The question about whether to do lab tests on healthy pets often arises, and it is crucial for a veterinarian to have an answer ready that justifies why an owner might want to do lab tests for their pet – especially if their pet appears healthy. The simplest answer is that basic lab tests can be a screening tool and may allow for early detection of a problem before it becomes severe.
Lab test values are often the first detectable change and may occur long before any clinical signs of illness are evident. As an example, I discovered that my own cat was diabetic by doing basic lab tests. In an older pet that has “slowed down,” basic lab tests could help to detect a problem that is developing so that you can plan next steps, both diagnostic and therapeutic, appropriately.
Knowing what the baseline values are for a pet that has become ill can be useful in assessing severity of disease, in monitoring trends during illness and recovery, and in determining when things have returned to “normal” following treatment. Of course, it is also valuable to monitor lab values in any patient that is receiving medication with potential to cause a problem.
Lab data from a healthy pet can be useful when repeated over time (every 6 months or once a year, for example). This can help you to detect gradual trends in values that may be significant, even if the absolute numbers are still within the reference interval. Early detection of a problem may allow effective treatment to be initiated, preventing a more serious illness.
Lab tests add to your evaluation of a patient by providing information about systems that you can’t see on a routine physical exam. Please remember that this is valuable information, even if all the test results are normal.
Making annual wellness bloodwork a clinic standard is easy with Ellie’s Wellie Wellness program. Designed with veterinarians and patients in mind, the program includes:
- High-quality wellness profiles for healthier pets
- Lightning-fast turnaround time on Basic and Advanced Wellie profiles
- Customer engaging Wellie Report with pet wellness score
- Complimentary Wellie Profile tests for employees
Elizabeth Spangler, DVM
Dr. Spangler earned her DVM from the University of California, completed a residency in Small Animal Internal Medicine and then a residency in Clinical Pathology. She was on the faculty at Auburn University for 17 years, and recently retired from that position. She is a writer/contributor for Ellie Diagnostics and is always supervised by at least one cat.