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)


De-mystifying “Out the Back” at the vet. What happens when your furbaby needs an operation.

Before I start talking surgery , I just want to thank all our wonderful clients who voted for us in the Northside Chronicle Business Achievers Awards. http://www.questawards.com.au/  We were very excited to discover that we have made the finals , fingers crossed now for the rest of the judging process.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programme :-). I’m a veterinary surgeon, I operate on animals almost every day and I know what a great job we do here at ZVS. So you would think that when it came time to neuter my kitten Pekan  I wouldn’t be nervous at all, right?

Pekan, also known as Batman

Wrong, I was worried about my little guy which got me to thinking. If I was worried then how stressful must it be for my clients when their pet needs even a “routine” operation. This blog entry follows a couple of super cute pups as they have their desexing operations.

You may have wondered why we insist your pets have no breakfast on the morning of their surgery? This is because while they are under the anaesthetic, food from their stomach can be regurgitated and can then find it’s way into their lungs. This can cause a nasty pneumonia so as a preventative we need them to be fasted. Rest assured though, as soon as they are awake they will have a yummy meal.

On the morning of your pets’ surgery, you will have an admission appointment with their nurse for the day. At this appointment we make sure they have been fasted and will ask you some questions about their general health and well being. You will also need to fill in an admission form with your contact details for the day.

Nurse Vicky admitting “Nori” for his desexing procedure.

Once admitted they are moved to the ward and made comfy with a nice soft blanket.

“Amelia” saying Hi.

Next step is a check up including temperature, pulse, respiration and blood pressure.


Now we place a catheter into a vein in the front leg so we can give medications and an intravenous drip while they are under the anaesthetic. We also take a small amount of blood for a pre-anaesthetic blood test.

A quick cuddle while the catheter is placed.

Running the blood test – Nori and Amelia’s tests are all perfect 🙂

Once the blood test is finished, the pet will have a pre med. This is a pain medication and a sedative. We do not want our patients to feel any pain so we give pain medications both before and after their surgical procedure.

Next step is an injection of fast acting anaesthetic through the catheter followed by placement of an endotracheal (breathing tube) and connection to the anaesthetic machine.

Attaching my intravenous drip and shaving the surgical site.

  While the pet is anaesthetised there is a nurse constantly monitoring the heartrate, respiratory rate, ECG, blood pressure and temperature. This information is recorded on the anaesthetic log.

Cleaned and preped and ready for surgery. Note the little umbilical hernia (bump in the middle of the belly). This will be repaired as well.

                Once the operation is over, we use a photonic pen to reduce pain and inflamation at the surgery site.

Photonic light to reduce pain.

  You will notice a small tattoo in the left ear , this is a proof of desexing tattoo and is done while your pet is still under the anaesthetic.  

Ear tattoo.

        From the surgical suite, it is into recovery and a nice warm blanket. While your pet is under the anaesthetic we use a Hot Dog veterinary partient warming system to help maintain their body temperature. It is so snug the nurses want to take it home on cold winter nights. http://www.hotdog-usa.com/.   

Nice and snug in recovery.


Once awake, a tasty meal is offered and more pain releif administered.      

I’m not wearing socks, I had my back dew claws removed as well.

Once fully awake, you will have a discharge appointment with your  pets’ nurse so we can give you your post operative care instructions and so you can ask any questions you might have. 

We really want your pets’ proccedure to be as stress free and pain free as we can possibly make it (for both of you). We are very happy to give tours of our practice so you can see for yourself where your pet will  be looked after. Just give us a ring and as long as we don’t have any patients who shouldn’t be disturbed we would love to show you our facility.

Happy to see my dad and go home 🙂

August is Pet Dental Month!

Well yes, August IS nearly over but I wanted to give you the chance to drop in and visit the Zillmere Tooth Fairies before we hang up our wings.

