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Should I do these tests?

Species: Dog
Breed: Shih Tzu
Age: 6-12 months
I have two shih tzu's from the same litter. They were born on 1/29/09, so they are days away from their first birthday. I called the vet to schedule a check up (I thought they needed one at the 1 year mark, but it turns out they don't need a check up until June, which is 1 year from when they became fully vaccinated) and my vet said that even though they are due for check ups, they needed to be brought in for blood tests because the blood tests that were run in June during their spay and neuter procedures came back as having elevated kidney levels.

I'm a little bothered by this because I don't recall being notified of this test result in June, and I wonder if I hadn't called, would they have reached out to me for the re-test? They want to charge me $300 for the two blood tests, which seems reasonable for where I live (NJ) but I'm just concerned the tests aren't 100% necessary.

I know shih tzu's are prone to kidney issues, but what does "elevated kidney levels" mean exactly? Would you recommend a re-test now, or can it wait to be done at their check-up in June? My dogs are showing no symptoms of kidney failure, and appear to be perfectly happy and healthy dogs.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi there Stacy and thanks for your question.

It is indeed correct that the dogs don't need another vaccine until a year after their rabies vaccine.

I'm wondering if the blood test that the vets want to do is a heartworm test? We usually do that in the spring time.

It is a little unusual though about the raised kidney enzyme. You could always ask for a copy of the previous blood tests and type the results out for me to look at. Hoever, if there really were elevated kidney enzymes they likely would have wanted to investigate it sooner!

It's not uncommon for some dogs to have kidney enzymes that are on the high side of normal because they are a little dehydrated. It's possible that your vet just wants to check that they are not getting higher. If there is a kidney problem the way we can differentiate it from just mild dehydration (which is nothing to worry about) is by having your vet check the specific gravity of a urine sample. This would be a lot less expensive.

From what you have described it sounds like it would be ok to wait until June, but it would be great if you could find out the levels of the enzymes that were elevated and then I can comment more.

Hope that helps!
Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Hi Dr. Marie,

Thank you so much for your quick response. The vet got back to me last night about the specific issues that had caused them concern.

He said that Max's BUN (or BUF, it was a voicemail so it was hard to hear) was at 47 and Maddie's was at 55 and it shouldn't be much higher than 30 or 31. He also mentioned that their more sensitive test for creatinin came back at 0.8, and that they don't get concerned until it reaches about 1.1 so the creatin level was good.

He also basically said that because their BUN was over 10% out of range, that as a precaution they wanted to re-test.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

You're very welcome.

OK, so the Creatinine, as you mentioned is the value that we worry about the most with kidney disease. The BUN does seem a little high.

If I have an animal with higher than normal kidney enzymes I usually recommend having the owner bring in a urine sample and we check how concentrated it is using something called a refractometer. If there is any kidney disease at all the urine will be very dilute. If not, then we don't need to worry about the BUN. In my office this test would run you about $16 per dog.

Some dogs will have a high BUN for unknown reasons that really aren't important. I have seen some dogs have a high BUN if they eat a lot of human food, especially meat.

It's not a bad idea at some point to repeat some bloodwork but I don't know that it is an absolute urgency to do it now.

It's never wrong to do blood tests. I'm also a little bit reluctant at any time to contradict what your vet is recommending to you as I don't always have the full picture of what is going on.

But, my gut instinct is that if your dogs are bright and happy dogs then I would just have some routine bloodwork done with their annual exam in June. If there still are some BUN elevations then, then you can have your vet look at a urine sample too.

Customer reply:

Thank you so much for your time and knowledge. I think I will wait, but definitely have the tests run in June when they are there for their annual exams.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Sounds like a good plan!

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.