How old is “senior?” What is senior wellness blood work? Why is blood work so important now?
Dogs are considered senior at approximately 7 years old and cats at approximately 8-9 years of age. If wellness blood work has not been recommended for your pet prior to becoming a senior, it will very likely be recommended with each yearly visit from this point on. Cats and dogs age much faster than humans (about 7 times faster) which means a 9 year-old pet is comparable to a 63 year-old human.
As we humans become older, a general health screen involves wellness blood work to monitor for common senior illnesses such as diabetes, thyroid disease, liver or kidney disease, or even cancer. If these diseases are detected prior to the development of symptoms, medical treatments or lifestyle changes can be implemented to slow the progression of disease or to possibly cure disease. Blood work can provide the same information to veterinarians about pets.
Wellness blood work generally consists of a CBC (complete blood count) and a chemistry panel. A CBC is performed to view changes that may be occurring with the patient’s bone marrow, hydration status, or immune system. The hematocrit portion of the CBC measures the red blood cells and the percentage of fluid in the blood. Hematocrits are useful when assessing hydration status and presence of an anemia or immune-mediated disease. The white blood cell (WBC) count measures the total number of WBCs and gives the percentage of each type of WBC present. The WBC count is useful when looking for infections, parasitic disease, inflammatory disease, or certain forms of cancer. A platelet count is useful when assessing for clotting or immune-mediated disorders.
A chemistry panel is performed to assess overall organ function. This is particularly important in pets on long-term medications which may have an effect on the kidneys or liver. Blood sugar, electrolyte, and protein levels are checked as part of the chemistry. Based on your pet’s condition or medication, blood work may be recommended more often than once yearly (perhaps every 3 to 6 months instead). In some cases, a thyroid function test (T4) may be added to assess for an under- or overactive thyroid. The T4 level is also used to monitor pets on thyroid medication.
What if you perform senior wellness blood work on your pet and the results are normal? That’s great! Even “normal” results on blood work provide valuable information which is useful for comparison if the pet develops a sudden illness or has an adverse reaction to a food or medication. Results can also be compared each year to watch for trends (values that may be slowly increasing or decreasing over time). Yearly wellness blood work may help the veterinarian diagnose an underlying problem before it becomes severe. Early intervention can be essential in controlling the overall course of disease and in some instances it may even be life-saving!
If you have any questions or concerns regarding wellness blood work for your pet, please do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian. If you would like you can contact us at 407-366-4486. Dr. Williams or Dr. Walker would be happy to see you and to discuss the benefits of wellness blood work for your pet.