I know it may seem like your veterinarian is always requiring blood work be done on your pet — annual exams, prior to any procedure requiring anesthesia, and sick visits — but there is good reason for this requirement. A physical exam performed by your veterinarian is not always sufficient to detect hidden medical concerns. Many pet diseases do not present outward signs and thus a physical exam alone will not provide a complete medical picture of your pet’s health. Blood work and other laboratory testing such as urinalysis, heartworm, tick screening, and fecals allow for the early detection of health changes or medical concerns that might otherwise go unnoticed. Pets are masters of disguising pain and illness and though as a pet parent you may believe your pet to be healthy, underlying problems may be gradually building that if diagnosed early can be completely reversed or controlled for extended periods of time.
Blood work and laboratory testing are important medical tools by which your veterinarian can diagnose blood disorders, kidney and liver disease, diabetes, infection, some types of cancer, thyroid disease, and other hormonal problems. Kidney disease, for example, is one of the major causes of illness and death in pets, but symptoms do not usually appear until 75% of kidney function has been lost. If caught early, the pet can live with this condition for many years.
For young and adult pets, blood work provides an individual baseline that your veterinarian can refer to later for faster, more accurate diagnosis and treatments. For senior and geriatric pets, blood work allows the veterinarian to monitor organ degeneration, check responses to medication, and detect diseases before symptoms appear. For any anesthetic procedure such as surgery or dental cleanings, blood work tells your veterinarian if your pets red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and organs are all functioning properly to process and rid the body of medications used during anesthesia.