22 March 2017

Dr. Becker Discusses Important Diagnostic Tests for Your Pet

Dr. Karen Becker, a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian, talks about must-have diagnostic tests that could save your pet's life. To read other pet ...

hi this is dr. Karen Becker although

your veterinarian can learn a great deal by performing a hands-on physical examination of your pet there are some very important aspects of his or her health that can only be evaluated with diagnostic tests some people think that if their pet looks healthy and that there's no change in the behavior if their appetites good then the blood tests are kind of unnecessary but actually this isn't true for pets any more than it's true for people almost all metabolic and organ issues plaguing our pet populations start with biochemical changes that can be picked up on blood work weeks two years before your pet becomes sick enough to exhibit symptoms and actually if your waiting until your pet gives you symptoms of disease you've probably waited past the point of being able to actually truly reverse the disease entirely or cure them many problems brewing beneath the surface don't produce symptoms until the disease is full-blown and heaven forbid can sometimes even be fatal I call this actually reactive medicine and what we're seeing in the holistic veterinary community is many clients who call themselves holistic actually are

more accurately described as reactive because they wait and tell their dog is coughing to complete a heartworm test they wait until their kitty is peeing all over the house and drinking to check kidney function or until they see a tapeworm segment stuck to their dog's fur before they would think about looking at internal parasite load allowing pets to get sick before identifying significant health issues isn't a holistic approach at all and in fact in my opinion it's the exact paradigm shift we're trying to accomplish by preaching proactive medicine and proactive veterinarians are really focused on identifying lifestyle obstacles before disease occurs the fact is veterinarians do not have x-ray vision none of us and so we can't see the degeneration shifts that are occurring the very small mild degeneration shifts that are occurring inside your pets body unless we are specifically checking for them and unless you're working with a proactive veterinarian your vet may not even be recommending that you check and so the big question is if we're capable of identifying disease early and stopping

disease from occurring why wouldn't we identifying disease early affords us the opportunity to minor biochemical changes early on and prevent them from becoming major health issues we can actually prevent organ failure if we know that the body is leaning in that direction we can actually prevent the body from irreversible degeneration that robs our pets of quality of health and also a shortened lifespan but you have to know what's occurring in order to address it and you won't know if you don't check I can't even count the number of times that I've heard from not just my clients but clients around the world that my dog was fine until he got congestive heart failure or my cat was fine until I took her to the vet last Monday and she was diagnosed with kidney failure the truth is those conditions are not an acute episode where the animal was fine on a Monday and then was very very sick on a Tuesday most of these conditions occur slowly and over time those animals actually degenerated because either the owner or the veterinarian was not regularly monitoring all those organ systems as I'm encouraging people to do

in this video even if you're stuck in rural Idaho with no proactive vet in your town you can ask your very conventional veterinarian to measure your pets vital organ function and you can ask for a copy of the blood work to look at those results and you're able to track from year to year those changes that are occurring that maybe your veterinarian isn't identifying I wish I could say that your vet will always be your pet's best advocate but sometimes the vets around you are reactive and you end up being your pets only advocate but you fulfilling this role can actually be life-saving if your pet is the picture of health right now and looks wonderful you may want to still periodically check how well her organs are functioning on the inside and look for abnormalities in her blood work a lot of veterinarians call this a baseline blood test which means we know what your pet looks like on the inside when they're healthy those test results actually can actually provide a great baseline to look for whether next year things are moving off or up or down so an important thing to consider remember in most circumstances that all abnormal test results were at

one time normal its how quickly we catch those changes that's the difference between fixing the problem early or losing the pet to something we wished that we could have identified earlier I wish I would have known becomes a statement that many proactive that's there our goal to never hear that or really what it comes down to is I wish I would have known translates into I wish I would have checked because we can check I'm encouraging you all to check this is especially true for senior pets and pets that have had chronic health challenges in their medical past so what should you be checking at your veterinary clinic several things I like to check poop regularly because dogs are exposed to a lot of different stuff I don't advocate annual deworming but I do advocate letting your dog live its life let him roam around do everything that they do eat dirt sand poo and sticks and rocks dogs will be dogs but I do advocate once a year or twice a year if your dog is really in the eating stuff I recommend that you just have your veterinarian check a fecal sample to make sure they have not picked up parasites indoor

house cats who have no exposure to outdoor pool that could be infectious are off the hook for this specific recommendation obviously but if your dog is a chronic pool eater you need to check vehicles more frequently to make sure that he's not picked up a parasite a yearly urinalysis is used to assess the overall health of your pets urinary tract including kidneys and bladder and to check for other health indicators such as glucose regulation and liver function checking urine more frequently if your pet is older or is prone to infections crystals or as passing protein in her urine is a great way of really charting her internal progress before an emergency situation could arise a complete urinalysis measures the function of the nephrons in the kidneys and it gives information about your pets metabolic and fluid status the test is also used to evaluate substances in the urine that might indicate an underlying disease process so at least once a year doing this invaluable test to make sure your pet looks as good on the inside as they do on the outside is a great idea blood tests help your veterinarian

