Why does my vet need to do blood tests on my pet?

Hi everyone,

Over the past couple of weeks we have seen some interesting medical cases so I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about the need for regular surveillance screening blood tests.

In my practice I want to see my patients at least every 6 months, one visit is to update routine preventative healthcare such as vaccinations, heartworm prevention etc and the other visit is so we can do some surveillance screening tests.

People ask me why is it important for pets to see the vet every six months when they don’t see their own doctor that often. What we have to remember is that our pets age 5 – 7 years for every one human year, so a 6 monthly vet visit is the same as you visiting the doctor every 2.5 to 3.5 years!

At each visit your pet will have a full check up: heart, lungs, ears, teeth, temperature, blood pressure, lymph nodes and any lumps or bumps. Depending on the results of the physical exam and your pets age and lifestyle, I can then recommend which screening tests are appropriate for your pet. These  charts give your pets’ approximate age in people years. As a general guide, as your pet ages, the level of testing required increases.

There are a few reasons why testing is so important!

It seems obvious when you think about it, but our pets can’t talk to us! They can’t tell us if they have a pain somewhere or if they are just feeling a bit unwell.

Not so obvious is that animals will actively mask signs of illness or injury. Think about it, survival as a member of a pack, or being able to scare off all comers to protect your territory  means giving the appearance of being the fittest, toughest, meanest pomeranian in town ALL the time. While domestic pets don’t need to bring down a wildebeest for their dinner, the evolutionary pathways which enable them to mask when they are not well still exist. 

Together these factors mean that pets can often be very sick indeed before they are showing any clinical signs of illness.

By taking regular surveillance tests, we can diagnose illnesses earlier and hopefully be able to start treatment BEFORE it is too late.

I want to share a couple of my patients who we have made a huge difference to by being able to detect disease early.

One of the absolute BEST diseases to identify early is feline Diabetes. In the past, when a cat was diagnosed with diabetes it meant that the cat would need insulin injections morning and night for the rest of their life. Now we know that with early diagnosis, dietary change and Lantus insulin, many cats will actually go into remission from their diabetes and be able to come off insulin injections completely. I think this is just the COOLEST thing! 

This little kitty cat is Millie who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008. She needed twice daily insulin injections for several months until her blood sugar levels improved but has been in remission now for 4 years.

This cutie is Max who we saw about 6 weeks ago. At that visit  he was starting to show clinical signs from his diabetes.

The classic signs of uncomplicated diabetes are drinking and peeing excessively and losing weight while still having a good appetite.

Max had lost about 500 gms and was generally feeling pretty miserable. After a few weeks on insulin injections and a  change to Hills M/D food he has gained weight and is feeling MUCH better.

I am hopeful we can stop his injections soon and keep his diabetes under control with diet alone.

Finally, I’d like to share Belle’s story. Belle was found to have some abnormal liver enzymes on her routine blood work about 18 months ago.

Further investigation showed a tumour in her liver which was subsequently removed.

Belle is still doing well over a year later.

The last example for today is my own kitty Nicholas. Nicky is an elderly gentleman of 16 years who needed to have part of one lung removed last year. He also has kidney problems and hyperthyroidism. Because he has had regular blood tests throughout his life I was able to detect both problems early and have been better able to manage his medical needs.

Nicholas (ginger) and Tybalt (tabby)

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