Blood work and your pet

Understanding Your Pet’s Diagnostic Testing

Understanding your pet’s test results Blood testing can frequently detect illness in your pet before we see any outward signs of disease. Testing gives us immediate insights that we might not otherwise discover. And, treating your pet early can lead to a better outcome and possibly lower treatment costs.

Pets can’t say how they’re feeling—it’s usually how they look or act that tells you something is wrong. You play a key role in helping your pet combat illness and stay as healthy as possible. Awareness of the warning signs and regular preventive health screens, including a physical exam and blood work, are the best ways to ensure that your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life.

When is blood work necessary?
Sick and emergency situations- Blood work provides you with a valuable picture of your pet’s health and is often the first step
when pets are brought in to a clinic because they are sick or in an emergency situation. It helps the veterinary staff make immediate
decisions, so they can quickly help your pet.
Preanesthetic testing- Blood work is routinely done prior to your pet’s surgery, dentistry or other procedures that require anesthesia.
It lets the veterinary staff know if anesthesia is safe for your pet and allows them to make adjustments if they see anything abnormal.
This blood work is often performed the same day as anesthesia is scheduled, making it easy for you and your pet because it eliminates
the need to have your pet fast more than once and reduces the number of trips you need to make to the hospital.
Preventive care screening- Because the signs that your pet is sick are not always obvious, preventive care testing is often recommended
as part of your pet’s annual exam. Preventive care screening not only uncovers disease before it’s too late, but can also help you avoid
significant medical expenses and risks to your pet’s health.
Medication monitoring- Some medications have side effects.
Periodic blood work while your pet is being treated can find these
problems early and allow your veterinarian to make necessary
changes. With other medications, blood tests are needed to ensure
that the dosage is appropriate.

What tests might my veterinarian run?
There are tests that are routinely performed when blood work is recommended.
They include:
A complete blood count (CBC) tells you if your pet has an infection,
if inflammation is present or if your pet is anemic.
A complete blood chemistry panel including electrolytes provides
information about your pet’s liver, kidneys and pancreas; as well as
other functions of the body, such as blood sugar and hydration.
A urinalysis identifies an infection or inflammation in the urinary tract.
A thyroid function test detects whether or not your pet’s thyroid
gland is functioning properly. Thyroid disease is very common in
older cats and dogs.

When can I expect results?
Many of the tests routinely recommended can be performed in-clinic, providing results quickly and allowing for immediate treatment of your pet. In-clinic blood testing also lets you be more involved in your pet’s care, since you can discuss test results with your veterinarian while you’re still at the clinic. Normal results can rule out certain diseases immediately, so you can worry less. If results are abnormal, your veterinarian can make fast decisions about next steps, including treatment and additional tests. This saves you time as well as trips back and forth to your veterinarian, and gives you answers that will help your pet right away.

Understanding your pet’s test results
Blood testing can frequently detect illness in your pet before we see any outward signs of disease. Testing gives us immediate insights that
we might not otherwise discover. And, treating your pet early can lead to a better outcome and possibly lower treatment costs.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Red blood cells (RBCs) are the most numerous and longest-living of the different types of blood cells; they typically make
up almost half of the blood’s volume. RBCs contain a special protein called hemoglobin (HGB) that binds to the oxygen in the lungs and
enables the RBCs to transport oxygen as it travels through the rest of the body.
CBC is used to screen for:
• Anemia (low red blood cell count)
• Inflammation
• Infection
• Stress
• Leukemia
• Bleeding problem
• Inability to fight infection
• Hydration status

Reticulocytes: These are immature RBCs increased during times of increased red cell production, such as blood loss or immune-mediated
anemia.
White blood cells: White blood cells are primarily responsible for fighting infections. There are five different types of white blood
cells and each one performs specific functions to keep the body healthy.
Platelets: Platelets play a critical role in preventing bleeding.

