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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.