Wellness Exams: Cookie’s Latest Check-Up

Most people love to spoil their dogs. This can be done in many different ways. But if you want to spoil your dog in a meaningful way, don’t forget the things they can actually appreciate and don’t forget wellness exams.

Wellness Exams: Cookie's Latest Check-Up

There are few things you can do for your dog to increase their chances of a long, quality life. Wellness exams are high on that list.

Problems can brew under the surface without anybody being any wiser.

By the time you might see signs and symptoms, you already have a significant problem on your hands. Regular physical exam and lab work helps catch a potential disease early when it’s much easier to address and offers a substantially improved prognosis.

When my dogs reach their “middle age,” I have them typically checked twice a year.

Senior dogs should absolutely get a thorough exam that often. Young, healthy dogs, might do with once a year.

It is hard to believe that Cookie is going to be six-and-a-half-years old already. Especially with her history and breed, I am not taking any chances.

I was thrilled to find out that she is doing well.

We are still having some struggles with her weight, but we’re working on it. We are also keeping up with her chiropractic care and physical therapy.

Other than all that, her exam and lab work confirms she is in great shape which was a great relief. Her labs also look good.

Curiously, it is my experience that every blood panel will come with one or two values out of whack. We had issues with Cookies ALT levels, kidney values, platelets … When that happens, one needs to figure out whether it really means something, what it might mean, and how to confirm or rule out a true problem. For example, BUN and Creatinine can be elevated because the kidneys are not happy, or simply because of dehydration.

When Cookies were high, the first thing we did was check her first-morning urine to see whether the kidneys are happy or not. The urine was perfectly normal, and the next time the values looked great. It was not such an easy journey with the ALT.

This time, all values are calm, quiet and well-behaved. Though you can see the one red line that goes with the ALP (another of liver values) being below normal.

What does it mean when ALP is below normal? Fortunately, it means nothing at all. At least not when it happens just once. If it were a consistent finding, I’d get more insistent on figuring out why it’s happening.

It is not showing above because we had to use a different lab but we also tested SDMA. This is the newer, better kidney test which is supposed to give a more advanced warning of kidney issues. I like to do this one at least once a year. It came back looking good as well. Together with normal Creatinine and no suspicious upward trends, it’s a good reason to believe Cookie’s kidneys are in good shape.

The difference between the usefulness of SDMA over Creatinine testing is that Creatinine levels don’t get elevated until at least 75% kidney damage. That isn’t really what I’d call an advanced warning. The SDMA, on the other hand, signals kidney problems about 12 months earlier than that. At least as believed, since it’s a relatively new test. Good enough reason for me to want to have in included.

In the spring, we also always include a test for heartworm and tick-borne diseases.

I was happy to learn that all of that came back negative.

Everything is looking good so I can relax until the fall when we do all this all over again.

Categories: Blood workConditionsDog careDog health advocacyInterpreting lab resultsReal-life StoriesWellness exams

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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