Comprehensive wellness studies are the foundation to a successful preventive health program. The standard of practice is annual studies be done especially when pets begin to approach their senior years. Yet there is significant value to do them in even younger pets. Veterinarians typically bundle these services so they can lower client’s cost. In addition to an in depth and complete physical examination that assesses all body systems, wellness studies include CBC (complete blood count) with differential , full blood chemistries, urinalysis with sediment, ECG (electrocardiogram), and blood pressure readings. The best services include an early detection questionnaire that establishes a dialogue that can flush out subtle concerns that can be overlooked when addressing the chief complaint and gathering the history information. It is estimated that hands-on exams only will not locate approximately 30% of the asymptomatic disease conditions that are occurring at any given time. This is intuitive when you consider that pets cannot articulate the early and less dramatic symptoms of disease until the health problem is more advanced.
The CBC assesses the general health of a patient by measuring the red blood values, assess for infections and immune mediated diseases by evaluating the leukogram, and clotting factors by quantitatively and qualitatively evaluating platelets. Blood chemistries look at major organ enzyme levels (liver, renal, pancreas, bone and muscle), proteins and metabolites, and vital electrolytes and minerals. Urinalysis evaluates for urinary infection, glucose metabolism, glomerular function, checks for crystals and stones, and provide information involving other major organs such as the liver. Measuring thyroid hormone levels diagnose common endocrine disease. ECGs can diagnose arrhythmias, bradycardias and tachycardias. Blood pressure readings provide easy detection of hypertension and hypotension conditions that otherwise go undiagnosed.
My experience suggests veterinarians can resolve 90% or more of the presenting complaints when using comprehensive wellness studies as outlined here along with routine parasite testing, and the other 10% of the time the data generated in the wellness study will enable the determination of the next course of action that is required such as radiology, ultrasound, other advanced imaging or more invasive techniques using surgical diagnostic options such as histopathology. By understanding this it is easier to appreciate the foundation value and great heath benefit that is provided by routine or annual comprehensive wellness studies.
The most important benefit of these studies is the real potential of diagnosing important health problems or diseases before your pet is symptomatic or sick. Today many once devastating or debilitating conditions can now be successfully cured or managed if detected before symptoms occur or at least in the early stages. Another benefit that certainly includes the “young and heathy” is that wellness studies allows for routine data sourcing which further allows for the establishment of individual “normals” that can greatly vary within the so-called “normal” ranges but allows for the assessment of trends which becomes valuable over time. Talk to your veterinarian and find out if they offer a bundled comprehensive wellness study. It is probably the most valuable investment you can make in your pet from a health care perspective.