From House M.D. to Grey’s Anatomy, diagnostics in human healthcare have become the norm. We expect doctors to be able to figure out what’s wrong with us – and more importantly, to be able to fix us. But what about diagnostics for our pets?
“More and more, animals are becoming part of the family,” says Tarryn Dent, Diagnostic and Technical Manager at Zoetis South Africa, a global animal health company. “Dogs sleep in the living room, at the foot of the bed, or in their owners’ beds. They’re in our spaces and our lives a lot of the time.
“We’ve seen a dual shift because of this. First, pet health impacts the overall health of a family, and so a lot more energy, focus and funds are being invested into good-quality food, vaccines, medications and the overall living standards of pets,” says Dent.
“But preventative health is also on the rise. As people we know this. We eat our salads, and we force our kids to eat their broccoli because it’s good for us. We’re also spending more on the food we feed our pets. But a big area of growth is now in preventative medicine for pets – keeping them healthy so that they don’t fall ill in the first place. Vaccines are an important element in this, but so are diagnostics.”
The gold standard in preventative care
Although your veterinarian can learn a lot by performing a physical examination of your pet, there are some signs of disease that can only be detected with further testing and diagnostics, which is quickly becoming a critical element in the overall role that vets play in their clients’ lives and that of their families.
“This doesn’t just apply to sick pets — it’s important to understand what’s going on inside with pets that appear healthy, too,” says Dent. “We work closely with veterinarians and veterinary nurses in order for them to get the most out of the diagnostic tests at their disposal so that they can offer their four-legged patients the best preventative care possible.”
Even amongst human medicine, in many ways preventative care is still relatively new – but it is on the rise. “The great news for pet owners is that many clinics are able to offer in-house diagnostic tests, with results available in as little time as 15 minutes,” says Dent. “This means that annual health checks are on the rise. As a pet owner, if your pet is clinically healthy, you may not see value at the time or, if you do opt to do some blood screening tests and they come back normal, you may feel as if you’ve agreed to an unnecessary expense, but the reality is that you want a normal test result to give you peace of mind that your animal is healthy.
“More importantly, it gives your vet a ‘normal range’ for your specific pet. This allows the vet on subsequent rechecks to monitor trends in your animal. Further down the line, your vet could pick up issues and intervene with a treatment plan earlier, rather than waiting for your pet to show clinical signs of illness or disease. Diagnostics allow pet owners to offer their pets a better quality of life and, in many cases, could extend the life span of loved ones.”
Checking the basics for long-term health
Here are three basic preventative care diagnostics that support overall animal wellness – and of course, can be used to diagnose sick animals as well.
Checking your pet’s stool twice a year for signs of intestinal disease and parasites can help you uncover the presence of the most common internal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms, or whipworms before they become a problem – or spread to your family. These tests can also find more life-threatening parasites, such as the Spirocerca Lupi worm before it enters your pet’s bloodstream.
Complete blood count (CBC) and serum chemistry panel:
Symptoms of some conditions or diseases don’t show up until your pet is very sick – and yet many of these diseases are completely preventable. “These blood tests can flag whether your pet is anemic (not enough red blood cells) or fighting infection. They can also reveal whether internal organs, such as the liver and kidneys, are functioning properly. In some cases, treatable diseases such as diabetes can be detected with these tests,” says Dent.
Like a blood test, a urine test is a window into how healthy your pet is on the inside. A urinalysis once a year offers clues that point to underlying causes of disease, such as a bladder infection or kidney disease.
“Together, these tests paint a picture of a pet’s internal health, which means your vet is well on their way to detecting disease as early as possible,” says Dent.
If you’re a pet owner, be sure to keep up routine visits with your vet to ensure your pet stays in tip-top shape all year round.
For more visit: www.zoetis.co.za