Cats and dogs over 8 years old are considered Geriatric (old!) When our pets age, as in people they are more likely to get certain diseases. Our pets cannot talk to us so often they can hide disease and illness very well.
By doing yearly blood work we are able to pick up diseases early such as kidney disease. This is beneficial because the earlier you detect a condition, the better the chance you have of slowing down the rate of disease progression. There is also the benefit of detecting a condition before it has the chance to cause secondary complications which would also need treating.
Many of the diseases we screen for do not show clinical signs until the disease is more advanced as this is when the organ cannot function normally any more so we see the physical effects of the malfunction. At this point the damage is often irreversible.
Even if your pets blood work comes back as normal (which is a very good thing!) it is still beneficial to take samples yearly as pets age much quicker than humans so it takes less time for conditions to develop in dogs and cats.
Blood work is also useful if your pet ever needs a general anaesthetic or sedation. The drugs the veterinarian will use will be based on the bloods in combination with a physical exam so its really valuable information to the veterinarian before inducing anaesthesia. The more information your veterinarian has access to, the safer the anaesthetic will be for your pet so it is something I always recommend to pet owners when pets need to be anaesthetised.
With routine blood work your veterinarian is looking at the kidney, liver and in cat’s thyroid levels. We also may check the blood for signs of anaemia, hydration status, infection or inflammation.
Most dogs and cats are very co-operative when it comes to giving a small amount of blood and the procedure is minimally stressful. A small patch of hair is clipped on their neck or leg and cleaned with alcohol. Then a small needle is inserted into the vein and 1-3mls of blood will be taken and sent for analysis. As the needle is very small most pets do not feel the needle enter under the skin. The hair normally grows back within a few weeks and your pet doesn’t even notice the difference! Blood results will return in around 1-2 days and your vet can talk you through the next step for your pet.
In summary yearly blood tests are a fantastic way to optimise your pets healthcare and give you peace of mind that no underlying issues are present.