proactively monitor your pets internal organ health and also help to determine if there's a cause of illness that's brewing that we need to identify as early as possible blood tests also allow your veterinarian to monitor the progress of medical treatments however these tests only indicate where your pets body is having a problem they don't tell us how or why the problem is occurring it's important to remember that it's also important to know that currently there's no blood tests that identifies detectable cancer in every organ system we don't have that for humans some of you've heard of the PSA we've got certain markers that could point towards cancer but there's no blood tests that veterinarians can do that says liver cancer positive bladder cancer positive unfortunately there are some markers we can use that point us in that direction though the CBC is the most common blood tests performed on pets and people a CBC stands for the complete blood count and it gives information on hydration status anaemia infection the blood clotting ability and the pets ability to make a healthy immune system response the CBC

is essential for pets with fevers vomiting diarrhea weakness pale gums or loss of appetite also in the event that your pet needs surgery a CBC can detect bleeding disorders and other unseen abnormalities the results of a complete blood count include the HCT which is called hematocrit which measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and hydration status hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration or MCHC measures the oxygen carrying pigments of the red blood cells the white blood cell count or WBC measures the body's immune system cells including lymphocytes monocytes neutrophils eosinophils and basophils increases or decreases indicate disease or infection and as a side note reptiles and birds have special cells called as your fills and hetero fills that mammals don't have a platelet count measure cells that form blood clots and a reticulocyte count measures the number of immature red blood cells high levels indicate regenerative anemia and low levels indicate non regenerative anemia blood chemistry's are common blood serum tests that evaluate your pet's organ function electrolyte status and hormone

levels they're very important in evaluating the older pet pets undergoing anesthesia pets with vomiting and diarrhea pets that have had taxon exposure or pets that are on long-term medications it's also important to do chemistry profiles on pets that have endocrine disease or internal organ disease blood serum chemistry's includes several different measurement albumen is a serum protein that helps evaluate hydration hemorrhage and intestinal liver and kidney disease alkaline phosphatase or ALP elevations may indicate liver damage Cushing's disease which is adrenal disease active bone growth in young pets or arthritis or bone degeneration in older pets alanine aminotransferase also called alt is a sensitive indicator of active liver damage but it doesn't indicate why the liver damage is occurring a liver function test is called a bile acids test and it's a paired serum sample taken before and after food which measures how functional the liver is at recycling bile acids amylase is a digestive enzyme for carbohydrates and lipase is the digestive enzyme responsible for breaking down fat

elevations in these two enzymes may indicate pancreatitis or other pancreatic dysfunction the definitive test for pancreatitis is called the PLI or pancreatic lipase immuno reactivity test aspartate aminotransferase or a s t increases actually demonstrate that there could be a liver heart or skeletal muscle problem or damage going on bu n or blood urea nitrogen indicates kidney function an increased blood level is called ASA tamiya and beak and can certainly be caused from kidney disease liver disease heart disease or your riether obstruction as well as shock and dehydration calcium deviations can indicate a variety of diseases tumors hyperparathyroidism kidney disease and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that can occur when there's altered serum calcium levels cholesterol levels are used to supplement a diagnosis of hypothyroidism liver disease Cushing's disease and diabetes mellitus but pets aren't plagued with arteriosclerosis like humans are so even a significant elevation cholesterol doesn't result in blocked arteries or stroke or heart attack increased incidence thankfully so

we don't have those things to worry about with pets chloride is an electrolyte that is often lost with vomiting and Addison's disease if your dog has sodium and chloride imbalances that combination together you should absolutely ask your veterinarian to check for adrenal disease creatinine is a sensitive marker of kidney function and kidney perfusion this test helps distinguish between kidney and non kidney causes of elevated B UN so B UN and creatinine go hand-in-hand there's also a third test s DMA which can also identify early kidney disease globulin is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and decreases with chronic infections and a weakened immune system glucose is blood sugar elevations in blood sugar obviously means potential diabetes or persistent hyperglycemia from a car based diet so levels below 40 aren't good levels above a hundred aren't good levels that are low hypoglycemia can result in collapse seizures or coma potassium is an electrolyte lost with vomiting diarrhea excessive urination and increased levels of potassium can indicate kidney disease kidney failure Addison's disease