Chemistry
Kidneys: Kidneys are responsible for filtering metabolic waste products, excess sodium and water from the blood stream, which are
then transferred to the bladder for excretion.
Blood and urine tests can indicate:
• Early renal disease
• Renal failure
• Infection
• Stones
• Cancer
• Abnormalities resulting from longterm medications

Liver: The liver is a large organ with many different functions.
It processes the blood by removing both bacteria and toxins as well
as further breaking down many of the complex nutrients absorbed
during the digestion of food into much smaller components for use
by the rest of the body.
Biochemistry tests can indicate:
• Liver disease
• Cushing’s syndrome
• Certain cancers
• Dehydration
• Obstruction of the bile ducts
• Abnormalities resulting from long-term medications

Pancreas: The pancreas is a small organ located near the small intestines and is responsible for producing several digestive enzymes
and hormones that help regulate metabolism.
Biochemistry tests can indicate:
• Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
• Diabetes mellitus
• Abnormalities resulting from long-term medications
• Cancer

Glucose: Glucose is the basic nutrient for the body. It is highly regulated in the bloodstream, but does fluctuate for a few hours after
eating. Glucose changes may be seen with a variety of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, and various organ system abnormalities.
Electrolytes: Electrolytes (Na, K, Cl, tCO2, Anion Gap) are critical to body  function and must be maintained in very narrow limits.
Dehydration is a common cause of electrolyte imbalance, despite how effective the body is at regulating the concentration levels.

Urine
Urinalysis: Although not a blood test, a urinalysis is essential for a
comprehensive evaluation of kidney function. A urinalysis includes
physical, chemical and microscopic evaluation of urine. This evaluation
provides additional information about the kidney and liver, as well as
the general well-being of your pet.

Thyroid
Thyroid: Thyroxine (T4), a hormone produced by the thyroid gland,
is essential for growth and metabolism. As your pet ages, thyroid
function can become abnormal and cause signs of illness.
Endocrine tests can indicate:
• Hypothyroidism
• Hyperthyroidism


Understanding Your Pet’s Diagnostic Testing

Blood Chemistries
These common blood tests allow veterinarians to assess your pet’s overall health. Blood tests are often recommended in healthy pets, in pets about to undergo anesthesia and in sick pets. Interpretation of multiple tests in conjunction with one another (profiling) allows quick and noninvasive assessment of the major organ systems of the body.

Understanding your pet’s test results Blood testing can frequently detect illness in your pet before we see any outward signs of disease. Testing gives us immediate insights that we might not otherwise discover. And, treating your pet early can lead to a better outcome and possibly lower treatment costs.

Kidney

  • BUN (blood urea nitrogen)— increases may be seen with decreased kidney function,
    dehydration, heart disease, shock or urinary obstruction as well as following a high protein diet;
    decreases may be seen with overhydration
  • CREA (creatinine)—increases may be seen with decreased kidney function and other conditions
    as noted with BUN, but is not affected by a recent high protein diet; decreases may be seen with
    overhydration
  • PHOS (phosphorus)—elevations are seen with decreased kidney loss through conditions like
    kidney disease, increased intake through the gastrointestinal tract and increased release from
    injured tissues; increases in growing puppies and kittens can be normal; decreases may be seen
    with increased loss or decreased intake
  • Ca+ (calcium)—increases may be seen as a result of a variety of diseases including kidney
    disease, certain cancer types, certain toxicities and parathyroid disease; decreases may be seen with certain parathyroid diseases and with low albumin

Liver

  • ALT (alanine aminotransferase)—increases are a sensitive indicator of liver cell damage
  • ALKP (alkaline phosphatase)—increases may indicate a liver abnormality (cholestasis),
    Cushing’s disease, active bone growth in young pets, active bone remodeling after bone injury;
    may be induced by multiple drugs and nonspecific conditions
  • GGT (gamma glutamyl transferase)—increases may indicate a certain type of liver abnormality
    (cholestasis)
  • ALB (albumin)—increases may indicate dehydration; decreases may be seen with decreased
    liver function, blood loss, gastrointestinal disease or kidney disease
  • TBIL (total bilirubin)— increases may be seen with liver disease (cholestasis and insufficiency)
    and certain types of anemia
  • Bile acids—increases in this blood component may be an indication of decreased liver function,
    abnormalities in blood flow to the liver or possible bile duct obstruction

