Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What's So Important About Doing Labwork?

Written by Dr. Gloria Ku
Sometimes it feels like we are always being asked to do a blood test or have a urine test and if you have ever had these tests done for your pet, you know that labwork can be expensive.  When our pet is ill, we understand the need to look for abnormalities and markers to help us guide our treatment and assess the severity of the problem.  But when our pet is healthy or feeling fine, is it really necessary?

From a veterinarian’s point of view, the more information we can gather about your pet, the more we understand and can accurately assess their overall health.  Unlike people, your pet will usually only tell you when something bothers them enough not to eat, to cause them to vomit, or urinate on your dining room floor, or limp..

But problems can start before symptoms are obvious. And if detected earlier, very often we can do more to alleviate the problem.  On top of that, our pets age much faster than we do.  By age 3, my young puppy is already equivalent to a 21 year old, and by age 5 she is middle aged at what is equivalent to 35.  By 8 years of age she is equivalent to 56, and by 10 she is 70.

Between the ages of 35-70, people have likely had multiple opportunities to have bloodwork and urine tests done by our physicians to help us evaluate our health.  Ideally, we would like to have a little data to compare back to by the time your pet reaches 10 as well.

What we are looking for are signs of organ disease (e.g. kidney, liver, pancreas, etc.), infections or conditions that may be low grade and undetected because our pet doesn’t exhibit outward symptoms (e.g. urinary tract infections, blood born parasites, bladder stones, etc.) and imbalances that may be developing (electrolyte or mineral imbalances, hormonal imbalances, etc.).  Sometimes we also need to be sure they are healthy enough for anesthesia for routine dental work or to have a growth removed, for instance. 

If you aren’t sure if it is necessary, it is always best to ask how important it is and why.  That is really the only way to know what the risks of not testing are, if any, and whether the benefits are worth the cost.  Each situation is unique and we are happy to help you make the best decisions you can regarding your pet’s care.