Wellness Blood Testing

May 15, 2009

Pets age more rapidly than humans. With the aging process changes occur in the function of the body. Some of these changes can be seen from the outside: weight gain or loss, stiffness, dull haircoat, loss of sight or hearing. Some changes, however, occur internally and can’t be discovered without laboratory testing. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms of illness can be seen, in liver or kidney disease for example, organ damage is already in the advanced stages.

In order to detect organ damage in its early stages, when it can be treated most successfully, we recommend annual blood testing as part of your pet’s yearly physical examination once he or she is over 7-9 years of age. This blood testing can also be used to provide a baseline for comparison in the event of future illness, allowing us to identify changes that may assist in faster, more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Test results serve double duty by providing information before surgery or dental procedures, allowing for safer anesthesia.

Early detection can mean
A longer, healthier life for your Pet.

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Living with Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia (FeLV), a widespread, incurable virus that typically suppresses a cat’s immune system, is the most common cause of cancer in cats. Although some cats are able to eliminate the virus on their own and develop immunity, many others die as a result of cancer or opportunistic infections.
      The disease is spread from cat to cat through bites; mutual grooming; and sharing food or water dishes and litter boxes. Kittens can also contract the virus from their mothers.
      FeLV is species-specific, so humans and dogs are not at risk.
      In 2006, the Winn Feline Foundation reported that 3% of cats in single-cat homes were infected with FeLV. Infection rates are dramatically higher among stray cats and in homes where cats are allowed outside.
      FeLV is highly contagious, so it is important to have your cat vaccinated if it could be exposed to other cats. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends all kittens receive the vaccine.
      Infected cats may harbor the illness for several years with no signs of illness. Over time, they may lose weight, become depressed, or develop a fever. Their coats often deteriorate, and they may develop skin, bladder, or upper respiratory infections.
      Your veterinarian can diagnose the disease by conducting a simple blood test called an ELISA.
      Cats infected with the virus live an average of three years.
      “Many of these cats can live reasonably healthy lives for a number of years if they receive proper care,” says Fred Scott, DVM, PhD, interim director of the Cornell Feline Health Center in Ithaca, N.Y.
      If your cat is infected, good nutrition and a stress-free environment are essential.
      “Your veterinarian will talk to you about the importance of maintaining a balanced diet. Also, he or she will ask you about your cat’s lifestyle and look for ways to reduce stress,” Scott explains.
      Scott strongly recommends that infected cats be kept indoors so they won’t spread the virus. If you have multiple cats, have all of them tested, vaccinate any that are not infected, and consider housing infected cats separately.
      “Your veterinarian will want to see your cat on a more frequent basis [than a healthy cat], say, every six months,” says Scott.
      “Between check-ups, stay alert to your cat’s body condition. Once a month, rub your hand over its ribs. You should be able to feel them, but they shouldn’t stand out.”
      If you notice any changes in your cat’s health or behavior, notify your veterinarian immediately.

Accreditation Matters: Routine Laboratory Tests Expose Hidden Ailments

Heartworm. Urinalysis. Total blood panel.
If you’re like most pet owners, you have at one time or another wondered what all those tests mean. And, more to the point, are they really necessary?
The short answer is Yes — but it is always good to ask.
Veterinarians use lab tests to monitor your pet’s health, diagnose a disease or condition, and measure the effects of a medication or treatment plan.
In some cases, pets must be tested before they can receive necessary treatments. For example, the American Heartworm Society recommends testing pets for heartworms before starting preventive medications and annually thereafter.
Many veterinarians recommend running blood tests at each wellness exam to establish your pet’s baseline of values for various things like protein, enzymes, and electrolytes, and to track changes in those values. This information helps your veterinarian detect developing ailments in their very early stages, often before your pet shows visible signs.

Common Laboratory Tests

Preventive:
Fecal (parasites)
Heartworm
Presurgical
Predental
Puppy/kitten
Geriatric
Electrolytes
Liver/kidney/thyroid function
Total blood panel
Urinalysis

Amy Franklin of Denver, Colo., recently took her 9-year-old Labrador, Beijo, to AAHA-accredited Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center for a complete blood panel before routine dental work.
Such tests are recommended in the AAHA Standards of Accreditation as part of a comprehensive pre-anesthetic plan for dental cleanings and other procedures requiring the use of general anesthetics.
Beijo’s test results revealed a fast-growing mast cell tumor. Mast cell tumors are often fatal because, by the time symptoms appear, the cancer is too advanced to successfully treat. The best chance a pet has of surviving a mast cell tumor is early detection.
Thanks to pre-anesthetic testing, Beijo is cancer-free and sporting clean teeth!
Mary Brussell, a certified veterinary technician who works on the AAHA accreditation team, tells a similar story. Recently she took Reggie, her 9-year-old border collie cross, to AAHA-accredited Mesa Veterinary Clinic, in Golden, Colo., for a geriatric wellness visit, including routine blood work.
Although Reggie appeared healthy, the test results showed elevated kidney values. Christine Horst, DVM, recommended a urinalysis.
The results indicated Reggie was in the early stages of kidney failure. Kidney failure is fatal if left untreated, but because Horst caught the condition in its infancy, and is treating it aggressively, Mary and Reggie will enjoy many more happy years together.

For more information on laboratory tests, including what common tests reveal, ask your veterinarian for the AAHA brochure, Laboratory Testing for Your Pet.

AAHA’s Standards of Accreditation on Laboratory Testing
One-stop testing centers: AAHA requires all accredited practice teams to offer a wide variety of laboratory tests. If your clinic doesn’t perform the tests on-site, it must use the services of an outside laboratory. This means your pet will be able to have the test it really needs, no matter the size of the hospital.
Trained team members. AAHA standards allow only well-trained team members, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians to conduct laboratory tests. Solid training ensures fast, accurate results with minimal retesting, yielding pinpoint diagnoses.
from AAHA

Pets age more rapidly than humans. With the aging process changes occur in the function of the body. Some of these changes can be seen from the outside: weight gain or loss, stiffness, dull haircoat, loss of sight or hearing. Some changes, however, occur internally and can’t be discovered without laboratory testing. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms of illness can be seen, in liver or kidney disease for example, organ damage is already in the advanced stages.

In order to detect organ damage in its early stages, when it can be treated most successfully, we recommend annual blood testing as part of your pet’s yearly physical examination once he or she is over 7-9 years of age. This blood testing can also be used to provide a baseline for comparison in the event of future illness, allowing us to identify changes that may assist in faster, more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Test results serve double duty by providing information before surgery or dental procedures, allowing for safer anesthesia.

Early detection can mean
A longer, healthier
life for your PET.