Pet dentistry is a real passion of mine, it is so incredibly satisfying to see how much happier and healthier pets are after their dental disease is treated. A common response from clients is “He is just like a puppy again”. Because animals are so adept at hiding signs of pain, we tend to seriously underestimate just how much they are suffering when they have bad teeth.

We now know that;

  • over 85% of adult pets have periodontal disease.
  • periodontal disease causes damage to the kidneys, heart and liver.
  • animals with periodontal disease have increased levels of C reactive protein (which is a marker for inflamation in the body), and these levels decrease after dental treatment.
  • dental disease in humans is linked to heart disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes, diabetes, stroke, respiratory disease and neurodegenerative disease.
  • dental disease is PAINFUL!
  • dental disease causes BAD BREATH.

We are proud that we are one of the few veterinary practices in Brisbane with a digital dental x-ray machine. This allows us to find disease BENEATH the gumline. Dental x-rays are standard in human dentlisty, and now your pet can access that same level of care. I have been truly horrified at how much significant disease there can be lurking beneath the surface! In these x-rays  you can see the areas where infection has caused abscess formation around the roots of the tooth – very painful!

Yellow circles around tooth root abscesses!

Unfortunately, this tooth is past saving and all we can do is an extraction. At Zillmere we are all about preventative healthcare, so flip the lip and have a look at your pet’s teeth (especially way down the back). If the teeth have brown stuff on them, drop in for a free dental check. With regular cleaning and home care we can stop periodontal disease before it becomes irreversible like this poor baby.

So what can you do to help? First look at your pet’s diet, human food and table scraps tend to stick to the teeth and encourage plaque formation. Most premium quality diets have oral care elements and the Hills T/D diet is proven to reduce plaque by 30%. Daily brushing is really the gold standard for preventative home care. There is too much fluoride in human toothpaste so you need to use proper pet toothpaste – available in the delicious flavours of beef, chicken or cheese! Stay tuned for our you-tube video (still in production) on toothbrushing cats and dogs or come in and have one of our super-nurses demonstrate.

Hello world!

Well, maybe not the WHOLE world, but at least hello Zillmere and environs.

Much to my surprise, I have decided to start a blog. Those of you who know how technologically inept I am may laugh (yes, that means you Dirk), however I will try and keep my musings relevant and entertaining. Ah, who am I kidding, I will be happy if I can just get it on the web!

This foray into the world of internet blogging was triggered by a lecture I attended recently at the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) annual conference in San Diego.  My main purpose in attending was to support my husband, Dr Tom Catanzaro, as he was named the 2012 Leo Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year.  This is one of the most prestigous honours our profession can bestow and I am very proud of him. Of course while I was at the conference I took the opportunity to attend some first class continuing education lectures.

Even though I graduated from vet school 29 years ago (wow, I am soooo old), knowledge in our profession increases exponentially every year. One of the things I love about being a vet is that there is always something new to learn. Because of my dedication to continuing education, I have qualified as a Chartered Member of the AVA (Australian Veterinary Association). The qualification is awarded to vets who do serious and continuing post-graduate education and ensures we keep up to date with latest the advancements in the veterinary world.

Glad we don’t need one of these!

While I was in San Diego I visited a local practice. I was a little shocked (pun intended) to see this next to their first aid kit.

  I was also lucky enough to attend my very first baseball game.

It was a lot of fun and I was introduced to some interesting baseball rituals including the tailgate party, crackerjacks, 24 oz cans of beer,strange mascots (San Diegos mascott is the “Swinging Friar”) and the 7th innings stretch where you all stand up and sing “Take me out to the ball game”. 

No trip to San Diego is complete without a trip to the Safari Park, which is a beautiful open plan zoo with one of the best best records for breeding endangered species in the world. Their biggest success stories are probably re-establishing condors in the wild and breeding the white rhino.

Me bathing the rhino 🙂

Currentely, I am in NSW where I will speak to a group of Newcastle veterinarians about general practice dentistry and will be back in the practice this Saturday.

If this one works – I will aim for a weekly blog entry so fingers crossed 🙂