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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why senior wellness bloodwork?

            As pets begin to age and reach what veterinarians consider “senior age” (dogs approximately 7 years old, cats approximately 8-9 years old), you may notice that your veterinarian begins to recommend yearly wellness bloodwork.  Many pet owners may wonder what this is and why it has not previously been recommended with each yearly visit.  The information presented below is to help those owners understand why it is recommended once the pet reaches a specific age, and what the bloodwork is comprised of.
            Imagine your pet (cat or dog) as a human senior adult.  As humans become older, a general health screen begins to involve wellness bloodwork to monitor for common senior illnesses, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, liver or kidney disease, or even cancer.  If these diseases are detected early enough prior to the development of clinical signs, treatments or lifestyle changes can be implemented to slow the progression of disease or even cure or improve existing changes.  Cats and dogs age much faster than humans (approximately 7 times faster), and therefore veterinarians must look for these changes sooner.   
            A complete blood count (or CBC) is performed to view changes that may be occurring with the patient’s bone marrow, hydration status, or immune system. Such values include the hematocrit (useful when assessing hydration status or presence of an anemia or immune-mediated disease), white blood cell counts (useful when assessing for infections, parasitic disease, inflammatory disease, or certain forms of cancer), or platelets (useful when assessing for clotting or immune-mediated disorders). 
            Serum chemistry is performed to assess overall organ function.  This is particularly important in those pets that may be on long-term medications that can have an effect on the kidneys or liver, or those that are currently exhibiting vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or potential toxin exposure.  Based on your pet’s underlying condition or medication, bloodwork may be recommended more often than once yearly (perhaps every 3 to 6 months).  In some cases, a thyroid function test (T4) may be needed to assess for an under- or overactive thyroid.  On many occasions, the veterinarian may actually be able to diagnose an underlying problem prior to it becoming severe, and early intervention is essential in controlling the overall course of disease (in some instances even life-saving!).
            So what if you perform senior wellness bloodwork on your pet and it is normal? Great! Even “normal” results on bloodwork provide valuable information, especially if the patient develops a sudden illness over the next year or has an adverse reaction to a food or medication.  This can aid us in better determining what may have been the underlying cause and time line for the illness to occur. 
            If you have any questions or concerns regarding wellness bloodwork or your pet, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Williams or Dr. Walker at (407)366-4486 and schedule a consultation today.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Be honest about your pet’s ability to travel.  If your pet is very young or old, is ill, pregnant, or recovering from surgery, it may be better for all concerned to look into a pet sitter or kennel.  There is no need to risk injuring your pet by taking him/her with you.
Ask us about any medical risks for areas you will be visiting, as well as any medications needed for carsickness.  Pets can be separated from their owners while traveling and often collars are not on pets recovered at the shelters.  Seriously consider having your pet microchipped, because facilities nationwide are using scanners that will read these implanted chips.  This allows you to be reunited with your lost pet! 
Make certain that all vaccinations are current and obtain a copy of the records to carry with you, as you may need to board your pet unexpectedly.  Also, if your pet requires emergency medical attention, these will allow this to take place much more quickly.  If your plans include air travel, you need to check with the airline carrier regarding their requirements.

Some helpful hints:
Obtain a proper carrier.
You need a sturdy, properly ventilated crate of adequate size for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.  The crate should be free of interior hazardous protrusions, have a door that latches securely, and have external handles.  The bottom should be leak proof and covered with a towel or absorbent material.
Make sure your pet is accustomed to the crate before you begin your trip.  On the outside of the crate print your name, the pet’s name, your home and destination address and phone number.
Never put a leash in the crate, as your pet could become entangled.

Verify that your pet’s tags are current.
Your pet should wear a secure collar at all times with tags showing proof of rabies vaccination and your name, home address, and phone number in case you get separated.  Make a set of temporary tags with the address and phone number of your destination

Be prepared for the worst.
No one likes to think about it, yet many pets become separated from their owners while traveling.  To increase the chances of a safe return, bring a recent photograph and written description of your pet.  Make sure to include name, breed, any tattoo/microchip numbers, sex, age, color, and any unusual markings.

Keep in mind.
Ø  Keep fresh water available for your pet at all times and avoid sudden changes of diet.
Ø  Obey all leash laws and clean up after your pet.
Ø  Never give your pet any sedatives or medications unless under a veterinarian’s prescription.  Such medications can interfere with your pet’s ability to maintain its balance and equilibrium, which can lead to injury.

Be sure to find lodging along the way where your pet will be welcome. Also remember the following:
Ø  All medications and a first aid kit
Ø  Health records
Ø  Sturdy leash and collar (with tags)
Ø  Extra collar
Ø  Bedding
Ø  Food, can opener, spoon, and bowl
Ø  Water and bowl
Ø  Treats and toys
Ø  Waste removal bags and a flashlight