As the month of May comes to an end, our team will take a deep breath. April and May are traditionally our most busy months of the year, as we care for our normal case load along with preparing dogs for the summer season outside with vaccines and medications to prevent parasitic infections. We love to see so many of our clients and all of those wagging tails in our front room!
One of the most important things that the spring blood testing of all dogs allows us to do is to recommend that dogs have “wellness testing” done along with their parasitic blood screen. This is a series of more than twenty blood values which look in detail at a pet’s blood cells and organ function. The reason that we recommend this testing for all dogs (with a focus on our senior friends) is that it allows us to recognize potential problems before the pet becomes sick, and institute treatment when it might be most successful.
Here are some examples of conditions discovered in dogs which were considered well when presented to the clinic this spring:
- · Elevated liver values which led with further testing to the diagnosis of a hormonal condition called Cushing’s disease. This condition can cause significant long term effects on a number of body systems, and it is best to treat it early.
- · Low thyroid blood levels, leading to the diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Many of the patients that we identified as hypothyroid were assumed to be ‘slowing down’ due to age, but will now feel significantly better on thyroid supplementation.
- · Elevated kidney enzymes in dogs both on and off medication, a sign of kidney dysfunction.
- · Low blood cell counts, including anemia, which can indicate other underlying serious disease.
- · Elevated counts of inflammatory cells, suggesting underlying infections, such as urinary tract infections or dental disease.
- · Elevated pancreatic enzymes, suggesting a chronic gastrointestinal issue called pancreatitis which must be managed with a special diet.
Why else are the spring visits so important? Through our recommendations for yearly blood parasite testing, we have also identified a number of dogs with exposure to tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme Disease. This then allows us to protect these pets from tick bites in the future, and reminds their owners that they may become ill from the same tick exposure. Our routine of testing dogs for gastrointestinal parasites has also led to the diagnosis of yet unrecognized parasitic infections. The most notable of these are a number of dogs carrying a microscopic parasite called giardia which can cause disease in both pets and people.
Our team is always here to help pets in situations where they are ill and injured. However, it is very satisfying to be given the chance to protect them against illness. We hope that all of our patients have a safe and happy spring and summer.
Don’t forget that we have recommended that pets start their anti-parasitic medications on June 1st!