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Early Detection: Why Preventative Care is Important

“Luckily, we caught it early…”

Ever heard this? How about for yourself or a loved one?

When people go to the doctor, routine diagnostic testing is recommended based on their sex, age, family history, and any symptoms they are experiencing. Doctors request reliable tests knowing that if discovered early, a problem can be managed much easier than if late. It enables planning which in turn may save everyone significant time, energy, and a headaches. For the patient, it could mean being spared from discomfort, pain, and excess costs. In serious cases, it may save them their life.

The same applies in veterinary medicine. Preventative care can identify underlying medical conditions before your pet starts showing symptoms. Early detection may be the difference between a one-time prescription and an enormous bill in the mail.. or worse.

So What Tests Should I Get For My Pet?

Just as with humans, there are hundreds of diagnostics and combinations of tests that could be administered to your animal. What matters is the balance between appropriate and timely analysis while preventing unnecessary spending and excessive caution. For your pet’s routine care, prevention and early detection are the guiding principles. Our intention is to meet your pets needs with the appropriate diagnostic screening.

The following is breakdown of the most common diagnostic panels we may advise to our patients.

Blood Chemistry (Chem 27, 25, 21, & 11)

A blood chemistry analysis measures specific chemicals in the body that are released by organs and tissues. These include electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride, as well as fats, sugars, and enzymes. Why is this important? Chemistry analysis helps your veterinarian determine if your pet’s major organs are working properly. If this is the case, we can advise on further treatment such as medications, diet, etc.

When test results come back, they are compared to a baseline, meaning the acceptable range for those chemicals. If the results are abnormal, this could be a sign of disease. Differing symptoms and demographics dictate the appropriate scope of blood analysis. The number in our chemistry panels indicate the extent of chemicals being analyzed. E.g. 27, 21, & 11

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A complete blood count will measures:

Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells help to carry oxygen throughout the body. If a patient has a low red blood cell count, they could become anemic.

There are many medical conditions that could impact a pets red blood cell count. A few include:

  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cancer
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Toxin Exposure
  • Ehrlichiosis (a tick-borne illness)

If your pet is found to have a low red blood cell count your veterinarian may recommend additional testing to determine the cause.

White Blood Cells

White blood cells are part of the body’s immune system. An abnormal white blood cell count could indicate that your pet has an infection, is suffering from an allergic reaction, or has chronic inflammation.

Other conditions and factors that can impact a pet’s white blood cell count include:

  • Leukemia
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Medications

Platelets

Platelets are an important part of the blood clotting process. If a patient has too many platelets a clot could form and cause damage to the surrounding tissue. If the patient doesn’t have enough platelets, they could experience excessive bleeding.

SDMA (symmetric dimethylarginine)

SDMA is an amino acid. A test for SDMA can determine kidney function to as little as 25%. This will help to catch acute and chronic kidney failure early on.

Chronic kidney disease is one of the most common health issues discovered in senior cats, making the SDMA an important part of biannual or annual testing.

Fecal Test (fecal dx profile)

A fecal test determines if your pet has an intestinal parasite. Ask us about our FecalCheck Home kit!

A fecal test may analyze for:

Roundworms

Nearly every pet has had roundworms at some point in their life, typically as newborns. There are three main types of roundworms, Toxocara canis, Toxocara cati, and Toxascaris leonine. Toxocara canis and cati are transmittable to humans.

Pets get roundworms by eating infested soil, plants, small animals, or through nursing.

Although many infected pets don’t show symptoms, some will experience:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Potbellied appearance
  • Malnourishment

In rare cases, roundworms can migrate to the lungs causing coughing.

Hookworms

Hookworms attach to the intestinal tract and feed on the blood of their host. A heavy infestation can cause anemia, lethargy, diarrhea, and weight loss.

Pets can get hookworms by ingesting them, direct contact through the skin, or from their mother during pregnancy and nursing.

Whipworms

Whipworms are a very hardy species whose eggs can survive in the environment without a host for up to five or six years. Like other intestinal parasites, whipworms can cause diarrhea and weight loss.

