Why lab tests are an important part of a pet exam

  • It's important for pets to visit their veterinarian at least once a year for a preventative care exam.

    It's important for pets to visit their veterinarian at least once a year for a preventative care exam.

By Diana Stoll
On pets
Posted1/11/2021 6:00 AM

Just as people visit their doctors annually, it is important for pets to visit their veterinarian at least once each year for a preventative care exam, too. The vet will examine the pet from nose to tail, check his weight and vital signs, and ask his pet parents a variety of questions to determine how he is doing at home.

As part of the examination, most veterinarians will recommend lab tests, which might include blood, urine and fecal testing. It is not uncommon for pet parents to wonder if these tests are really necessary. They are. They provide a wealth of information about the health of a pet that is not evident during a physical exam.


Blood tests can detect an illness before a pet shows any outward symptoms. Cats are "wired" to hide weaknesses or illnesses, and dogs want to please their owners and often don't show obvious signs they are not feeling well.

Recent studies have shown that one of every seven preventative care blood tests performed on pets appearing healthy showed abnormal results that required follow up with radiographs, ultrasound or specialized lab tests. While many tests report normal results, your pet might be the one in seven.

Early detection often results in a better outcome. Diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease, when caught in its early stages, can often be treated successfully or controlled. Timely treatment is critical if a heartworm/tick blood test indicates a dog has heartworms or a tick-borne disease.

Another benefit to early detection -- it often saves money due to less expensive treatments. Sometimes, dietary changes are all that is required.

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Blood tests also provide veterinarians a baseline -- a gauge of what's normal -- of a pet's health to have something to compare it to as pets age or if they become ill.

Pet parents are often asked to bring a poop sample to preventative care appointments. Fecal tests detect intestinal parasites, like Giardia, roundworms, hookworms and whipworms, which can all lead to health problems if left untreated.

A urinalysis screens for infections of the urinary tract or bladder and evaluates the health of the kidneys. It may also indicate the possibility of kidney or bladder stones and the potential need for an x-ray or ultrasound.

The next time your pet is at the clinic for a preventative care exam, talk with your vet about the importance of lab tests as an integral part of the exam. Together, you can decide which tests are best for the comprehensive assessment of your pet's health to ensure he has the longest and best possible quality of life.

• Diana Stoll is the Practice Manager at Red Barn Animal Hospital with locations in Hampshire and Gilberts. Visit the website at redbarnpetvet.com/ or call (847) 683-4788 (Hampshire) or (847) 426-1000 (Gilberts).

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