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Answers from vets about your cat:

Does My Senior Cat Really Need Lab Work?

Reviewed by Dr. Sarah Tasse, DVM on Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Posted September 16, 2015 in Cat Checkups & Preventive Care

Woman petting her senior cat

Have you ever wondered why your veterinarian recommends getting screening lab work for your senior cat? If you answered yes, you are not alone. Many people question whether these screening tests are necessary. If I had to guess, most of our cat patients are also wondering why they have to get poked. The fact of the matter is that screening lab work is important for your cat’s health for a number of reasons.

Cats can’t talk
When you or I get sick, we can tell our doctors what ails us. We can tell them when our symptoms began. We can describe what we are experiencing and how bad we feel. In addition, we can answer our doctors’ questions to help them make the right diagnosis. Unfortunately, our cats can’t talk. Like pediatricians, veterinarians must rely on the “pet parent” to find out what is wrong with their patient. Even the most observant pet parent can only provide so much useful information to the veterinarian. Lab work helps the veterinarian obtain information that their patients can’t share.

Cats are masters at hiding illness
To make matters worse, cats are great at hiding illness. For example, cats with early diabetes may show no symptoms at all, or may exhibit a subtle increase in their water consumption and urination. Unless you are actively measuring your cat’s water input or noting how often your cat is using the litter box (by counting the number of clumps of urine), you are likely to miss these early symptoms. It is only when diabetes becomes more advanced that the more obvious signs of diabetes, such as weight loss, change in appetite, lethargy and marked increases in water consumption and urination develop. The same principles apply to other common diseases in senior cats, such as chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroid disease.

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Ruth has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry as a companion animal veterinarian in private practice. Along with being a writer and media personality, she is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.