Why do our pets need surveillance labwork screening?
Firstly, our pets can't speak, they cannot tell us if they feel off color or unwell or have any other indicators of internal illness. Pets will actively mask signs of illness until late in the course of disease. This stems from survival instincts in a pack or colony situation, showing illness/weakness means they become left behind or seen as easy prey.
We need to examine them once yearly. For older patients, it is recommended that they be seen every 6 months, as well as run some routine screening tests to detect underlying disease BEFORE it is clinically apparent.
Both dogs and cats are susceptible to heartworm disease, which is spread by mosquitoes. Yearly heartworm testing is recommended for all canine patients. Currently there is not a readily reliable test for cats. Even indoor cats are at risk, as mosquitoes will make their way into your home. Cats are slightly less susceptible to heartworm infection, however, infection is much more severe and often the first sign of heartworm disease is acute death. Cats that have become infected may develop respiratory disease, leading to asthma. Currently the only treatment for cats is surgical removal using a special heart catheter for retrieval. Fortunately for both, we have medications that prevent heartworm disease when given monthly, year-round.
Additional bloodwork screening includes the testing of canine blood-borne parasites: Lyme, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Babesia - all tickborne (spread by ticks) diseases. A reliable test is available for screening kittens/cats for devastating immunosuppressive viruses - FeLV (feline leukemia virus) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). Mutual grooming and sharing of food and water bowls can spread FeLV, so it is important that all new kittens/cats brought into a home with a cat(s) be tested. FIV is spread by cat bites. Cats that are indoor/outdoor should be tested yearly. Cats that are bitten by a cat with unknown viral status should be tested about 6 months following a bite.
Dogs and cats should have fecal examinations yearly to detect GI parasites. Certain GI parasites, roundworms and hookworms in particular, are zoonotic, meaning they cause disease in people. A stool sample is used to detect the eggs under the microscope. Please keep in mind, not all GI parasites can be seen with a fecal, such as tapeworms. These often times are found around the pet's anus or occasionally on their stool. If noted, please notify your pet's healthcare team member.