Veterinary Wellness Screening: Three Tests and Three Reasons

Why Have Early-Detection Veterinary Screening?

Most pets don’t relish a veterinary visit and many are outright terrified by the experience. For this reason, many pet guardians are reluctant to take their animal companions to the vet when they don’t appear sick. However, veterinarians recommend several basic early detection screening tests and PugetPets thought of three good reasons to have them done.

Reason #1: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

By preventing or treating conditions before they become serious, early-detection veterinary screening could save your pet long-term pain and even save you money in the long run.

Reason #2: “In dog beers, I’ve only had one.”

It’s also important to remember that our pets age faster than we do. One year of their lives is roughly equivalent to seven years of ours. Therefore, our companion animals experience health-related changes faster, too. Preventive screening allows you to stay in touch with your pet’s changing health requirements.

Reason #3: “Pain is just weakness leaving your body.”

While most of us are pretty good at telling if there is something wrong with our animal friend, our pets are also very good at hiding their conditions. Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie of the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine reminds us that “from an evolutionary perspective, showing illness or weakness can be detrimental, so over time animals instinctively have hidden illness.” And Banfield Pet Hospital states that this is especially true for cats, whose evolutionary history and solitary nature predisposes them to endure “extreme discomfort” rather than reveal signs of weakness to potential predators.

Veterinary Wellness Tests

Early-detection veterinary screening can be an important factor in keeping your pet healthy and happy, so what tests should you request? For young adult animals, most veterinarians suggest periodic wellness testing in order to have a benchmark for measuring the animal’s long-term health. This type of wellness testing most often consists of three basic tests:

Test #1: Complete Blood Count (CBC)

Measures and analyzes blood cells and platelets. This test can detect signs of illness such as anemia, infection, parasites, inflammation, allergies and even bone marrow diseases and blood cancers, such as leukemia.

It is also not uncommon for Thyroid function screening (T4) to be included in many wellness blood tests. Thyroid disease is common in both dogs and cats, with dogs most often suffering from hypothyroidism (low thyroid) and cats, especially senior cats, most often being afflicted with hyperthyroidism (high thyroid). This test will determine if further thyroid screening is warranted for your pet, so make sure you know whether T4 screening will be a part of your pet’s blood work.

Test #2: Chemistry Profile (Chem)

Typically evaluates kidney, liver and pancreas function, as well as measuring electrolyte levels. A wide variety of chemistry panels can be performed. Some of the more common ones that would be appropriate for a young, healthy pet your vet can often perform “in house,” while others need to be sent away to a laboratory. The former are sometimes referred to as a “minor chemistry profile.” For senior pets, early-detection veterinary screening may include a more exhaustive chemistry profile, sometimes called a “major chemistry profile.” You can visit PetEducation.com for a detailed explanation of veterinary chemistry profiles.

Test #3: Urinalysis (UA)

Detects impaired kidney function, which can occur without any blood work changes. Chronic kidney disease is a major cause of death in older cats, but if detected early, can be managed with dietary changes and routine monitoring. Urinalysis also detects urinary tract infections, crystals and can even help diagnose diabetes, liver disease and prostate cancer.

A Sense of Security

Early-detection veterinary screening tests are one of the most important tools to help evaluate your pet’s health before symptoms of disease are present. On the way to the veterinary office, calm anxious pets with familiar items and scents, such as favorite toys and articles of clothing that you have worn. Your scent will help remind your pet that security is near. Cover your cat carrier with a blanket or towel to provide a “hiding space” for your nervous kitty. If your pet remains highly terrified over a vet visit, talk to your veterinarian about whether an oral tranquilizer can help. Rest assured, the temporary anxiety pets can experience during a veterinary visit is a small cost for ensuring their long-term health, and this will help you have a sense of security, too.