Why Does My Healthy Pet Need a Wellness Screening?
Answer: Because when it comes to pets, not everything is always as it seems and a healthy exterior can hide troubling internal problems.
Wellness screenings allow us to:
- Monitor your pet for abnormalities
- Act on any early changes
- Make sure any medications can safely be administered
- And, be certain that prescribed medications are not having no ill-effect.
Simply put, wellness screenings equate to good medicine and the best life for your pet.
What Do Veterinarians Look for When Screening?
Answer: We use a variety of tests to give us information that is pertinent to the health and well-being of your pet. These tests include:
The Cell Blood Count
The CBC, or Cell Blood Count, lets us know the levels of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. White blood cells are increased with infection or inflammation. Red blood cells are decreased with anemia. A low platelet count can point us to tick-borne diseases, which are ever more increasing in Maryland.
The Chemistry Panel
The Chemistry panel yields an incredible amount of information.
- A low albumin is seen with inflammatory bowel disease which we can often treat with a special diet.
- An elevated level of the liver enzyme ALT tells us there may be unknown liver disease and the next step is to schedule an abdominal ultrasound.
- An elevated alkaline phosphatase enzyme may mean your dog has Cushing’s disease.
- Increases in the BUN, creatinine, and SDMA detect early kidney disease – the sooner we start medications and special food, the better and longer the quality of life.
- Detection of an elevated potassium level may point to a lurking fatal disease called Addison’s, which is very treatable if detected early.
- Detection of an elevated proBNP (an abnormal heart muscle protein) in your normal appearing cat may mean subclinical cardiac disease, again very treatable if picked up early. The next recommended step would be an echogram of the heart.
- Abnormally low levels of the thyroid hormone means your dog may be have hypothyroidism, abnormal high levels of the same hormone equates to hyperthyroidism in your cat, both diseases very treatable.
- Could your pet be diabetic? That’s why we check the glucose level.
The Urinalysis Test
The urinalysis lets us check for an infection of the kidneys, bladder or prostate. It also tells us your pet’s kidneys are healthy and can handle the many medications (eg. Carprofen) we prescribe to them.
Tick and Heartworm Tests
The tick and heartworm test lets us know that your dog is free of any blood parasites. Again, the sooner we detect something, the more likely it is treatable. For example, it takes about 5 years for a dog to develop heart failure from a heartworm infection. If we detect the infection before by checking the blood every year, we can cure your dog and maintain normal heart function.
Intestinal Parasite Screening
The fecal test or stool check lets us make sure your dog or cat is free of intestinal parasites. You can have peace of mind knowing that your pet’s gastrointestinal tract is healthy and contains no worms.
What is the Best Part of Doing a Wellness Screen?
Answer: Our veterinarians enjoy nothing better than calling you on the phone to let you know that your pet’s lab tests are normal! We can make better decisions with medications, anesthesia and surgery, and diets. Plus, it gives you comfort to know that you are in better control of your pet and its health.
Doing these lab tests every 12 months (every 6 months for older healthy pets) gives us current and important information about your pet’s condition, allowing us to make the best decisions for their health!
Dr. Joseph Zulty
Essex Middle River Veterinary Center provides medical and surgical care for cats and dogs at our animal hospital and veterinary clinic in Essex, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. Our services include preventive wellness care exams, vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care. Our state-of-the-art veterinary offices are conveniently located near I-695 where we see pets from Towson, Honeygo, White Marsh, and other neighboring Baltimore areas.