Veterinary medicine has come a long way over the last few decades. We used to spend our days (and still do) treating sick pets and practicing "Illness" medicine, instead of wellness medicine. What if we could prevent the illnesses before they ever started? Or, at the very least, catch it early enough to do something?
An ounce of Prevention is worth a pound of Cure.
Over the years, preventative or, wellness medicine, has become more talked about and has evolved in many practices. The most common form of preventative screening includes blood testing. Generally, these panels test for a variety of things including blood counts, kidney function, liver function, electrolyte abnormalities, and several other endocrine-related values. This is a very easy and cost effective to screen your pet. We use the lab values as a quality control check. The more points we have over time, the better we are at seeing trends. We use the example that blood values are like one frame of a movie. You can get a reasonable idea what is going on in the scene, but when you put several frames together in order, we can start to really understand the storyline. Blood Panels are great for many disease processes, but they do have their limitations.
One of the biggest questions we get when discussing Wellness Lab Panels is, “Will it find Cancer?” The short answer is “Sometimes”. Blood Panels tell you an important part of the story, but we often must use other diagnostics to find a more specific diagnosis.
The next step or level in prevention. is often some form of imaging. The modalities include Radiographs (X-Rays,) Ultrasounds, CT Scans, MRI’s, and Endoscopy. These all have their place but the test that tends to provide us with the best information and is the least invasive, is an abdominal ultrasound (or sonography). When most people think about ultrasound, they envision a pregnant woman going in for a checkup. This test is safe for the mother and child and yields information that a blood test could not. While it has its limitations, but it can be very useful when looking at the organs that reside inside the abdomen. This includes the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, adrenal glands, stomach, intestines, spleen, bladder, prostate, uterus, ovaries, and numerous lymph nodes. The ability to “look” at organs in a safe way, generally without the need for sedation or surgery is a useful tool and one we continue to find ways to advance.
In pet care, the term “senior or geriatric” has been a little vague. Technically, this implies that the pet is in the last 50-25% of its expected life expectancy. This is probably around 9-10 years for cats and small dogs and can go down to 6 years for larger dogs! In recent studies of dogs over 9 years of age, ultrasounds found abnormalities in 80% of the patients studied. We must remember these numbers and continue to use the very safe and available resources that allow us to practice more proactive medicine. This will enable for us to keep our pets healthier and happier for a longer period of time.
Please contact Tally Oaks Veterinary Wellness Center at 540-338-7081 to schedule your pets ultrasound screening.
Dr. Tania Woerner, owner and sole veterinarian at Tally Oaks Veterinary Wellness Center in Purcellville VA.