By: Tyler Pelfrey DVM and Haley Batt DVM Candidate
Here at Dogwood Veterinary Clinic in Louisville, Kentucky we recommend annual routine lab testing, the mainstays being: complete blood count, blood chemistry, urinalysis, thyroid testing, intestinal parasite testing, heartworm testing and tick-borne disease panel. Our pets are not capable of communicating their symptoms to us and will often hide signs of disease until advanced stages of the disease process. For this reason, yearly lab work is vital to understanding the complete status of your pet’s overall health. Routine lab work plays a significant role in giving your pet the longest and best quality of life possible, even in young and apparently healthy animals. With annual lab work, your veterinarian can track trends in major organ functions such as the liver, kidneys, bladder, and pancreas as well as red and white blood cell counts and much more. Tracking this information can help you and your veterinarian make informed decisions about your pet’s health, often before a significant problem arises. At Dogwood Veterinary Clinic, we believe it is important to start testing early in life even when your pet is healthy, as this can help create normal baseline values referenced for comparison if your pet gets sick.
Recommended Annual Tests
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
A complete blood count, CBC, will check all the cellular components of the blood including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Monitoring a CBC can help us detect changes related to anemia, bleeding disorders, infection, inflammation, cancer, or immune disorders. Completing this test on an annual basis can help your veterinarian to detect changes before your pet has clinical signs of disease. A CBC can track progression or resolution of disease. For example, your veterinarian might want to recheck a CBC after treating your pet with an antibiotic to see if an infection has cleared or may want to recheck CBC to ensure an anemia is resolving after treatment. This can help your veterinarian more accurately target therapy for your pet.
A chemistry panel is a vital part of yearly wellness exams to help detect early changes in organ function and health. When organs are damaged or diseased, they create imbalances of substances in the blood, which are measured by a chemistry panel. Changes in the blood levels of these substances can indicate many disease processes that might need to be treated by your veterinarian including diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease/damage, gallbladder disease, pancreatitis, cancer, endocrine disorders, gastrointestinal disease, and electrolyte imbalances. Early detection of these diseases can help your vet initiate treatment and potentially extend the lifespan of your pet. Both the chemistry panel and complete blood count are great for evaluating trends in blood contents and response to medical therapy, which is why your veterinarian may recommend repeating these tests after treatment for a disease.
A urine analysis is a simple test often sent in addition with the other blood work panels. Urine is collected via a small needle or during voiding. The urine is assessed based on color, turbidity, pH, and concentration. It is also evaluated for evidence of red and white blood cells, glucose, crystals, and protein. A urinalysis can detect a wide variety of disorders ranging from urinary tract infections, kidney disease or damage, urinary stones, diabetes, and other systemic diseases. It is also used as a screening test for overall urinary health and kidney function even when your pet is not experiencing any clinical signs. This test is valuable independently but is more fully evaluated in conjunction with the complete blood count and chemistry panel, which is why we recommend submitting all three tests together.
Like humans, dogs and cats can also suffer from thyroid disease. This test is recommended for geriatric pets or pets showing clinical signs. Dogs are more likely to be affected with hypothyroidism, while hyperthyroidism is a common disease in cats. If your dog is exhibiting uncontrolled weight gain, hair loss, or severe lethargy, these may be signs of hypothyroidism. In contrast, if your cat is losing weight, has a ravenous appetite, or has an unkempt haircoat, these may be signs of hyperthyroidism. A simple blood test to check your pet’s thyroid levels can confirm these diagnoses and allow your veterinarian to create the appropriate plan for treatment.
Infectious Disease Test (4Dx: Heartworm, Ehrlichia, Lyme, Anaplasma)
Despite the usage of monthly flea, tick, and heartworm preventive, yearly testing for the above infectious diseases is imperative. Many circumstances can leave your pet susceptible to these pathogens including missed doses, improper dosage due to weight gain or loss, or drug resistance, and a quick blood test will alert your veterinarian as to whether your pet may be experiencing an infection. The four diseases that the 4Dx test looks for are Heartworm, Ehrlicia, Lyme, and Anaplasma. Heartworm disease is a dangerous disease transmitted by mosquitoes that can lead to heart failure. The good news is it is 100% preventable! The other three diseases are blood-borne diseases carried by ticks. These infections can cause many clinical signs including fever, lethargy, inappetence, kidney disease, bleeding disorders, paralysis, and arthritis affecting multiple joints. Most of these pathogens are treatable but can cause chronic disease in our pets. The 4Dx test helps to identify these infections to allow timely diagnosis and treatment.
Intestinal Parasite Testing
Prior to your pet’s annual check-up exams, we may ask that you bring in a stool sample from your pet for intestinal parasite screening. When we send off our fecal screens, the stool is tested for the presence of intestinal parasites such as hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, coccidia, giardia and roundworms. These parasites live in the GI tract of your dog or cat and cause intestinal disease. These parasites can also be transmissible to humans! Many, but not all these parasitic infections are preventable with your monthly intestinal parasite prevention, so testing even when your pet is on prevention is important for their overall health. Fecal examinations are also beneficial if your pet shows signs of gastrointestinal disease such as vomiting and diarrhea to help us rule out GI parasitism. Please obtain a fecal sample that is as fresh as possible to increase the reliability of the test.
Hopefully this has increased your understanding and explained the importance of annual lab work for your pet. Because many of these are best evaluated concurrently, Dogwood Veterinary Clinic offers discounted rates when multiple tests are performed together to ensure that we assess your pet’s health accurately. We recommend lab work regardless of age, but tailor our lab work packages based on the age range of the pet. We offer both adult and senior health profiles to diligently care for your pet through all life stages. Please contact us to learn more about how Dogwood Veterinary Clinic in Louisville, Kentucky can help your pet live a long, happy, and healthy life.