The Pulse Of Veterinary Medicine

Vet-To-Vet Conversation With IDEXX

Preventive care screening tests: why now?

Preventive care has always been important to veterinary professionals, but lab work has not been a regular part of the preventive care toolkit. 

The good news is that changes are happening in veterinary medicine that make now an ideal time for preventive care lab work to become an important focus of the care provided to pets and the service provided to pet owners. A small number of trailblazing practices have already adopted advanced preventive care screening protocols for pets of all ages, but there is ripe opportunity for many more practices to do the same.

New big data highlights importance of preventive care screenings

Preventive care examinations remain our best chance to influence good outcomes throughout our patients’ lifetimes. Traditional studies have shown the benefits of preventive health screenings for apparently healthy dogs and cats.1–3 And now, big data in veterinary medicine has the potential to unlock additional insight that may improve and expand clinical preventive care strategies for pets of all ages. In fact, new big data analysis from more than a quarter of a million wellness visits that included a chemistry profile with an IDEXX SDMA Test and a CBC revealed significant findings in patients from adult to geriatric life stages—requiring veterinary follow-up (see graphic):4

This new big data analysis from IDEXX seems to indicate that veterinarians who screen pets may find significant results for some pets that require additional discussion, monitoring, or workups. It does not suggest that these dogs and cats were diagnosed with an immediate life-threatening disease, but it does support the idea that a wellness visit without these screening tests could fail to uncover important clinical findings.

Preventive care screenings offer additional benefits

Consistent lab work creates a history of data for each pet that may be helpful later—both for reviewing the trend data in order to make clinical decisions and for building stronger bonds with pet owners by taking an individualized medical approach to each pet. Further, regular screening helps us practice better medicine and provide deeper guidance during each visit on how to help a patient avoid disease by discussing diet, trends in blood results, behavior, vector-borne disease, genetic predisposition, and more. And while it’s possible lab work may not uncover some issues, normal lab results are still worth celebrating as they generally indicate that a pet is healthy.

Toolkit updates and paradigm shifts help veterinarians address what they find

With the proliferation of new diets, treatment options, and diagnostic innovations, the veterinary toolkit has expanded to include new resources that make preventive care both easier and more effective at finding and treating conditions earlier. 

Like human medicine, veterinary practice is rapidly shifting from firefighting to attentive monitoring. Preventive care screening is an important part of this transition so disease can be caught and addressed as early as possible. And there’s also a paradigm shift underway driven by new generations taking a keen interest in the health and wellness of their pets. For example, millennials take their pets for veterinary visits more than previous generations.5*

The future of preventive care screening is bright

Preventive care screening tests can hold great possibilities for uncovering deeper medical insight and providing benefits to patients and practices. These findings can also help support veterinarians in conversations with pet owners about preventive care as a good investment in their pet’s health.

For more information, check out Promoting Preventive Care Protocols: Evidence, Enactment, and Economics. The publication is supported by an educational grant from IDEXX. It is available with the September edition of AAHA’s Trends magazine or online at


  1. Willems A, Paepe D, Marynissen S, et al. Results of screening of apparently healthy senior and geriatric dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2017;31(1):81–92.
  2. Paepe D, Verjans G, Duchateau L, Piron K, Ghys L, Daminet S. Routine health screening: findings in apparently healthy middle-aged and old cats. J Feline Med Surg. 2013;15(1):8–19.
  3. Dell’Osa D, Jaensch S. Prevalence of clinicopathological changes in healthy middle-aged dogs and cats presenting to veterinary practices for routine procedures. Aust Vet J. 2016;94(9):317–323.
  4. Data on file at IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. Westbrook, Maine USA.
  5. APPA Generational Report—Volume 2. Stamford, CT: American Pet Products Association; 2018.

*The APPA Generational Report is based on the 2017–2018 National Pet Owners Survey. A total of 2,559 pet owner surveys were completed; dog owner sample: 505, cat owner sample: 451. Surveys were conducted with a nationally representative sample of the Ipsos Online Panel.

Graham Bilbrough

Graham Bilbrough

After graduating from the University of Cambridge, Dr. Bilbrough spent a year in mixed practice in Oxfordshire, England, before returning to Cambridge to become the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Petsavers resident in anesthesia and critical patient care. Later he became the senior anesthetist at the Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital, responsible for the clinical anesthesia service and intensive care unit. Dr. Bilbrough joined IDEXX UK in October 2006, and after working for IDEXX across Europe, he moved to the Westbrook, Maine, headquarters, where he is a medical affairs manager.

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