So far, this series of blog posts have covered:

#1 – Have a financial plan to cover the costs of veterinary care
#2 – Have a thorough physical examination done every year
#3 – Feed really good food
#4 – Vaccinate only for what is really needed and only as often as necessary
#5 – Don’t let them get fat
#6 – Price-shop medications, supplements, and special needs foods
#7 – Take Care of Their Teeth!

Our next topic is sometimes a “tough sell”, even for very conscientious pet owners!

#8 – Have Blood and Urine Tests Done Yearly Once They Reach Middle Age.

Pet owners often say to me, “Why do you want to run blood and urine tests on my pet…she seems just fine to me!” There are at least two primary reasons why, in veterinary medicine, we rely more heavily on laboratory tests than human doctors do:

1) Pets Can’t Talk (To Us)!
In human medicine, much of the information that goes into a diagnosis comes from what the patient is able to verbally communicate to the doctor. However, none of us speak the native language of our dogs or cats (or bunnies or ferrets, etc.)! Because of this, our pets cannot communicate early, subtle signs and symptoms of illness to us! What this means (unfortunately) is that, by the time pet owners know their pet is sick, they may have been sick a long time! Yearly blood and urine tests, along with the yearly physical examination, help us pick up these uncommunicated illnesses much earlier and allow us to treat them in less invasive and often less expensive ways than if we waited for obvious symptoms to develop!

2) Pets Aren’t Weenies (Like Us)!
We humans are really sensitive and communicative about all our aches and pains. If we are hurting, we usually tell someone about it! Dogs and cats hurt just as much as we do when they are ill, but they don’t make near as big a deal about it as we do! This, “disguising of discomfort” helps animals in the wild by keeping them from being attacked by predators or by their own kind. However, our pets may very well be “suffering in silence” for days, weeks, or even years in some cases. Yearly blood and urine tests help us to sort out these potential sources of discomfort and illness in our pets and we recommend them for any pet who has reached middle age. For dogs and cats, this is around 5-7 years of age.

Even normal blood and urine test results are very useful to establish what is “normal” for your pet, which can then be compared to future samples, and to detect subtle trends over time. And like the physical exam, if we can catch problems through lab tests early, we can manage or cure them with less stress for your pet and much less expense for you!

– Dr. Chris Wilson