dehydration urethral obstruction or inappropriate doses of certain drugs high levels can actually also cause heart problems so you don't want potassium high or low in the body sodium is an electrolyte that's often lost with vomiting diarrhea kidney disease and Addison's disease this test helps indicate hydration status as well phosphorus elevations are often associated with chronic kidney disease hyperthyroidism and bleeding disorders total bilirubin elevations may indicate liver or hemolytic disease this test helps identify bile duct problems gallbladder stasis and other certain types of anemia problems total protein indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver and kidneys as well as infectious disease status thyroxine or t4 is a thyroid hormone decreased levels oftentimes signal hypothyroidism may be in the works for dogs why higher levels indicate hyperthyroidism which is commonly diagnosed in cats the test that I've just summarized are usually a part of the complete biochemistry profile I suggest that you complete at Lee annually to make sure that all of your

pets organ systems are functioning optimally now there are some additional tests that you longevity junkies know about as well as you proactive pet parents that are either my current clients or are people that have been watching or are subscribing here for quite some time you folks know how important it is for sometimes adding on additional tests for your pet specific issues so if you live in an area where ticks are abundant I recommend that you do an annual or even twice a year snap for DX test or an Accuplacer test those are the same tests done by different labs to check for tick borne diseases regardless of what you do to manage infectious disease what so whether you use topical chemicals whether you do nothing whether you do natural essential oils regardless of what you're doing to manage fleas and ticks bottom line research shows that mosquitoes can transmit tick borne diseases and actually none of us can prevent our dogs and cats from being bit from mosquitoes so my theory is let your dogs live their lives take them for walks in the woods do tick checks every night pick the ticks off that you find but really

there's no way that you can prevent every mosquito from biting your family so don't panic but if you're in an endemic area for tick-borne diseases I do recommend that you check for them every six months so in Chicago in the Midwest or on that East Coast if you've got you know if you're picking ticks off every now and then don't panic you don't have to do monthly checks for tick borne diseases but at the beginning of the yeren at the end of the season checking for tick borne diseases is a great idea because these diseases are fairly easy to treat and cure when identified before they become chronic and so these tests the 4dx in the Accu plex will check for heartworm Lyme disease ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis additionally I recommend titer testing in lieu of automatic revaccination for all diseases other than rabies which of course is required by law titer tests are simple blood tests you can ask your veterinarian to do that provide great information about your pets existing immunity to the disease as he's been vaccinated against previously immunologist dr. Ron Shultz states that any tighter results so any number above

zero means that your pets immune system is capable of mounting an effective immune system response and no fur vaccines are needed which is a great test to do I was so sure that my patients at my practice were effectively immunized after their one puppy shot that I told my clients that I would boost their dogs for free I want them to do a titer test some of my clients would come in and say hey you know I think it's just cheaper to vaccinate my dogs only had one vaccine we know what's the harm in doing it my response was please titer because chances are if your dog has had any vaccine they're protected and so let's titer and if your dog is low I will boost your dog for free I will give a singular parvo or distemper if your dog is low on one of those two viruses and I'm 19 years in and I have never given away a free vaccine because none of our dogs have titer low after their puppy shot so something to think about three other tests that you might want to consider looking at if you're a serious longevity junkie like myself and you want your pets to live forever or if you've had a previous health challenge

with one of your pets making you question their overall nutritional metabolic or immunologic health I would recommend you consider a couple of other tests number one fasting insulin number two a vitamin D test and number three a test for dysbiosis for humans we know that one of the best predictors of longevity is a person's fasting insulin level although very few veterinarians beside myself measure this I think it's a vastly underutilized test that can evaluate a patient's metabolic health and level of fat-burning adaptiveness it's one of the best things in my opinion you could do to look at what your dog or cat has in its future in terms of ability to manage metabolic diseases including cancer many people and pets are vitamin D deficient and we're just now discovering that the pet the whole category of pet vitamin D deficiency probably rivals that of humans in that when you if your pets and you were living in the northern hemisphere dogs and cats can't make vitamin D from sunlight so they have to eat it in their diet and what we're finding is absorption the form of vitamin D processing if it's synthetic

in pet food their ability to absorb and process D could be impinge t' so we know that managing and addressing this nutritional deficiency before the diagnosis of cancer is obviously important so something to consider Mindi testing is a specialty test but you can ask your veterinarian veterinarian about it and your vet can perform that test we know that 70% of your pets immune system is located in their gut and many pets suffer from gut related issues which create malabsorption ml digestion and ultimately a weakened in dysfunctional immune system systemically identifying and addressing leaky gut or an unbalanced dysbiotic gut is critically important in reestablishing health and they especially in debilitated unhealthy or chronically ill pets or pets that are aging Texas A&M GI lab has just released a test to measure the level of dysbiosis in going on in your dog's gut and that's a really nice additional test if you're looking at long term immunologic health so I hope you're now able to see why functional medicine doctors get so excited about evaluating the biochemical changes occurring inside your pets

monitoring your pets internal environment is actually quite empowering because we're able to address minor changes before disease occurs and actually we can prevent degeneration from occurring which should be all of our goals as proactive pet parents you