Health Screening to Prevent Emergencies

Dr. Woody Dudley, DVM


How does illness occur in pets?

Noticing health issues can be a challenge for Pet Owners. Our pets can’t tell us how they feel. It is part of a pet’s nature to hide symptoms of illness. Hiding symptoms of illness is a way that our pets go undetected by predators in the natural world. For many health issues, symptoms can be so subtle that they go unrealized by pet owners. Furthermore, some illnesses can develop slowly and gradually, such as many of our senior health issues, which makes them harder to notice.

When illness begins in our pets, in many cases, there are no symptoms; we call this subclinical illness.

After time passes, symptoms start to appear which may be mild and difficult to notice; we call this clinical illness. During this phase the body may compensate or adjust to the symptoms which can make detection more difficult. We often catch this phase of illness from a standard question and answer history form on a routine Health Wellness Exam. As time goes on symptoms become incrementally more obvious.

After more time, we can progress into the crisis or critical phase of illness, where symptoms become very obvious. This is the stage where changes in vital signs occur.  At this point we realize that we have an emergency and the patient needs to be seen right away. This may mean going to the Emergency Hospital where hurried diagnostics, hospitalization, and treatment are needed. This may also mean that the patient is deteriorating so fast that the patient may die before the Doctor can figure out the cause.


Why health screening?

Wouldn’t it be great if we could catch illness early before a crisis that requires emergency care? In today’s world, we have the ability to detect illnesses before we feel sick, through wellness testing such as blood pressure, ultrasound, and eye testing. Early diagnosis or detection before symptoms occur or when symptoms are mild can be done with so many of the commonly seen health issues in dogs and cats. Most of us have been to our own “Human” doctors and had screening done routinely on every visit, for example, cholesterol tests and blood pressure to prevent a heart attack, or glaucoma testing at the Optometrist or eye doctor to prevent vision loss.

If we do the same type of health screening approach in animals that is done every day in humans, we can improve the quality and length of life of our pets, reducing the need, expense, pain, and stress experience of Emergency Care.

We now live in a technological world where commonly seen diseases can be detected economically before our pets are even sick. This is why the American Animal Hospital Association has guidelines on preventative care screenings which include the following:


Wellness Health Exams every 6 months

A 6-month health exam would be similar to a health exam every 3 ½ years by our Human Doctors because dogs and cats have shorter lives.


Ultrasound Screening as an extension of the Health Exam

Ultrasound is a quick, non-invasive way to “see” inside the body things we can’t see with the external health exam. This can be done while you wait in about 15 minutes. We can pick up many things early such as Heart Disease and very small tumors of Cancer long before symptoms develop.


Parasite screening with stool and blood sample

Our pets like to lick and taste things that can give them parasites. Worms and protozoan parasites can lead to weight loss, intermittent diarrhea, and lethargy.


Wellness Blood and Urine Testing based on breed and age every 12 months

Catch commonly seen illnesses early when treatment is simple and economical! We take a blood and urine sample to screen for specific health issues that occur commonly in dogs or cats.


Breed and Genetic screening

Your pet’s breed may put them at high risk for certain medical conditions! Feel free to ask us for medical information about your pet’s breed and we will provide you with written information. Many health issues are genetic and seen more commonly in specific breeds. We can also screen with genetic blood tests.


Blood Pressure screening

Hypertension is the silent killer! Blood pressure can increase with age. When blood pressure is high, our pets are at risk for stroke, vision loss, and heart and kidney damage. Economical daily treatment is available. Blood pressure can also drop when are patients are sick or anesthetized which requires emergency treatment.


Senior Screening every 12 months for dogs and cats over 7 years of age

All senior patients develop health issues as they age, such as organ failure, cancer, inflammatory diseases, hormonal changes, dementia and pain. When detected early with Senior Screening, we can improve your pet’s quality of life and in many cases we can lengthen your pet’s life.


Teeth cleaning with dental X-rays every year starting at one year of age

American Animal Hospital Association now recommends teeth cleaning beginning at 1 year of age to prevent gum disease and tooth abscesses.


Eye screening for glaucoma and dry eyes

Prevent blindness and eye discomfort!


Pain evaluation

Prevent the pain and discomfort of arthritis! Most Senior Patients have some degree of arthritis. A trial dose of arthritis medication may reveal that your pet is experiencing the subtle signs of arthritis. Subtle symptoms may include, behavioral changes, “grumpy”, “laying down a lot”, “sleeping frequently”, “stiffness in the morning”….

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