Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Senior Feline Health Care - Diagnostic Testing

As we mentioned in our senior wellness blog, many of the diseases and conditions that commonly develop in senior cats are more easily managed when they are caught in their early stages. This helps maintain or even improve your older cat's quality of life.

In this blog, we will explain in a little more detail what exactly the tests we run tell us about your cat's health.

Many of the same technologies and medical diagnostic testing that help humans live longer, healthier lives are also available to your cat. Even a few standard tests allow us to gather a wealth of information about the well-being and health of your cat. These tests become increasingly important as your cat continues to age.

The most common lab test we run in our clinic is a combination blood panel consisting of a complete blood count and blood chemistry. A Complete Blood Count (CBC) is a series of tests that evaluate the number of cells in circulation in the blood. White blood cells, WBC, help fight infection and inflammation and can increase with cancer. Red blood cells, RBC, carry oxygen to the tissues. Platelets allow clotting of the blood and are another indication of the health of the bone marrow. Overall, the CBC tests for anemia, infection, inflammation and the health of blood cells and the bone marrow.

A blood chemistry panel is performed to get an initial overview of the health and function of body organs. This panel surveys many of the organ systems of the body to make sure they are working properly. Our chemistry test checks the following organ functions: liver, kidney, pancreas, muscle, bone, thyroid and electrolytes.

For many conditions, such as chronic renal disease and diabetes mellitus, a urinalysis should also be run to provide a complete picture of organ function. For example, in verifying renal disease, the specific gravity - or concentration - of urine is a key diagnostic tool in addition to the blood chemistry numbers. In diagnosing diabetes, glucose levels in the urine are examined.

Finally, we recommend radiographs (x-rays), first to establish a baseline at a younger age, and then regularly to monitor any changes or developments. Cats do develop arthritis, but as with many illnesses, they hide their discomfort and it's not always readily apparent until the condition becomes severe. There may be subtle signs, such as taking extra steps to get places, jumping from floor to stool to bed instead of straight from floor to bed, or refraining from jumping at all. Arthritis pain can be managed with a variety of different treatments, including a specialized diet.

Ultimately, the tests performed are designed to ensure the best quality and longevity of life possible for your cat.

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