Here at Moorpark Vet, bloodwork is recommended annually starting at around six months of age for all pets. Additionally, urinalysis is recommended annually for all pets five years and older. It is in our pets’ best interest to check their internal organ function, complete blood count (CBC), electrolyte levels, and for heartworm disease and tick-borne illnesses annually. Even though your pet may seem healthy, animals are masters at hiding illnesses! Some red flags on bloodwork may show early disease that the pet hasn’t become visually symptomatic for, and will allow your animal care team to start addressing problems before they get out of hand. Even if your pet’s bloodwork comes back with no significant findings, it is helpful for your veterinarian to have baselines from year-to-year to pick up trends on individuals which may be changing over time. Once pets become middle-aged, they become more predisposed to kidney and urinary issues. It is important for your veterinarian to identify trends and signs on a urinalysis for problems, in tandem with their annual bloodwork.
Why should I do a heartworm test annually when my dog has been on heartworm prevention consistently?
Great question! It is the standard recommendation by the American Heartworm Association to ensure prevention is actually working annually. Strains of heartworms are continuously developing which are resistant to some heartworm medications. False negatives are also possible due to a missed dose or timing being off when giving heartworm medications. If we give heartworm medications to a heartworm positive dog they can have a negative reaction, so it is important to ensure a true negative heartworm status annually.
What types of diseases can annual labwork show?
For bloodwork, annual testing can show anemia, high white blood cell counts, liver disease, kidney disease, and precursors to endocrine disorders (to name a few). Any variations that are too high or too low from reference ranges or variations from previous history are potential red flags for your veterinarian. For a urinalysis, annual testing shows the urine specific gravity (concentration), signs of infection (bacteria or white blood cells), and pH level. We also look for other markers, such as protein (indicating possible kidney disease), crystals, or glucose (indicating possible diabetes).
What can I do as a pet owner to provide an optimal sample at my pet’s annual check-up?
Listen to your veterinarian in terms of what can make your pet’s visit as stress-free as possible! Stress can cause some values on bloodwork to be artificially off at the time the sample is drawn. It is important to get your pet prepared for a successful vet visit as early as five to sixteen weeks of age and during their puppy socialization period. Practicing restraint or touch at home can help your pet feel comfortable with restraint or touch during their vet visit. Not sure where to start? No worries, just ask your veterinary team for resources on enrichment or training!
Fasting can also be helpful for most blood samples. There are no cases where feeding is required for an optimal blood sample, but it is always helpful to fast.
Whisker Wisdom Series
Written By: Gwen Tremonti & Dr. Taylor Smith