Celebrating the life of Piper


PiperNo one ever wants to hear that their beloved young pet has a chronic disease that will affect their length and quality of life.  Unfortunately, congenital and early onset disease conditions do occur in young animals.  Piper is a reminder to all of us about the importance of early disease detection and how it can be used to help prolong life in a very positive way.

Here is Piper’s story:

Piper as a Puppy

Piper was diagnosed with kidney disease during a routine blood screen that was performed prior to her spay surgery at 6 months of age. After the diagnosis of renal disease, her blood and urine were routinely monitored every 6-12 months to help guide the veterinarians in her health care plan. Treatment for her renal disease included an appropriate diet and two medications that were given twice daily for her entire life. In an attempt to preserve her kidney function; several routinely used medications were flagged on her medical record as being unsafe for her use. Piper did not look sick a day in her life until the last few weeks before her passing at 9 ½ years of age. She was full of energy, love and the crazy exuberance that dogs show for life. I am so happy and fortunate to have had the pleasure of being accosted by Piper as she demonstrated that zest for life!

Piper at Halloween

I truly believe that early disease detection and routine blood and urine testing enabled her family to care for her without hardship and afforded them many years of happiness together.

Thankfully, Piper’s story is not one that we have to tell on a regular basis. Veterinary diagnostic tools have improved over the years to help us detect several organic diseases in the early stages which can help us to develop health care plans to improve longevity and quality of life.

Dr. Sandi Rosely

Wellness Testing

Wellness tests are laboratory tests performed to evaluate the health of your pet. These blood tests allow us to anticipate any problems before your pet becomes clinically sick, in an attempt to modify the disease process and improve your pet’s quality of life.

Pets are great at hiding disease, and often by the time they look sick – it is more difficult to help them. The most important aspect of blood work is to monitor changes over time, to ensure that our treatment and management decisions are effective.

Your pet’s wellness profile will include a combination of different tests. The profile chosen for your pet is based on your pet’s age, health and breed.

Profiles may include:

Complete blood count

A CBC examines the red and white blood cells. It can indicate how well the body’s immune defense system is working and if inflammation is present. A CBC can also aid in the diagnosis of diseases such as, anemia, clotting problems, immune mediated diseases or certain types of cancers. A CBC will look at several parameters in the blood including:

Packed Cell Volume (PCV)/Hematocrit

  • measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and dehydration


  • determines the oxygen carrying capacity of red blood cells

White Blood Cells (WBC)

  • measure the body’s immune cells. Increases or decreases indicate certain diseases, infections or inflammation


  • specific types of WBC that can indicate inflammation or infection when values are elevated. Low number may indicate an immune suppressed animal.


  • specific type of WBC that may indicate allergic or parasitic conditions


  • measures cells that form blood clots. Low values may indicate a clotting disorder

Clinical signs of illness:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Anorexia
Biochemistry Panel
These tests measure certain chemical levels in the blood. The chemicals are typically enzymes produced by different organs and therefore help indicate organ health. Increases or decreases in these levels may indicate disease.

Liver Chemistries

Includes: AST, ALT, Alk Phos, Bilirubin, Cholesterol, Proteins, Bile Acids

  • decreased liver function, inflammation, tissue damage, and bile blockage can all be detected
  • The liver removes toxins from the blood and is involved in most aspects of protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism

Clinical Signs of illness:

  • Jaundice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Lethargy

Kidney Chemistries

Includes: BUN, Creatinine, Phosphorous, Potassium, Albumin

  • Increases in BUN and Creatinine may indicate kidney disease. Kidney function tests are even more helpful when combined with a urinalysis
  • Kidneys are responsible for filtering metabolic waste products, excess sodium and water from the blood stream, as well as conserving vital electyrolytes

Clinical signs of illness:

  • Increased drinking and urinating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Bad breath

Pancreas Chemistries

Includes: AST, CPK, Calcium, Phosphorus

  • AST & CPK are frequently elevated when there is inflammation, trauma, or damage to skeletal muscle
  • Calcium & Phosphorous levels are indicators of bone health
  • The pancreas is responsible for producing several digestive enzymes as well as insulin

Clinical Signs of illness:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Inappetance
  • Diabetes- increased drinking and urinating
Includes: Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, and Chloride

  • these elements form the “electrical” system of the body and help cells communicate with each other
  • electrolytes are needed for muscle contraction including the heart and nerve impulses
Thyroid Function Test
  • provide information on how the thyroid gland is working
  • too little thyroid hormone is common in dogs, which leads to sluggishness and weight gain
  • too much thyroid hormone is common in older cats and causes hyperactivity and weight loss
  • low thyroid levels can affect any breed of dog, however certain breeds are at an increased risk
  • Thyroid hormones control how the body uses energy

List of breeds in decreasing order of relative risk for thyroid disease:

Chinese Shar Pei Chow Chow
Great Dane Irish Wolfhound
Boxer English Bulldog
Dachshund Afghan Hound
Newfoundland Malamute
Doberman Pinscher Brittany Spaniel
Poodle Golden Retriever
Miniature Schnauzer Airedale Terrier
Cocker Spaniel Irish Setter
Shetland Sheepdog English Sheepdog
Pomeranian German Shorthaired Pointers

Clinical Signs of illness:

  • Mental dullness
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Weight gain
  • Poor coat quality and hair loss

Includes: Crystals/stones, pH, specific gravity, blood, casts, bacteria and glucose

  • Helps to assess the health of your pet’s kidneys and urinary bladder

Clinical signs of illness:

  • Urine accidents in house
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Straining to urinate
  • Blood in urine
  • Inability to urinate
Blood Parasite Screen (dogs)
Ticks and mosquitoes, could they be secretly infecting your dog? Your dog can become infected with heartworm by a simple mosquito bite, or become infected with ehrlichiosis, Lyme or anaplasmosis if bitten by an infected tick. That’s why it is important to screen your dog annually for a blood parasite infection.

Learn if your dog is being exposed to these diseases and if a preventative strategy is needed.

If your dog is infected, the earlier we test, the earlier we can take action to avoid chronic disease state.

Feline Viral Tests (cats)
FIV and FeLV are major causes of illness and death in cats. Even healthy cats may harbour infection and spread it to others. Only a small blood sample is needed to test for both viruses. Your cat should be tested: 1) if your cat is ill, 2) newly adopted, 3) has been exposed to an infected cat, 4) is an outdoor cat, or 5) before receiving a FeLV vaccine.

FIV: Usually spread by cat bites (fighting). Cats often do not show signs of illness when young. Symptoms include gum infections, frequent illnesses, inability to fight infections, immune suppression, and organ failure.

FeLV: Usually spread through catfights, but also through sharing food/water bowls, cats grooming each other, and kittens born to infected mothers. FeLV can cause leukemia (cancer of white blood cells), anemia, and immune suppression leading to susceptibility to other diseases.

This wellness information sheet is based on material written by Michelle Barnes.

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