Blood Testing Can Improve Health

– Dr. Janice Bush, DVM, M.Sc.

Senior screening blood testing is a highly advantageous tool in veterinary medicine. Due to
advancements in veterinary care and diet, our pet friends are living longer, healthier lives than
ever before. In dogs and cats, we consider anyone over age 7 to be a “senior citizen”. In large
breed dogs, this number should really be lower, for example, by age 5. Studies show that up to
30% of healthy appearing senior pets have abnormal lab values consistent with subclinical
disease- many of which can be addressed medically or through lifestyle changes to help stop
progression and improve health.

Examples of commonly seen subclinical conditions are widespread. Chronic kidney disease may
be slowed greatly by the use of veterinary renal diets. Endocrine disorders such as hypo or
hyperthyroidism (low or high thyroid) can be determined allowing for early control. Evidence of
more serious endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s disease may also be ascertained from
screening labwork. Subclinical chronic liver disease or intestinal disease can also be found at
earlier stages and treated appropriately, sometimes with only dietary intervention or minimal
medical intervention. Newer tests can also assist with evaluating heart function- something that
may be very beneficial to patients who have had low grade chronic heart murmurs over a
period of years. Other minor changes that aren’t clinically apparent, such as mild chronic
anemia (low red blood cell count), may indicate more concerning conditions and may spur us to
recommend further testing. Additionally, even normal baseline lab work is of great clinical use.
Many senior patients have joint and bone pain and may benefit from chronic use of anti-
inflammatory medications, and it is pertinent to have an understanding of how these patient’s
livers and kidneys may tolerate these drugs.

When it comes to senior preventative screening lab work, the old adage “an ounce of
prevention is worth a pound of cure” is most apt. These simple tests give us a wide range of
information as to your pet’s internal organ health and help us to keep your pets healthy well
into their golden years.