Running diagnostic tests makes sense when your pet is ill, but you may wonder why we recommend the same tests each year at your feline friend’s annual wellness appointment. As an AAHA-accredited hospital, Just Cats Clinic practices the highest quality medicine, and closely monitoring your pet’s health through screening tests is part of our gold-standard care. Screening tests typically consist of blood work (i.e., complete blood count [CBC], blood chemistry panel), a proBNP (i.e., heart damage test) a urinalysis, fecal exam, and blood pressure check looking for various conditions, including anemia, infection, organ dysfunction, parasites, diabetes, and silent heart disease. We may add or customize more tests based on your pet’s needs and health status.

Every test may yield normal results, yet wellness screening tests are an essential part of your cat’s preventive veterinary care. Here are five reasons why wellness screening tests are important, and why normal results are valuable.

#1: Normal screening test results establish your pet’s baseline

Any test we run has a range of normal values where your pet’s value should fall. However, pets don’t read the book, and occasionally, their “normal” values fall outside the accepted range, but they are still healthy. Running wellness screening tests at your pet’s annual visit establishes their baseline and determines their normal value. Running tests only when your pet is ill helps diagnose a health problem, but without those baseline values, we won’t know the abnormal level of your pet’s results.

#2: Normal screening test results show subtle changes over time

Diseases can be slow-growing processes that take months or years to develop. For example, cats who develop chronic renal failure (CRF) can exhibit kidney values that creep up slowly, and without regular monitoring through wellness screening tests, we would never know your aging cat’s kidneys need additional support. By running tests at each wellness visit, we can look for minute changes and subtle patterns that we could not identify by spot-checking only when your pet was ill.

#3: Screening tests catch disease processes before they advance

As you likely know, cats are masters at hiding signs of pain, illness, or disease, and owners often do not realize their pet is not well until their condition has advanced. In pets with chronic renal failure, for example, kidney values do not reach abnormal levels until roughly two-thirds of kidney function has been lost, but our screening tests at each wellness visit, with a focus on your cat’s life stage, allow us to catch disease as early as possible. Cats often develop kidney dysfunction as they age, so we recommend an additional kidney test to check for early stage CRF. Spotting this common chronic condition sooner offers more effective and less costly management options, and gives your cat a longer, better quality of life.

Another example is hyperthyroidism, or overproduction of thyroid hormones. This condition is common in middle-aged and older cats, and increases a cat’s metabolism, causing weight loss, heart complications, and other issues. By performing serial thyroid hormone checks, we can detect steadily increasing levels—often before the hormone levels are abnormally high—and begin treatment earlier in the disease course.

#4: Screening tests save you money

Spending money on testing when your cat appears healthy may seem a poor use of funds, but budgeting for preventive care can save you money in the long run. Annual screening tests that catch early stage disease can prevent more serious health problems that are costlier to treat, and may require more advanced diagnostic testing, referral to a specialty hospital, or extensive nursing care. 

#5: Normal screening test results mean your pet is healthy

The best part about normal screening test results is that they mean your cat is healthy. A lot of care and attention goes into keeping your pet happy and healthy, such as lifestyle-appropriate vaccinations, parasite prevention, dental care, proper nutrition, and exercise. With normal test results, you can rest assured that your care at home, and the preventive care that Just Cats Clinic provides, is doing its job. 

Although cats typically become stressed at veterinary hospitals, our cat-friendly approach helps soothe your pet’s anxiety, and provides a more comprehensive, pleasant examination experience. By treating cats with respect and employing low-stress handling methods, we ensure our feline friends receive essential care and that we spot disease sooner and keep them healthier longer. Give our Just Cats Clinic team a call to schedule your cat’s annual wellness appointment, and see how our feline-friendly handling makes a difference for your pet.