Tapeworms

Pets get tapeworms when they ingest a flea that has ingested a tapeworm larva. In addition to GI symptoms, many pets will scoot because of anal irritation. It’s not uncommon for pets to never show symptoms but for owners to report seeing rice like segments in their pets’ stool.

Keeping your pet on a flea preventative year-round will help to reduce the risk of ingesting tapeworm eggs.

Giardia

Giardia is a microscopic intestinal parasite that can infect cats, dogs, and humans.

Pets will typically exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Gas

Pets become infected when they consume Giardia cysts or drink contaminated water.

Intestinal parasites can be removed with medication. It’s important to have your pet’s fecal sample checked regularly as many of these parasites continue to live in the environment your pet frequents.

4DX Snap Test (Heartworm, Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, & Anaplasmosis )

The 4DX is a blood test that checks heartworm and 5 vector-borne diseases. Vector-borne diseases are spread by blood-feeding species including ticks and mosquitoes. 4DX tests specifically screen for:

Heartworm

When an adult female mosquito bites an infected animal, such as fox, coyote, wolf, or dog, they can pick up microscopic baby heartworms. When the mosquito feeds on another animal, the baby worms enter a new host through the mosquito bite, moving to the heart and lungs. Within six months the heartworm reaches its adult length of 4 – 12 inches.

If left untreated, heartworm will cause respiratory distress and heart failure. Symptoms include lethargy, coughing, decreased appetite, and weight loss.

If a pet has been on year-round preventative, annual testing is recommended. Pets who have not been on a preventative need to be tested prior to starting.

Lyme

Nearly everyone has heard to Lyme disease which is transmitted by a tick bite to animals and humans. Although many pets will test positive for Lyme despite having no symptoms, others experience lethargy, joint pain, and lack of appetite.

Early detection of Lyme is imperative. Long term effects of late or no detection can include permanent damage to the heart, kidneys and nervous system. Irreversible kidney failure is one of the most common chronic problems for dogs who are severely impacted.

The impact on humans if left untreated can be equally debilitating and life-threatening.

Ehrlichiosis  (Ehrlichia canis & Ehrlichia ewingii)

Ehrlichia are actually a type of bacteria that live in the white blood cells of their hosts. This bacterium is transmitted through a tick bite.

Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis can include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal Bleeding (caused by a low platelet count)
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes
  • Enlarged Spleen
  • Neurological Symptoms
  • Muscle Pain

In some cases, if left untreated, Ehrlichiosis can cause kidney damage.

Anaplasmosis  (Anaplasma platys & anaplasma phagocytophilum)

Anaplasmosis is another tick-borne illness. Platys infects the platelets in the bloodstream of your pet while phagocytophilum infects the white blood cells.

Anaplasmosis has similar symptoms to other tick-borne illnesses, such as joint pain, nosebleeds, bruising, fever, lack of appetite, and lethargy.

How Often Should My Pet Be Tested?

In addition to recommending diagnostic tests when a pet is scheduled to go under anesthesia, tailored blood diagnostics are important when your pet is ill, when they are on long term medications, and when they are at specific life stages. A veterinarian may advise biannual or annual routine care for screening. These recommendations will be based on your pets age, breed, and medical history.

How Quick Are Test Results?

Some tests are simple enough for a veterinary practice or clinic to complete in house. If you are visiting for a 4DX Snap test, we will be able to determine the results in 8 minutes and share with you before you leave. This is especially advantageous in the event we find positive results for a disease. We can then further discuss appropriate treatment options with you. Other tests are more complex and most efficient to be sent to the IDEXX laboratory. For many practices, it would be impractical to run these in-house. Results are returned to us digitally within a few days.

Is This All I Need?

Depending on many factors, more or less may be appropriate. We are happy to consult with you if you are experiencing something specific. If you have any questions about the tests our we provide or what your pet may be due for, please contact us! We look forward to helping your pet live a long and healthy life!

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