Have you ever wondered why, after thoroughly examining your pet and checking their eyes, nose, mouth, ears, heart rate, joints and much more, your veterinarian might still recommend comprehensive blood work? Have you found yourself making excuses to delay this blood work–thinking that it’s just an unnecessary expense? If you find yourself nodding to either of the above questions, it’s time to take a closer look at what comprehensive blood work is, and why it’s such a critical component of your pet’s preventative health care.
How Blood Work Plays a Role in Preventative Care
Much like your own family physician, your pet’s veterinarian prefers to administer preventative care to your pet throughout their life. Since pets age seven to ten times faster than humans, your veterinarian needs to gather all the information he possibly can about your pet’s physical condition in order to determine whether a health issue is brewing. And obviously, he cannot simply ask your pet how he is feeling in order to determine whether there are any detectable initial symptoms of illness or disease. This is where comprehensive blood work comes into play.
If your veterinarian performs blood work on your pet once while he or she is young, this provides a baseline that future blood work can be compared to. Then, as your pet moves through adulthood and enters their senior years (ages five, six and seven, which is comparable to a thirty, forty and fifty year old human), annual blood work can help your veterinarian determine whether there are physiological changes occurring that need to be addressed. He can also detect any signs of early disease.
Details on Comprehensive Blood Work
Comprehensive blood work is sometimes confused with heartworm testing. It’s certainly true that heartworm testing is a blood test, and it is required prior to administration of heartworm medication. However, it is not a comprehensive blood test and does not therefore provide the same valuable information. It’s also true that heartworm testing is less expensive than comprehensive blood work, and this can be a stumbling block for some pet owners to work over. It’s important to keep in mind that preventative care, such as comprehensive blood work, is far less expensive than emergency care. Paying for comprehensive blood work once a year can help prevent far more expensive emergency care, not to mention the emotional distress that often comes when you learn your pet is suffering from an advanced and major illness, and it can also help your pet experience better health.
Comprehensive blood work may include:
- A complete blood count, or CBC, which includes hematocrit, hemoglobin, blood parasite screen, white cell count, a veterinary pathologist review of abnormal cells and a reticulocyte panel for anemic pets.
- A comprehensive chemistry profile, which includes testing of the liver, kidneys, pancreas, blood protein levels, electrolytes, calcium and blood sugar screening for possible diabetes situations.
- Complete thyroid testing for dogs, which is a thorough and accurate test to confirm suspected cases.
- FeLV/FIV testing for cats.
If your veterinarian feels that there are other blood tests your pet would benefit from, he will discuss these tests and their value at that time. Remember that your veterinarian’s primary concern is delivering the absolute best, and where possible, most preventative veterinary care possible. By performing regular blood work, your veterinarian can feel more confident about your pet’s health condition, and more confident about recommending any needed medical treatments. To that end, there are some cases where pets who have already been diagnosed with physical conditions or diseases can benefit from regular blood work in order to monitor their condition and adjust their treatment plan or medication as necessary.
Following Comprehensive Blood Work
It’s true that blood work may not give your veterinarian all the information they need in order to thoroughly assess your pet’s health condition or in order to design an appropriate treatment plan. However, it can alert your veterinarian to certain situations so that they can dig more deeply to find the root cause–whereas without blood work they may not see any signs at all. As an example, a pet whose kidneys are just beginning to fail may appear and act perfectly normal in all respects, but blood work can alert your veterinarian that something is off. Further examination or tests can reveal the source of the problem and offer a treatment path, before your pet’s kidneys fail.
It is important to allow your veterinarian to perform comprehensive blood work every year on your pet, or more often if they are older or have pre-existing health conditions. This is part of prudent preventative care and your pet will thank you.
For more information about comprehensive blood work, contact us today.