado isn’t the highest area for this parasitic disease, but it is extremely dangerous and easily spreads during warmer months, whenever mosquitos are out in greater numbers. Heartworm also is endemic in Arizona, meaning it can easily spread here. The test only takes 10 minutes for results to come back. But if it is positive, we need to know sooner rather than later for the best possible prognosis. If your pet is traveling to areas with large bodies of water or is often outside during mosquito season, we will recommend a heartworm preventative to keep your furry friend clear of the harmful worms. Click the link to learn more about heartworm disease in dogs and cats in our blog.
In addition to heartworm tests, we also recommend additional wellness screening tests. These can be completed with only one or two quick blood draws from your pet. Combining these tests into one visit not only helps you get the most out of your wellness visit, but reduces the number of blood draws for your furry friend.
The main tests we will run for your pets are complete blood count (CBC), a biochemistry profile. Urinalysis, and thyroid hormone testing may also be indicated depending on the circumstances and the patient’s age and history. The CBC gives information about the different cell types in the blood, and identifies the presence of abnormal cells. This test is helpful in identifying many diseases, or if your furry friend has abnormal amounts of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The biochemistry profile is a panel of tests that provide information about the organs and tissues of the body. It can detect diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and more. Any abnormalities will lead to a conversation around more extensive testing to confirm a possible diagnosis. Urinalysis focuses on the physical and chemical properties of a pet’s urine, giving insight into kidney function. This routine test can help detect inflammation, infection, cancer in the urinary system, and diabetes. Thyroid testing looks at the thyroid gland, which sets the metabolic rate for the whole body. For each category, your veterinarian will talk about how extensive testing should be. Most cats and dogs will receive simple tests, while older pets or pets with noticeable health issues need more comprehensive tests. This can include ultrasound and chest or abdominal radiographs (x-rays) to view the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver.
Why is Wellness Testing so Important?
Cats and dogs cannot tell you how they are feeling. Diseases can be present before you notice any changes. Dogs and cats are known to hide signs of disease as a survival instinct. Wellness exams and preventive testing help detect early warning signs or changes that could suggest underlying issues.
When diseases or health conditions are detected before symptoms are obvious, your veterinarian can take steps to manage the problem before irreversible damage occurs. Prognosis for a successful outcome will improve, while necessary treatment will often have less costs than attempts to help a very advanced disease.
Remember, we are here for you and your pet. Please discuss any questions or concerns about your pet’s health with our medical. We will work with you to investigate how to better their health and happiness.
As an AAHA-Accredited clinic, we uphold a higher set of standards to improve patient health, quality of care, and quality of life. Contact us to schedule your pet’s first wellness exam and learn more about your first visit here.