Regular Wellness Exams and Blood Test Monitoring
Sadly, companion animals age much more quickly than we humans do. For example, the general rule of thumb is that dogs age 7 times faster than humans. This means that when your dog is 7 years old, she is more like a 49 year old human – thus the expression ‘dog years’!
When one of our experienced veterinarians is able to conduct a thorough physical examination on your companion each year, they have a better chance of detecting subtle changes to their condition. This early detection will ensure your pet receives appropriate support and treatment sooner rather than later, helping them to live as long and happy a life as possible.
A veterinarian’s hands and eyes are their most valuable tools – along with their incredibly knowledgeable brains, of course! At every annual wellness check, a thorough physical examination (a “nose to tail” exam) is conducted. During this process your veterinarian assesses your companion’s head and body for symmetry, eyes for abnormalities, ears for infection or inflammation, and mouth for discomfort or dental disease. They will palpate the lymph nodes to check for irregularities, and in certain cases will feel the neck to assess the thyroid gland.
Examining and palpating the abdomen can reveal masses, discomfort, or abnormal fluid presence. Flexing and extending the limbs may reveal arthritis or instabilities. They will listen to the heart and lungs to detect any potential murmurs, rhythm disturbances, or breathing abnormalities. Examination of the skin can reveal lumps and bumps, ectoparasites (fleas, lice), or suggest certain allergies or endocrine disturbances.
As their guardian, you can help make the most of your companion’s annual exam by coming prepared with any recent changes you have noted to their condition or behaviour, as well as any questions or concerns you may have.
Although a physical examination is imperative, it does not provide adequate information to assess how your companion’s internal organs are functioning. Therefore, blood tests can provide our veterinarians with important information to detect, diagnose, and monitor disease in your pet. Blood tests on companion animals are conducted similarly to those for humans – imagine the procedure when you visit your doctor or laboratory for a blood test, and you’ll be on the right track!
At Elk Lake Veterinary Hospital we have a full in-house laboratory to run blood work. This means we are able to generate accurate and timely results for a wide variety of tests. When specialized testing is required, we are also able to use external laboratories as needed.
Blood tests can provide insight into how the body’s organs are functioning, check the status of the immune system, and monitor the activity of a disease process. Measuring the composition of the blood (such as the number of red and white blood cells) can give us information regarding your companion’s level of hydration and indicate potential anemia, infection, or inflammation.
Blood tests can also provide important information on how well an organ is functioning – for example, your veterinarian might recommend bloodwork to assess your companion’s liver, kidney, or pancreas function.
General blood panels have been established to provide key metrics to assess overall health. In addition, there is a wide range of specific tests available that your veterinarian might select based on your companion’s suspected condition.
Bloodwork can be recommended to establish baseline values specific to your companion, or to monitor for changes over time. It is also used to monitor an animal who is on a new or long-term medication. Regular bloodwork becomes increasingly important as your companion ages, to help detect any issues or concerns as early as possible.
Bloodwork is also required before a patient undergoes general anesthetic, such as for a surgical or dental procedure. In this case, the pre-anesthetic bloodwork helps make sure the patient does not have any pre-existing unknown issues, and that they will be able to effectively metabolize the drugs used during anesthesia. These procedures can be understandably stressful for both patients and their humans – pre-anesthetic bloodwork is one more thing we can do to make these procedures as safe and smooth as possible.