Pancreas

  • AMYL (amylase)—increases may be seen with pancreatitis, kidney disease, gastrointestinal
    disease or certain drug treatments; degree of change and other laboratory data may help identify
    pancreatitis specifically
  • LIPA (lipase)—increases may be seen with pancreatitis, kidney disease, gastrointestinal disease
    and certain drug treatments; degree of change and other laboratory data may help identify pancreatitis specifically

Protein Profile

  • TP (total protein)— increases may indicate dehydration or an inflammatory condition; decreases
    may be seen in decreased liver function, blood loss, gastrointestinal loss and kidney loss
  • ALB (albumin)— increases may indicate dehydration; decreases may be seen with decreased
    liver function, blood loss, gastrointestinal disease and kidney disease
  • GLOB(globulin)—increases may be seen with inflammation and potential chronic infection;
    decreases may be seen with blood loss, gastrointestinal loss and immune deficiencies

Electrolytes

  • Na+ (sodium)—increases may indicate dehydration; decreases may be seen with loss during
    diarrhea and vomiting or with Addison’s and kidney disease
  • K+ (potassium)—increases may indicate kidney disease due to decreased excretion, with
    Addison’s disease, dehydration and kidney obstruction; decreases may be seen with loss during diarrhea or vomiting
  • Cl(chloride)—increases may indicate dehydration; decreases may be seen with loss during
    diarrhea or vomiting

Miscellaneous Chemistries

  • GLU (glucose)—increases may indicate diabetes mellitus; decreases may be due to liver
    disease, pancreatic disease and other conditions and could lead to collapse, seizure or coma
  • AST (aspartate aminotransferase)— increases are associated with liver or muscle damage
  • CK (creatine kinase)—increases are associated with muscle damage
  • CHOL (cholesterol)— increases may be seen with a variety of metabolic disturbances including
    diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, pancreatitis and some types of kidney
    disease; decreases may be seen with liver insufficiency and intestinal disease
  • TRIG (triglycerides)— increases may be seen in a variety of conditions including non-fasted
    samples, in miniature schnauzers, and in patient’s with pancreatitis, diabetes, Cushing’s disease
    or hypothyroidism
  • Cortisol—increases may be seen with Cushing’s disease (measured in different protocols
    including ACTH stimulation and Dexamethasone suppression tests); decreases may be seen with Addison’s disease
  • T4 (thyroxine)—increases may indicate hyperthyroidism (primarily cats); decreases may indicate hypothyroidism (primarily dogs)
  • LACTATE—increases indicate either local or general decreased blood perfusion and can
    potentially serve as a prognostic indicator for the critical patient

Complete Blood Count (CBC)This is a common test performed on pets to provide objective information about the general health
status of an animal. The objective data obtained from a CBC can be helpful in monitoring ill patients
undergoing therapy; therefore, serial CBC requests are common.

Red Blood Cell (RBC) Parameters

  • RBC (red blood cell count), HCT (hematocrit) and HGB (hemoglobin)—increases in these
    parameters may support dehydration or a disease of increased production of RBCs; decreases
    indicate anemia and decreased oxygen-carrying capability of the blood
  • MCV (mean cell volume)—increases indicate the presence of larger than normal cells, which
    may be related to young cells during response to an anemia; decreases indicate the presence of
    smaller than normal cells, which may be associated with chronic blood loss/iron deficiency
  • MCH (mean cell hemoglobin) and MCHC (mean cell hemoglobin concentration)—increases
    suggest the presence of hemolysis or an interference in hemoglobin measurement; decreases
    suggest decreased hemoglobin concentration, which can be seen during response to anemia
    and chronic blood loss/iron deficiency
  • RDW (red cell distribution width)—increases in this objective measure of variability of RBC size
    indicates increased variability in size that can aid the veterinarian in identifying the cause of an RBC problem
  • RETIC (reticulocytes)—increases indicate growing numbers of immature RBCs, indicating a
    response to a peripheral demand for RBCs; decreases indicate few or no immature RBCs,
    indicating the body is unable to respond to a demand for RBCs (nonregenerative anemia)

