The Value of Regular Lab Testing and Wellness Care

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Diseases are sneaky. They can hunker down and hide out in your pet’s body without you knowing, silently wreaking havoc. They often do not cause external signs until the body is severely damaged. As part of your pet’s annual wellness visit, we may recommend lab testing to assess her overall health status. The tests that we run are designed to detect early warning signs of diseases that may be treatable if caught early.

Heartworm testing

Heartworms are passed to dogs (and cats!) through the bite of a mosquito. The initial exposure will eventually lead to an infestation of worms that clogs up the heart and blood vessels of the lungs. In addition to year-round heartworm prevention (ask us about this if your pet is not currently protected!) we recommend annual heartworm testing. A few drops of blood can let us know within 10 minutes whether your furry friend has been exposed to heartworms.


Fecal Analysis

When preparing for your pet’s annual wellness visit, we ask that you collect a fresh stool sample that will be used for intestinal parasite testing. By examining the feces under a microscope, we will be able to look for several parasites that can cause severe GI disturbances.

Common parasites of dogs and cats include:

  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Whipworms
  • Giardia
  • Coccidia

If any of these pests are found lurking in your pet’s digestive tract, we can prescribe medication that will eliminate them quickly.


Blood testing

Although it may not be necessary to perform blood testing annually in all pets, it is a valuable tool to have when needed. Once a pet reaches her golden years (typically after 8 years of age), blood testing should be performed annually to screen for age-related health problems. Blood testing should also be performed prior to any procedure requiring anesthesia to assess the function of the organs responsible for metabolizing and eliminating the anesthetic drugs that will be used.

A small sample of your pet’s blood can give us a large amount of information about how her body systems are functioning. A basic panel will include:

  • Complete blood count — This test measures the numbers of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in your pet’s blood, screening for anemia, dehydration, the presence of infection, and more.
  • Liver function tests — The liver breaks down potentially harmful substances, makes a number of critical proteins, and aids in digestion. Liver testing can detect potentially devastating diseases, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.
  • Kidney function tests — Kidney failure is a common cause of death in dogs and cats. It doesn’t cause clinical signs until the majority of kidney function has been lost and treatment is no longer helpful. Detecting kidney disease in its early stages can add several years of quality time to a pet’s life.
  • Blood glucose — Just like humans, dogs and cats can develop diabetes. Measuring blood glucose levels allows us to see if your dog or cat is producing enough insulin to process blood sugar properly.

Preventing disease

Aside from providing food and shelter, preventive health care is perhaps a pet owner’s most important obligation to their beloved companion. A few simple measures will prevent many of the diseases that can threaten your pet’s health.

Vaccination will protect your furry friend from deadly diseases that are passed from other animals. Dogs should receive vaccinations to protect against:

  • Rabies
  • Distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza (these diseases are often packaged together in one injection called the “canine distemper” or “canine combo” vaccine)
  • Leptospirosis
  • Kennel cough
  • Canine influenza

All cats should be vaccinated against:

  • Rabies
  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia (these diseases are often combined into one injection, called the “feline distemper” or “feline combo” vaccine)
  • Chlamydia
  • Feline leukemia (typically administered only if your cat goes outside)

Fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes carry a multitude of dangerous diseases that are easily preventable. A monthly heartworm preventive will inhibit heartworm disease from developing (even if your pet is bitten by a mosquito carrying the parasite), and may also prevent intestinal parasites. A regularly used flea and tick preventive will kill fleas and ticks that can carry potentially deadly diseases, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease, which can affect humans as well.

We want you and your pet to spend many happy years together. Regular lab testing and preventive medicine can help your pet live a long, healthy life by your side. Call us at 913-912-2319 to schedule your pet’s next preventive care visit.