As your pet ages it becomes more important to consider having regular physicals, bloodwork and urine analysis performed to check their general health status.

A dog over 7 years old and a cat over 8 years old is considered a senior. It is recommended that older animals have a physical exam, bloodwork and urine analysis at least once yearly if not more often. This sounds like a lot but it is important to remember that one human year for your pet is equivalent to anywhere from 4-7 years of aging!

blakie-smithDuring a wellness exam the veterinarian will check your pet over, taking special care to look for common age related changes such as weight loss, loss of muscle mass, dental disease, lumps and arthritis pain. Wellness bloodwork will tell even more about the internal health of your pet. It is important to note that this is very different from the 4DX blood test for heartworm and lyme disease that every pet gets on a three year basis in order to prescribe heartworm pills.

The first part of the bloodwork panel is called a complete blood count or CBC. This is where the red blood cells and white blood cells are assessed. Red blood cells are the main cells in the blood, responsible for carrying the oxygen we breathe to our body tissues. When these cells are low a pet may have a more difficult time providing their body tissues with oxygen. The white blood cells tell us mostly about the presence of inflammation/infection in the body. Platelets are also measured, these are responsible for blood clotting and preventing excessive bleeding.

The second part of the bloodwork panel is the blood chemistry. This assesses the internal organs and electrolytes. In this panel the blood sugar is checked to see if it is too low or too high. The kidney values are evaluated as an indicator of kidney and urinary tract health. The liver enzymes tell us about liver health, the presence of liver damage and to some extent liver function. The pancreas, the organ that makes chemicals important for digestion as well as hormones involved in metabolism is also assessed. The blood electrolytes are measured as well. Normal electrolyte values are important to body function and certain disease processes especially those causing dehydration may cause electrolytes to become unbalanced.

Urine analysis tells us about kidney function and urinary tract health. It can also detect the presence of a bladder infection, urinary crystals or stones.

It is important to understand that the bloodwork and urinalysis do not provide a direct yes or no answer for most disease processes. Instead they give an overall health picture that is then used by the veterinarian along with the results of the wellness exam and possibly other testing to reach a diagnosis. By combining all this information along with their medical knowledge your veterinarian is able to make the best recommendations to optimize your pet’s health. This is especially important in aging animals because many disease processes if caught early can be successfully managed to increase lifespan and overall quality of life.