Blood and urine tests are recommended at different life stages for the same reasons discussed earlier. Cats are good at hiding illness and disease and we know that a number of diseases become more common as cats get older. Blood and urine tests can help to identify the presence of disease early and allow prompt treatment.
Testing for FIV and FeLV
Cats suffer from a number of important viral diseases. Two of these are feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV – the cat equivalent of the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV), and feline leukaemia virus (FeLV).
Theses viruses remain widespread among many cat populations and infection with either can be serious, often leading to the development of fatal illnesses.
If either virus is endemic in your part of the world, and your cat is at risk of being exposed to them, your vet is likely to suggest testing for infection on occasions. Infection with either virus is relatively easy to detect, with simple blood tests, and the best way of preventing spread of disease is to identify infected cats and keep them strictly separate from all others.
It is strongly recommended that kittens are tested for these viruses so that owners and vets know if they are infected. Depending on the lifestyle of your cat, and thus its risk of subsequently being exposed to these viruses, your vet may also recommend further tests at intervals during your cat’s life.
Urine tests are recommended at least once a year in Mature cats, increasing to twice a year by the time cats reach the Super Senior stage. Collecting a urine sample is relatively straightforward (your vet will tell you how this can be done at home or, more often, it can be done for you in the clinic).
Testing urine is a simple and straightforward procedure, but can give a lot of important information. An early sign of kidney disease (which is common in older cats) can be a gradual reduction in the concentration of the urine produced. Urine concentration is one of the things we suggest being recorded on a regular basis (see the downloadable HealthCare Sheets) and you and your vet will be able to see if there is a consistent change in this over time.
Testing urine samples can sometimes give clues to other underlying diseases such as liver disease or diabetes mellitus. Although most of these diseases are more common in older cats, it can be helpful to collect occasional urine samples during your cat’s Adult years. Some cats may develop illnesses at this stage, but it is also very helpful to know what the results of urine tests are when the cat is healthy. This will make it easier to recognise and pick up early signs of disease at a later time.
Blood tests are also recommended for cats once a year in the Mature stage and once or twice a year in the Senior and Geriatric stages. Again, as cats are so good at hiding signs of disease, these blood tests (which typically include looking at red and white cell counts and a range of biochemical parameters) are aimed at the early detection of a number of diseases including liver and kidney disease, and hormonal disorders including diabetes and hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism (or overactive thyroid glands) is common in older cats and including a specific blood test to measure thyroid hormone concentrations is recommended in Senior and Geriatric cats, and in Adult and Mature cats if there is any cause for concern.
As with urine tests, collecting one or more blood samples for routine testing during Adult years when the cat is healthy can be valuable and can serve as a ‘baseline’ that helps to detect early changes in your cat later on.