Dear Doctor: How often for blood work?


Q. I know I should take my cat to the veterinarian every year for a wellness exam, but does he really need blood work and a urinalysis at each of those visits? Together they run at least $200.

Martha Fierstein
Rhinebeck, New York

Dear Ms. Fierstein,

A. First, it’s important to point out that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says geriatric cats should have wellness exams every 6 months, not once a year. “Geriatric” would include any cat older than 10 and sometimes cats as young as 8 or 9.

As far as how often a cat needs blood and urine work, there’s no set answer. Some veterinarians feel yearly screening is important, but strict guidelines have not been validated and established as they have been in human medicine, says Tufts veterinary internist Michael Stone, DVM. Even for older cats, the AVMA speaks of “possible” blood work at each 6-month interval.

A veterinarian should determine the necessity for such screening tests based on the cat’s prior medical history and what is discovered during the clinical exam. If the vet does recommend blood and urine analysis, it’s important for you to give the go-ahead. Untoward changes in the body cannot always be seen or felt from the outside, and lab work on bodily fluids can tell a lot about a cat’s health, indicating shifts in everything from kidney function to the relative health of the liver.

Many health insurance plans for pets cover routine care that includes blood and urine tests.


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