Most people have heard the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This popular quote resonates well in the modern veterinary world, where research is constantly guiding us to make the right health choices for our pets. From diet and exercise recommendations to screening tests for different health conditions, prevention is key in keeping our pets happy and healthy. Preventive diagnostic tests allow your veterinarian to monitor your pet for abnormalities, and catch disease signs early. These tests can vary throughout your pet’s life, depending on her age and other factors.
Tests for puppies and kittens
Juvenile pets should be routinely examined during their primary immunization visits. Your veterinarian will look for evidence of any congenital disease (i.e., health problems a pet is born with) and may recommend additional testing if any abnormalities are found. Whether or not your pet is deemed healthy, all puppies and kittens should have the following tests:
- Fecal testing — Many puppies and kittens are born with intestinal parasites that were carried over through the placenta from the mother. Also, since juvenile pets often learn and explore through their mouths, they are more prone to ingesting parasites. All pets are at risk for parasites and should have their feces tested yearly, but juveniles may require more frequent testing.
- Heartworm testing — All puppies and kittens should be tested for heartworms on or before their first birthday, and then yearly. While dogs are more likely to suffer from heartworm infection, felines are not immune to this disease.
- Feline infectious disease testing — All kittens should be tested for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), two serious infectious diseases that can be spread to other cats.
Tests for adult pets
Pets between about 2 and 7 years of age are considered adult pets. While age is not a diagnosis, it does bring an increased incidence of disease, and additional tests are generally recommended as your pet ages. Your pet should continue to be fecal tested twice yearly for intestinal parasites, and tested for heartworm disease annually. If your adult cat has not previously been tested for FeLV or FIV, this should be done as soon as possible. Additional tests for adult pets include:
- Complete blood count and chemistry panel — These routine blood tests look at red and white blood cell and platelet counts for evidence of blood loss, inflammation, or infection. They also provide information on the function of internal organs, such as the liver and kidneys, glucose levels, and electrolyte balances.
- Urinalysis — A urine sample is loaded with information about your pet’s health. A urinalysis assesses urine concentration, pH, protein levels, and evidence of glucose or bacteria, among other measurements. In conjunction with blood work, a urinalysis helps our veterinary team gain a better understanding of your pet’s overall internal functioning.
- Dental X-rays — Dental disease is extremely common in pets—in fact, most pets show some evidence of dental disease by age 3. Dental X-rays can be taken during your pet’s preventive dental cleaning and allow your veterinarian to look for periodontal disease, which can lead to other problems as well as oral issues.
Tests senior pets need
Aging pets hold special places in our hearts. They also generally require an uptick in preventive diagnostic tests to monitor for signs of diseases more common with age. Any senior pet (i.e., typically 7 years of age or older) should increase the frequency of their veterinary wellness exams to at least twice per year, and they should have the same routine tests as adult pets. They may also require the following:
- Thyroid testing — This blood test measures circulating thyroid hormone levels to look for deficiencies or excesses, both of which can cause problems in pets.
- X-rays — Your veterinarian may recommend routine chest, abdomen, or skeletal system X-rays, depending on your pet’s concurrent health problems. These images provide information about cancers, heart disease, or arthritis—all common in aging pets.
- Blood pressure — This test measures the pressure of blood as it flows through the blood vessels. The measurement provides important information that is used to assess the condition of your pet’s heart, kidneys, and eyes.
Regardless of your pet’s age, preventive diagnostic testing is essential to her overall health. Contact us to schedule your pet’s routine preventive-care exam.