Many pet owners take their pet to the veterinarian only when they are sick or injured, but regular wellness screenings are important to ensure your pet remains in optimal health. Our team at Sale Creek Veterinary Services wants to help by explaining why regular wellness screenings are a vital part of your pet’s health care.
#1: Pet obesity is a major problem in the United States
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, which causes serious pet health concerns, including diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, and arthritis. Regular wellness screenings help keep your pet at an ideal weight, because our veterinary professionals monitor your pet’s weight at each visit, and evaluate your pet to determine if they need to lose extra pounds. A weight status evaluation includes:
- Weighing your pet — We use an accurate scale to weigh your pet.
- Assessing your pet’s body conditioning score (BCS) — We assign your pet a number based on their amount of fat in several key body locations. A BCS of 1 indicates your pet is severely underweight, and a BCS of 9 indicates they are severely obese.
- Assessing your pet’s muscle conditioning score (MCS) — We evaluate your pet’s muscling to determine if they are normal, or have mild, moderate, or severe muscle loss.
#2: Pets are excellent at masking illness
Your pet likely does not need to worry about being eaten by a predator, but they still have their ancestor’s instincts to hide signs of vulnerability, such as illness. This means they may not exhibit signs until their condition is advanced, which adversely affects their prognosis. Regular wellness screenings help our veterinary professionals catch diseases in the early stages when they are easier to treat and manage. A thorough physical examination performed during a wellness screening can catch several issues your pet may be hiding, including:
- Eye problems — Conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma can affect your pet’s vision, but if the changes are gradual, you may not notice, because your pet adapts to their vision loss.
- Abnormal lymph nodes —Swollen lymph nodes can indicate issues such as infection and cancer.
- Heart conditions — When we auscultate your pet’s chest, we can detect heart murmurs and arrhythmias that indicate a heart condition.
- Abdominal masses — We palpate your pet’s abdomen and can detect abdominal masses and abnormally sized organs.
- Joint pain — Our veterinary professionals are trained to detect subtle changes in your pet’s gait and joint range of motion, to detect debilitating joint pain.
#3: Baseline blood work helps track your pet’s health status
With baseline blood work, our veterinary professionals can track your pet’s health status. Routine blood work performed during a regular wellness screening includes:
- Complete blood count (CBC) — A CBC evaluates your pet’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Conditions such as infection, inflammation, anemia, and certain cancers can be detected on a CBC.
- Biochemistry profile — A biochemistry profile evaluates several body systems to assess your pet’s overall health. Conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and electrolyte abnormalities can be detected on a biochemistry profile.
- Thyroid panel — A thyroid panel may be recommended for senior pets, who are at higher risk for thyroid diseases.
#4: Your pet’s urine provides information about their health
Changes in your pet’s urine can indicate conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, urinary tract infection, and urinary crystals. Factors measured in your pet’s urine include:
- Appearance — We will assess urine color and turbidity—normal urine is pale yellow to light amber, and usually clear or slightly cloudy. Darker urine can indicate your pet isn’t drinking enough, and lighter urine can indicate your pet is drinking more frequently. Increased cloudiness typically means that debris, such as blood, inflammatory cells, crystals, or mucus, is present.
- Concentration — The urine’s concentration, or specific gravity, is measured. A normal, healthy kidney produces concentrated urine, while dilute urine can indicate an underlying disease.
- Acidity or alkalinity — The urine’s pH is measured to determine its acidity or alkalinity. Abnormalities can indicate infections or metabolic diseases.
- Chemical analysis — Components such as protein, glucose, ketones, blood, and bilirubin are measured, because abnormalities can indicate serious health issues.
- Cytology — Your pet’s urine is microscopically evaluated to look for red blood cells, white blood cells, bacteria, and crystals.
#5: Performing a fecal check can determine if your pet has parasites
A routine wellness screening includes a fecal check, which can detect gastrointestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, coccidia, and giardia. These parasites can cause your pet health issues, such as diarrhea, weight loss, and poor hair coat, and can also infect you and your family. If we determine from the fecal check that your pet has parasites, we can treat them appropriately.
Regular wellness screenings are an important part of your pet’s health care, and every pet should be seen at least once a year. Senior pets, who are at higher risk for health issues, should be seen every six months to ensure their optimal health. If you would like to schedule a wellness screening for your pet, contact our team at Sale Creek Veterinary Services, so we can ensure they stay as healthy as possible.