White Blood Cell (WBC) Parameters

  • WBC (white blood cells)—increases may be due to inflammation, stress, excitement and
    leukemia; decreases may be due to overwhelming inflammation and bone marrow failure
  • Leukocyte Differential—Various patterns of change in numbers of NEU (neutrophils), LYM
    (lymphocytes), MONO (monocytes), EOS (eosinophils), and BASO (basophils) may be seen with
    different types of inflammation, stress, excitement and leukemia
  • NEU—inflammatory cell associated with infectious and noninfectious disease processes
  • LYM—immune cell highly responsive to “stress” and potentially increased during chronic
    infection
  • MONO—inflammatory cell associated with repair of tissue injury
  • EOS—inflammatory cell associated with parasitic disease, hypersensitivity and allergy
  • BASO—inflammatory cell associated with parasitic disease, hypersensitivity and allergy

Platelet (PLT) Parameters

  • PLT (platelet) and PCT (platelet crit)—increases in these parameters of overall platelet mass
    are potentially associated with hypercoagulable state; decreases may be seen with decreased
    production (bone marrow failure), increased consumption (coagulation, inflammation, etc.) and
    destruction in the blood (infectious, immune-mediated, etc.)
  • MPV (mean platelet volume)—increases indicate presence of larger than normal platelets
    commonly associated with response to need for platelets (not significant in the cat)
  • PDW (platelet distribution width)—increases in this objective measure of variability of platelet
    size indicates increased variability in size which may be an indicator of response to a need
    for platelets (not significant in the cat); decreases may be seen with immune-mediated thrombocytopenia

Urinalysis 

A urinalysis is performed on a urine sample and provides insight into kidney functions as well as the hydration status of the animal. This valuable test may also be helpful in diagnosing and monitoring various diseases and metabolic disturbances throughout the body.

  • Specific Gravity—determined by the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine in response to the hydration status
    pH—reflect the acid-base status if the animal is well-hydrated
  • PRO (protein)—small amounts of protein may be normally found in urine, but larger amounts
    may indicate kidney disease
  • GLU (glucose)—high levels are usually associated with an elevated blood glucose concentration
  • KET (ketones)—elevated levels may indicate an increase in breakdown of lipids within the body
  • UBG (urobilinogen)—abnormally high levels may indicate liver or hemolytic disease
  • BIL (bilirubin)—abnormally high levels may indicate liver or hemolytic disease; in dogs (especially
    male dogs) bilirubinuria is common even under normal conditions; bilirubinuria in cats is significant
  • RBCs and Hemoglobin—the test may be positive due to hematuria, hemoglobinuria or
    myoglobinuria; blood in the urine is often a sign of inflammation, infection and/or trauma
  • WBCs—excessive numbers of WBC indicate inflammation somewhere in the urinary tract
  • UPC—(urine protein:creatinine ratio)—an important screening test for early kidney disease and
    to help monitor treatment of renal disease; increases may indicate significant protein loss through the kidney

Other Possible Tests

  • Canine/Feline Giardia—test for a protozoan parasite that may inhabit the small intestine of
    dogs, cats, humans and most domesticated animals often causing diarrhea
    Canine/Feline Heartworm—test for deadly parasites that can live in the heart, major blood
    vessels and the lungs
  • Canine Tick-Borne Diseases—tests for commonly seen and serious diseases transmitted by
    ticks including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis
  • Canine Parvovirus—test for one of the most common and severe gastrointestinal diseases in
    young dogs
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Viruses (FeLV)— tests for two of
    the major causes of illness and death in cats
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