Some thoughts on 'wellness testing'

Our veterinarians will often speak to clients about “wellness testing”. We have previously highlighted this topic on our front office bulletin board and in our newsletter, but feel that it is an important enough topic to continue the discussion here.

Wellness testing is the term given to a group of tests that is performed specifically to detect signs of early disease in an animal that otherwise appears healthy. Testing may include blood panels (for blood cell and organ function levels or parasite exposure), fecal testing and possibly a urinalysis. Done in combination with a thorough physical exam by a veterinarian, these tests are invaluable in identifying health problems in our patients.

Clients often ask why tests should be run on animals which are not showing any signs of illness. There are many reasons that this testing does make sense, especially if you consider the following:

  • Animals cannot tell us when there is a problem, and many illnesses can be silent in the early stages.  The classic case for this is kidney disease in cats, as up to 75% of kidney function may have been lost before the cat shows clinical signs of concern.
  • We can use wellness testing to establish baseline normal levels for blood values for an individual pet. These values can then be watched and trended over time to identify changes of concern.
  • Early diagnosis of a medical problem may allow for more effective management or treatment programs.  For example, a cat with decreased kidney function may be switched to a special diet which will be more easily processed by the kidneys over the long term.  Another example is the early detection of Cushing’s disease, a hormonal disease commonly seen in older dogs. When therapy for Cushing’s is started early, a dog will have an increased chance of doing well.

Wellness testing does come with a price tag. But is it worth it to have a record of your pet’s blood values when well (a great baseline) and the peace of mind to know that your pet is as healthy as possible? Each owner needs to answer those questions individually.  As your pet’s health care advisors, our veterinarians do believe that wellness testing is incredibly worthwhile and recommend that it be done yearly, or possibly more frequently in older pets. Please ask our vets if wellness testing makes sense for your pet at your next visit!