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Wellness Testing for Dogs

By Krista Williams, BSc, DVM, CCRP; Kristiina Ruotsalo, DVM, DVSc, Dip ACVP & Margo S. Tant BSc, DVM, DVSc

Care & Wellness, Pet Services

What is wellness testing?

Wellness testing is a program of check-ups and blood tests designed to detect early or hidden disease in pets that appear to be healthy.

Why do wellness testing?

Dogs are very good at masking illness, and disease may be present even in dogs that appear to be healthy. If a disease can be detected before a dog shows signs of illness, steps can often be taken to manage or correct the problem before permanent damage occurs.

When is wellness testing done?

Wellness testing should be done on a regular basis, and many pet owners combine wellness testing with their dog’s annual visit to the veterinarian for physical examination, vaccination, and heartworm testing. Your veterinarian may recommend more frequent testing depending on your dog's age or specific health concerns. Monitoring your dog’s health status on a regular basis makes it easier for your veterinarian to detect minor changes that signal the onset of disease.

What is involved in wellness testing?

There are four main categories of wellness testing for the young and middle-aged dog: complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and thyroid hormone testing. Your veterinarian will advise you on how extensive the testing should be for your pet. In younger dogs without noticeable health complaints, relatively simple testing may be adequate. In middle-aged dogs, more comprehensive testing may be beneficial.

Complete Blood Count (CBC). This test gives information about the different cell types in the blood. These include red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues; white blood cells, which fight infection and respond to inflammation; and platelets, which help the blood to clot. The CBC provides details about the number, size, and shape of the various cells types, and identifies the presence of any abnormal cells. It is a routine test used in all stages of health and illness and can indicate the presence of many forms of disease (for more information, see handout “Complete Blood Count”).

Biochemistry Profile. This is a panel of tests that provides information about the organs and tissues of the body, and helps to detect diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and other disorders (for more information, see handout “Serum Biochemistry”). If minor abnormalities are found on the biochemistry profile, your veterinarian may suggest that the tests be repeated in a few days, weeks or months. If the abnormalities are more serious, then a more extensive diagnostic workup may be recommended, including an expanded biochemistry profile and imaging tests including radiographs (X-rays) or ultrasound.

Urinalysis. Urinalysis is a routine test that reports the physical and chemical properties of a pet’s urine (for more information, see handout “Urinalysis”). Urinalysis provides information about how well the kidneys are working and identifies inflammation and infection in the urinary system. It can also help to detect diabetes and can be useful in the diagnosis of cancer within the urinary system. Urinalysis is part of a comprehensive assessment of the kidneys and urinary system and should be included in routine wellness testing.

Thyroid testing. The thyroid gland acts like a thermostat and sets the metabolic rate of the whole body (for more information, see handout “Thyroid Hormone Testing in Dogs”). The most common thyroid disease in the dog is hypothyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. Hormone levels should be tested routinely in middle-aged to older dogs. Even young dogs should be tested if they show signs of hypothyroidism such as unexplained weight gain, lack of energy, recurring skin or ear infections, or hair loss on the body and tail.

Wellness testing is a simple and effective way of monitoring your dog's health. Early detection and correction of medical problems will help to ensure that your pet will have a long, healthy, and active life.

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