Pets age 7-10x faster than humans do. A year in your cat or dog’s life is about the same as 7-10 years for you.
With age, a pet’s body organs start losing normal function. Kidneys shrink, thyroid glands start under- or over-producing hormones, the liver starts to wear out from all those times processing the toxic junk your pet ingested along with that dead chipmunk or rubber band she chewed on…
Blood tests on young pets can give your veterinarian baseline data to compare to when your pet gets older, and on older pets can help your veterinarian detect these slow aging changes before they turn into organ failure. Doing bloodwork on a 5, 6, or 7 year old cat or dog is the same sort of thing as a 30, 40 or 50 year old person getting their cholesterol checked every 10 years. You do it young to make sure you’re not developing early disease, and you do it again as you age to monitor and treat problems that arise.
Therefore, it makes sense for most pets to have annual blood chemistry testing as part of their yearly physical.
Some of my clients enter our clinic confused about blood work, though, because of heartworm testing.
It is true, that heartworms are detected with a small blood sample, and run on a test kit in the clinic.
Many clients, though, think that when the veterinarian or technician at the low-cost shot clinic draws blood and runs a heartworm test, that they’re running a CBC and blood chemistries too, and that’s simply not the case. Blood tests are a separate (more expensive than heartworm testing alone) charge.
Many times, a client will tell us “I’m pretty sure they did blood tests on Fluffy at the last place” because they remember Fluffy getting a (cheap) heartworm test, and they’re flabbergasted when we recommend a real (and more expensive) blood chemistry profile.
Heartworm tests are cheap. Blood chemistry tests are expensive, but different from heartworm tests, and necessary for your pet’s good health. Every dog needs both every year. (cats just get the chemistry tests)
Why does my vet want to do expensive tests on my pet? She looks fine on the outside!
Well, because she needs them.
A physical exam detects problems on your pet’s outside. Blood tests make sure they are similarly healthy on the inside.
And honestly, price is the ONLY reason clients ever give me, not to run chemistries on your pet every year. I mean, we’re already drawing blood for the heartworm test, why not use that same needle stick to get a little extra and run a basic chemistry profile? Like most things in life, with a little planning and the correct expectations, yearly blood tests on all your pets should be the rule, something a good pet owner just… expects to pay for.
Obviously excellent pet care is expensive. These are million-dollar labs with thousands of dollars machines that we’re sending your pet’s blood to (or running here at the clinic).
But these tests may mean discovering your pet’s smoldering kidney or liver problem a year or two early. Isn’t the price of bloodwork worth potentially buying you an extra year or two with your pet?
What does a Comprehensive Blood Profile on my pet include?
Your veterinarian determines on a case-by-case basis which tests to run on your pet every year. If we send your pet’s blood to the lab, it may include:
1. Complete Blood Count (CBC), including hematocrit, hemoglobin, blood parasite screen, white cell count, a veterinary pathologist review of abnormal cells, and a reticulocyte panel if your pet is anemic.
2. Comprehensive Chemistry Profile, including tests of the liver, kidney, pancreas, blood protein levels, electrolytes, Calcium and blood sugar screening for diabetes.
3. Complete Thyroid testing (dogs) – not just a T4 screen for thyroid disease, includes the much more accurate (and unfortunately, expensive) ‘ free T4 ‘ test to confirm suspected cases.
4. FeLV/FIV testing and/or Thyroid T4 testing (cats)
Please plan to let your vet run blood tests on all your pets every year
Obviously, if you have many pets, your costs will multiply. We like to recommend most pet owners split up their annual wellness visits one at a time for each family pet, and do dental cleanings (if needed) six months later, so you don’t get hit with the cost of an annual and the cost of a dental cleaning all at once.
Please plan to have your veterinarian do blood chemistry tests (not just a heartworm test!) on your pets every year. The peace of mind for vet and client are worth the price.