Why do our pets need Annual Wellness Exams?
Firstly, our pets can't speak, they cannot tell us if they feel unwell or have any other indicators of internal illness. We need to examine them every year as well as run some routine screening tests to detect underlying disease BEFORE it is clinically apparent.
Secondly, pets will actively mask signs of illness until late in the course of disease.
We believe the following tests give us the best chance of helping your pet's live longer, healthier lives.
Annual Canine Blood Parasite Screening
The American Veterinary Medical Association and Somerset Regional Animal Hospital recommend an annual blood parasite screening for all dogs. This test screens for heartworms as well as three tick-borne diseases: Lyme, Erhlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis. All of these diseases can be fatal if not treated early.
What is Heartworm disease and how does my dog get it?
Heartworm infection is spread by mosquitos. When a mosquito "bites" an infected dog or cat, it takes up blood which may contain microscopic immature forms of heartworms called microfilariae. The microfilariae incubate in the mosquito for about two weeks, during which they become infective. Then when the mosquito bites another dog, the infective microfilariae are passed to the second dog, infecting it. The microfilariae then migrate through the tissues of the body and enter the heart where they reach adult size in 4-6 months.
Heartworm Testing & Treatment
Heartworm testing is the only definite way to diagnose heartworm infection. A sample of your dog's blood is screened for the presence of a protein (antigen) that female adult heartworms shed. Heartworm testing is required before any prevention program can be started, except for those puppies under 12 months of age. Adult heartworms in dogs can be killed with special drug therapy, however this therapy can be dangerous.
Prevention is the Best Protection
It is necessary to have a heartworm test prior to using a preventative. Severe or fatal reactions may occur if preventatives are given to dogs with heartworm disease. If you give prevention year-round, you might wonder why we recommend yearly heartworm testing. All of the manufacturers of preventative medication, as well as the FDA, recommend testing to prevent serious complications. If, for any reason, your dog has contracted heartworm disease, giving preventative could cause serious illness or even death. Although heartworm preventatives are very effective no medications are 100% effective for every pet. Even if you're certain your dog swallowed the pill he might go outside, eat a little grass, and throw the pill up before it was digested. That leaves him at risk of becoming infected. Heartgard Plus and Trifexis are the monthly preventatives that we recommend. Along with preventing heartworm disease, both also prevent intestinal parasites, and Trifexis prevents fleas. The preventatives must be given every 30 days.
Intestinal Parasite Screening
We recommend an annual fecal (stool sample) to check for GI parasites. Dogs and cats can pick up these parasites while outside or even from us bringing them inside on our shoes. Some Gastrointestinal parasites are transmissible to humans, especially children. Intestinal parasites include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and giardia.
Geriatric Blood Screening
For any pets yearly blood testing can help to detect problems before they become serious. We recommend yearly testing for all animals over the age of 8. These tests look at your pets internal organ functions and are often the first way to detect liver, kidney, and thyroid problems in the geriatric pet.