Using Clinical Data to Drive Veterinary Preventive Care Conversations
The data points were gathered from the minimum database results of more than 200,000 apparently healthy young adult, mature adult, and senior dogs and cats. These results assessed complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry, including symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA), urinalysis as well as electrolytes (and T4 for cats older than 7 years of age). The results of the diagnostic panels were analyzed using 29 rules that were developed by a group of veterinarians based on the literature and textbook references to assure that findings had clinical relevance. The study results reveal the frequency at which clinically relevant abnormalities are discovered during wellness visits.
With this information, veterinary team members can better shape conversations and make client recommendations that truly resonate—particularly when it comes to preventive care. Here's how to use data in your preventive care discussions with pet owners to foster better patient outcomes.
Laying the Groundwork With Young Adult Pets
Attempting to convince clients with young and apparently healthy pets to agree to annual wellness testing can be tricky. However, introducing clients to the information in these veterinary data sets can lay the groundwork for their pet's lifelong health. When a pet is young, it's important to establish the expectation with the client that they will have annual blood work. This protocol can help streamline future visits and enhance pet health.
If clients are resistant to your initial annual diagnostics recommendation because their young adult pet (1-3 years old for a dog and 1-6 years old for a cat) seems healthy, confirm that observation. However, you should also illustrate that assessing internal organ function is vital to maintaining their pet's health by referencing relevant data:
1 in 10 young adult dogs who received a comprehensive blood panel had clinically relevant findings. With the addition of a urinalysis, the rate increased to 1 in 7.
1 in 9 young adult cats who received a comprehensive blood panel has clinically relevant findings. With the addition of a urinalysis, the rate increased to 1 in 5.
While discussing an abnormal finding risk with a client, you can also address any other concerns they may have about their pet's health. In addition, ensure you discuss the value of normal results. By understanding that their pet's baseline results are used to support individualized care and enhance future disease detection, clients may be more likely to view blood work as an investment, rather than as an expense—and more inclined to agree with future wellness testing recommendations.
Addressing the Rising Risks for Mature Adult Pets
Wellness testing is extremely important for mature adult pets. As most veterinarians would expect, this patient population showed an increase in the following clinically significant findings:
1 in 8 mature adult dogs had clinically significant findings with a CBC and chemistry. With an added UA, the rate increased to 1 in 5.
1 in 5 mature adult cats had clinically significant findings with the comprehensive blood panel. With an added UA, the rate increased to 1 in 3.
In discussion with clients, emphasize that early disease detection and treatment can halt or delay negative outcomes. Ensure you explain pets' most prevalent abnormalities—and their corresponding conditions:
Of dogs, 18% had red blood cell abnormalities, such as anemia or reticulocytosis without anemia, followed by electrolyte (13%), liver (13%), and renal (8%) changes.
Of cats, 49% had endocrine-related changes, potentially indicating hyperthyroidism and diabetes, followed by renal (15%) and electrolyte (14%) abnormalities.
Advise clients that the same tests for senior pets (dogs 9 years and older, and cats 10 years and older) revealed a two- to three-time increase in prevalence. Continue by explaining to clients how early disease diagnosis and intervention can specifically benefit their pet.
Expanding Panels for Mature and Senior Pets
Recommendations for additional testing can put off some clients, especially those who are reluctant or skeptical about testing altogether. Rather than letting clients question why you're suggesting expensive tests, present preventive care data to help them understand the science behind your recommendation.
Use clinical data to explain how more is more. Cite key data points to illustrate how their pet's additional UA provides more comprehensive and enhanced results, including:
Increased potential for detecting hidden disease
Increased abnormal findings—from 1 in 4 senior dogs receiving a comprehensive blood panel to 2 in 5 dogs with an added UA. The senior cat abnormality detection rate rose from 1 in 3 cats to 3 in 5 cats, aligning with the noted increase in abnormal renal values.
UA provides more conclusive support for differentiating kidney dysfunction from dehydration when kidney biomarkers are increased.
When recommending annual blood work for young, adult, and senior patients, presenting preventive care data to clients convinces them that diagnostics are vital to maintaining their pets' health. Veterinary data sets collected from apparently healthy pets offer tangible evidence that the results are often actionable: diseases may be detected early and treated, driving home your preventive care message.