Doctors at Ridgewood Veterinary Hospital are often asked, “Why does my older dog need to have blood work and a urinalysis done when they appear to be perfectly normal”. The answer is simple. For animals and people, if you do not get hit by a bus or are not stricken by cancer you are most likely to die because your heart, liver, or kidneys simply wear out! Some people are lucky enough to feel something is “just not right” as a result of one of these circumstances and will visit a physician because they are smart enough to worry that something serious may be happening. Appropriately, we worry more as we age as this is when “bad things” are most likely to happen. Perhaps we just mention to a loved one that we are just not feeling right and are encouraged to visit a doctor. Others are not as concerned about their health and experience an avoidable death.
Our pets age in a very similar fashion though at a much faster rate as one “dog year” is roughly equal to seven “human years”. The biggest difference between people and our pets is that people are quick to recognize when they feel “a little off” and we do not recognize disease in our pets until they are in very significant pain or displaying extreme symptoms of disease. For example, a person might seek advice from a physician simply because they have a significantly increased thirst. This same symptom might not be recognized in a dog until they are constantly emptying the water bowl and, consequently, start urinating in the house – a symptom that can not be ignored. Excessive thirst alone can be a sign of diabetes, liver insufficiency, kidney insufficiency, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, etc. Most of these diseases are life threatening but manageable if detected early. The key to early detection is a regular examination, blood evaluation, and urinalysis. In a recent survey of urine tests done at Ridgewood Veterinary Hospital it was determined that 60% of the urine samples from apparently healthy dogs showed some signs of a problem that needed to be addressed! That is a huge number!
Your dog cannot tell you when they are feeling a little off and pets hide their illnesses and discomforts very well. Early detection of disease is easy by simply checking a blood and urine sample twice a year and asking a veterinarian to perform a thorough examination. Our pets give us so much, we owe it to them to make sure that their “Golden Years” are as comfortable and pain free as possible. If you wait until your dog is showing obvious signs of disease, you have simply waited too long.
Dean J. Cerf, D.V.M.
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