The “veterinary geriatric workup” has been replaced by “age-appropriate laboratory testing.”
The more laboratory tests veterinarians perform, the more we learn. Thirty years ago pets had laboratory testing only when they were sick.
Then pets began to have laboratory tests before anesthesia, until the benefit was observed to be so great that every anesthetic procedure is now preceded by laboratory testing in most practices.
At some point veterinarians began to offer “geriatric testing,” “senior testing” or “senior wellness testing.” The principle then was the same as it is now: identify problems before they are clinical problems and, for those patients with all-normal results, establish a baseline of normal for that individual pet.
Of course, it didn’t take smart practitioners long to figure out that the younger the pet is when tests are performed the sooner benefits could be seen. After all, when we find abnormalities on pets having preanesthesia lab tests when they are only 4-6 months of age, it is certainly not surprising to find even more abnormal results in pets 1, 2 and 3 years of age.
Thus, wellness testing for all ages was born and showed its value immediately.
So, what, exactly, is the “value?”
The best outcome is to have all normal results. The value is still there because we can always go back to the very first laboratory testing, which tells us, “On this date, this was normal for Fluffy.”
Abnormal possibilities exist, also. A common finding would be anemia, which is a low red blood cell (RBC) count. Anemias are typically classified as either poor production of RBCs or blood loss, but RBC destruction can also cause anemia. Certain blood parasites can lead to death of red blood cells, as can immune system attack.
Another common abnormality is kidney disease, which can occur in young animals with congenital disease, older animals with age-related kidney failure, or any age animal with exposure to certain toxins, such as antifreeze.
Liver disease is another common finding. Click here to read about our Peyton, who looked to be the picture of health, even though two-thirds of his liver was already gone when we discovered the abnormality on screening tests.
Unless your pet is ill, age-appropriate laboratory testing doesn’t usually have to be performed immediately. You can use some of the “savings account” techniques we’ve suggested to save up for the needed tests, and have them performed when you can.
In all cases, follow the recommendations of your local veterinarian in the care of your pet.
See you Monday, Dr. Randolph.