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Friday, July 2, 2010

Routine Labwork in Healthy Pets - Waste of Money?

I had a couple of interesting cases last week which inspired this blog. The first was an eight year old cat who came in for her annual vaccine visit and wellness exam. She was a new patient at our hospital. Her owner said she was doing fine, but maybe had lost a little weight, which she attributed to the cat getting older. We advised the owner that we recommend routine labwork on annual wellness visits just like MDs do for people. She consented, and low and behold, the cat had a serious thyroid imbalance (hyperthyroidism). This condition is usually fatal if untreated, but the prognosis is good with treatment. The cat was lucky we caught it early!

The second case was a little less dramatic. It involved a healthy little dog who also came in for his annual wellness visit and vaccines. On his labwork we found that he was infected with a protozoan parasite called Giardia, which is potentially contagious to his owner. Like the cat's hyperthyroidism, this condition can cause serious health problems if allowed to continue untreated, not to mention the risk to the owner's health.

It is a very rare week when I don't have at least three or four patients who come in for their "shots", but have some undectected condition which will threaten their health. These conditions are usually VERY easy to treat when detected early, and VERY difficult (and in a few cases impossible) to treat when the pet is showing advanced symptoms.

I'm the "old fogey" at our practice, and I was resistant to the idea of routine labwork for healthy patients at vaccine visits. One of my associates convinced me about seven years ago to give it a try, and I am now leading the parade for wellness labwork. I do it for myself (through my MD), I do it for my pets, and I recommend it for yours.

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