The needle is not the point
Many people dread needles, and, if they remember nothing else from a visit to the vets with their pet, they will often recall with 20/20 vision the moment the needle went in, if indeed they could bear to look!
Because of this, in the case of vaccination, with the sight of that needle etched on your consciousness, it may be difficult to comprehend that, arguably, this is not the most important part of the vaccination consultation, be it for a new puppy or kitten, or a long lived senior family pet. In order to successfully vaccinate your pet, by which I mean not just getting the vaccine into him/her, but to establish a solid immunity for the required interval, it is vital that a thorough clinical examination be conducted prior to administering the vaccine. Vaccines must only be given to healthy individuals – the consequences of vaccinating unhealthy pets can be dire.
The vaccination health check can also reveal some unexpected clinical conditions, as in the case of Lawrence, a 9 year old Burmese cat.
On 23rd February this year Lawrence was presented for routine clinical examination and vaccination. Lawrence’s owner had no worries regarding his health. As far as she was concerned he was a perfectly normal, healthy cat.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look as it), the routine health check revealed that he had a large, possibly fluid filled, abdominal lump in the right dorso-cranial area of his abdomen. In addition, only the left kidney was easily palpable. A cystic right kidney, renal abscess or other renal space occupying lesion (SOL) was suspected.
Lawrence was admitted the next day for pre-operative blood tests to establish that his kidney function was not compromised, general anaesthetic, X-ray and ultrasound. X-rays shows a large ovoid density (outlined) containing a smaller more radiodense object (arrowed). The normal kidney can just be seen overlaying the cranial pole of the large mass. Ultrasound indicated that this was fluid filled (dark on ultrasound images).
A laparotomy was performed, and Lawrence’s right kidney was found to be distended with fluid, with little functional renal tissue left, consequently it was removed. Histology on the removed kidney revealed a renal carcinoma with a small area of calcification as the cause for the renal changes. Chest X-rays taken at the same time
as the kidney ones did not show any evidence of tumour spread, and no secondary tumours were seen in the abdomen at the time of the operation.
We continue to monitor Lawrence’s kidney function using various serum parameters, including a sensitive biomarker known as SDMA (symmetric dimethylarginine) but to date Lawrence remains in good health, functioning well on one kidney.
This is, by any measure, an unusual and extreme example of what we may find in a routine health examination, but illustrates the importance of the regular health check that should go with vaccination. Here at Midsummer Veterinary Group, our Veterinary Surgeons have decades of experience, as do some of our nurses (although you'd never know it to look at them) in spotting abnormalities in apparently health pets, discussing any health concerns you have and establishing a history, if not already known. The vaccination needle is important to maintain immunity in our pets at a protective level, but the real point is the health check that can often lead to the early detection of underlying clinical problems, and their early treatment.