By: Mark Cotnam, DVM
Benjamin Franklin, in his POOR RICHARD’S ALMANAC, once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The practice of preventative veterinary medicine has its basis in this concept. It is always better to prevent disease, or at least detect it earlier, than it is to treat a sick pet.
Unfortunately, our pets and patients cannot tell us when they are ill or in pain. Instinctively our pets will do their best to hide when they don’t feel well. This comes in to play when an owner brings their pet into the office and the owner sees a dog or cat who wasn’t moving at all at home run around the exam room like there is nothing wrong. The animal still feels sick but they try to hide it. This is one of the reasons that laboratory tests, even on a pet who appears well, can provide a way see early, internal signs of disease before the outward signs are so severe that the pet can no longer hide them.
Here are some of the most common diagnostic tests and the information that can be gained from them in our effort to prevent or detect illness in our beloved pets.
Complete Blood Count [CBC]
These tests focus on the cellular components of our pet’s blood. The red blood cell numbers can indicate anemia, hydration levels, auto-immune diseases, parasites and some toxins. The white blood cell counts can indicate signs of infections or leukemia and stress on the body. Platelets are vital for the blood to be able to clot and prevent hemorrhage during injury or surgery.
Blood Chemistry Tests [Chem Panel]
This group of tests reveal the internal functions of major body organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas and thyroid gland. If these organs become injured or impaired these tests can indicate the course of treatment to relief stress and also ways to help them heal.
Testing the composition and concentration of your pet’s urine can yield vital information. Not only about kidney function but also about certain infections and certain hormonal and metabolic diseases.
There are many other tests such as radiographs [x-rays], ultrasound, electrocardiograms [ECG] and many more that may be indicated by these base line tests and be recommended by your veterinarian.
It is important to be aware that your pet’s body is designed with many built in redundancy systems to allow it to fight disease and injury. There are two kidneys where the body can function quite well with only one. As much as two thirds of the liver must be diseased before any abnormalities will begin to show up in the blood tests. Add this to the already mentioned instinct that animals have to hide illness or injury and the need for laboratory tests for early detection and preventative medicine becomes readily apparent.
To find out more about preventative care, call Austin Vet Care Central at 512-961-3059.