ALL CREATURES ANIMAL CLINIC, LTD.
Mark Hale, DVM
WELLNESS SCREENING FOR YOUR PET
For the past 25 years, the human health field has developed and promoted wellness testing programs to try to prevent or identify disease in its earliest stages. Remarkable progress has been made in this area. By catching health problems early, the options and prognosis for treatment are greatly increased. We have probably all had some of these tests such as physical exams, prostate screenings, mammograms, glaucoma testing, and many, many others.
Veterinary care for your pet is closely following the human medical field. While the list of available tests for pets may not be as long, by doing some basic screening procedures, problems can often be detected while good treatment opportunities still exist. The fact that pets age so much faster than humans makes these annual or biannual exams even more important. The chart below provides some comparative ages for dogs and humans. As you can see, the larger the dog the faster it ages.
The most important component of wellness screening is the physical exam. While vaccinations are important, the most valuable part of getting these done by your pets' veterinarian is the physical exam which is completed at that time. Astute owners sometimes will have noticed a change in their pet's behavior or habits. Combining this history with what is found on the physical exam can determine which, if any, tests are needed.
Usually starting at age 7, routine screening tests such as blood chemistry, complete blood count (CBC), or urinalysis are performed. These basic tests can identify signs of hundreds of diseases. Blood chemistry tests are used to detect the presence of such things as liver or kidney diseases, diabetes, pancreatitis, or electrolyte disturbances. The CBC includes red and white blood cell counts, platelet counts, and measurements and differentials of theses cells. These can indicate the presence of such things as infection, anemia, clotting disorders, or certain cancers. Heartworm tests, fecal exams, and radiographs are other common tests used as screening or diagnostic procedures. Certain breeds or body types can be prone to specific disorders so testing among pets will vary.
Hopefully when your pet is tested the results will all be normal. But that does not mean that the tests were wasted. These values will be used to compare with future results so that changes can be noted early.
The moral of the story is be involved in the healthcare decisions for your pet. By observing its behavior closely, you can often notice subtle changes that may indicate more serious problems ahead. These observations combined with appropriate exams and testing can be used to provide your dear companion with a longer and more comfortable life.