Why do veterinarians run blood tests before anesthesia?

This is one of the ways we can minimize risk.

Every patient, human or veterinary, should have a thorough physical examination and routine laboratory screening tests before anesthesia. These tests help the doctor compile a complete picture of a patient’s health status.

Even slight abnormalities may necessitate a different choice of drugs, different fluid rate, or even an alternate procedure. For example, in humans, it is well established that a low serum albumin is the single strongest predictor of post-operative mortality for non-cardiac surgery.

If your pet’s albumin is low before anesthesia, don’t you want your veterinarian to know? No doctor likes to be surprised by adverse events during an anesthetic episode. We would much rather have the information in advance that will allow us to formulate the safest possible anesthetic experience for our patients.

My dog has been drinking a lot of water recently. Is it possible for dogs to get diabetes?

Both dogs and cats can suffer from diabetes. There are also several other ailments that may lead to excessive water intake, including kidney disease, liver disorders, urinary tract infections, and hormone imbalances. It is extremely important to have your veterinarian run blood and urine tests to accurately diagnose the cause of the symptoms you are noticing. Most problems are more successfully and more economically treated when diagnosed early.

Diabetes in dogs is generally best treated using insulin injections together with diet change. The nearly painless injections are given at home every 12 to 24 hours. Your veterinarian will want to run periodic blood sugar tests to ensure proper dosing, but you will not need to perform blood monitoring at home. In cats, diabetes can be treated without insulin much more frequently than in dogs. Modern prescription diets and pills are rapidly reducing the number of cat owners giving insulin injections.

As in people, overweight pets are at much higher risk of suffering from diabetes. This is yet another reason that lean pets live longer.

While genetics also play a role, you can reduce your pet’s risk of diabetes with proper nutrition and exercise. See your veterinarian and discuss your pet’s weight, general health, and appropriate nutrition.

I brought my dog to our veterinarian for sudden weight loss. She diagnosed him with diabetes. I thought diabetes was a disease caused by being overweight. Can it really cause weight loss?

Diabetes mellitus is a condition where the cells of the body are not able to use sugars being delivered to them through the blood stream. Insulin is a hormone used by the body’s cells to take sugar from the blood and bring it inside cells for energy.

In “type-1” diabetes, the pancreas does not make enough insulin. In “type-2” diabetes, the cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. In either case, sugar builds up in the bloodstream, but cannot be delivered inside cells in enough supply to meet their energy needs.

In a patient with diabetes, cells begin to send signals to use alternative energy sources. Since they cannot use sugar, the body taps into its stored energy, primarily in the form of fat. Fat stores will be depleted and eventually protein will be as well. This depletion of the body’s reserves leads to sometimes rapid weight loss. Unfortunately, the byproduct of massive fat and protein metabolism are acids that can lead to serious illness as they build up throughout the body. This condition, known as ketoacidosis, may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and other digestive difficulties—again, leading to weight loss.

You are correct that type-2 diabetes is most closely associated with overweight pets (or people, for that matter).

A well-balanced diet leading to controlled weight loss significantly reduces a patient’s risk for diabetes. Such a change in nutrition can even reverse diabetes in some patients. However, the depletion of the body’s energy stores in an uncontrolled diabetic is not the same thing as gradual weight loss through appropriate diet.

Dr. Watts is a companion animal general practitioner and owner of Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care. He can be reached at

540/428-1000.

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