Your veterinarian has advised you to have your pet's bloodwork done. But why should you take your cat or dog for these diagnostic tests? What can they tell you about your pet's health? And how frequently should they be performed? Our Springfield vets share some answers in this post.
Why would my pet need bloodwork?
Some pet owners are confused as to why their pet would need bloodwork and other diagnostic tests. After all, if an animal seems healthy, why pay the extra expense?
Bloodwork tests are an important part of your pet's overall care, and these crucial diagnostic tests can reveal a lot about your cat or dog's health. Certain treatments, like dental surgery, need that your pet's blood is checked to confirm that your cat or dog is healthy enough to endure the procedure.
In our diagnostic lab at Greenbrier-Springfield Animal Hospital, we're able to perform a range of common and specialized blood tests to assess your pet's health and to monitor and diagnose illnesses. Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand the value bloodwork offers and the role it plays.
What's included in bloodwork?
Many pet owners are under the mistaken impression that the bloodwork includes the same tests everywhere. However, this is untrue. Confirm with your vet specifically which tests will be done and why. Our vets will be able to explain — in easy-to-understand terms — your pet's condition, any diagnostic tests that are needed and what we can expect to learn from them.
Some of the most common veterinary blood tests performed are complete blood count (CBC) and a serum chemistry panel. Each test provides us with different but complementary information.
We can use a CBC to determine a patient's white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and platelet count. We can generally get some information on the size and/or shape of red and white blood cells as well.
A chemistry panel allows us to assess values related to the function of organs such as the kidneys and liver, along with electrolyte levels and other critical enzymes that can be measured in the bloodstream. Fortunately, we have the advanced tools and technologies in our in-house lab to help accurately diagnose your pet's medical issues. When your pet is feeling ill or their health status is quickly changing, it is critical to examine and treat them as soon as possible. We can analyze your pet's health and provide treatment choices as quickly as possible thanks to our expert team and cutting-edge equipment.
What can we learn from bloodwork?
What insights we're able to gain into your pet's health depend on the type of bloodwork ordered. For example, we can order a variety of CBC and chemistry panels that can bring us different data depending on what we need to measure and what we are hoping to learn about your pet's health.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Each type of white blood cell has a specific response to any threat faced by the immune system. The vet can use a CBC to analyze the total number of white blood cells, as well as the number of each type of white blood cell present in your cat’s blood sample. Red blood cells (RBCs) transport oxygen to the different tissues in the body. A CBC counts the RBCs in your pet's blood and reveals how well they move oxygen based on the levels of hemoglobin (a protein that carries the oxygen) present.
A CBC will also count how many platelets are in the blood, and platelets help with blood clotting. If your pet has an insufficient number of platelets, blood may be slow to clot and your cat or dog may bleed abnormally or excessively.
Bloodwork is done before surgery because a CBC can detect low platelet levels. Platelets play a critical role in helping to stop bleeding, so they must be at certain levels to avoid your pet losing too much blood. If platelets are low, this may also indicate serious infections (such as tick-borne illnesses) or life-threatening diseases.
We can order a routine CBC, which provides numerical values associated with the counts of cells in the samples obtained by a diagnostic machine. A CBC with pathology review is sent to a clinical pathologist, who will assess a blood sample under a microscope to confirm that the counts machine provided are correct. The pathologist can also determine if any abnormal cells are present as damage to cells can indicate leukemia, infections, anemia, poisoning, parasites or other serious health problems.
Blood Chemistry Profile
We can learn much about the compounds in your pet's bloodstream from a blood chemistry profile, which can tell you how well your pet's kidneys are functioning.
Furthermore, we can detect whether your cat's or dog's renal system is abnormal, if your pet is dehydrated or if an object is blocking these regions.
The liver plays an important role in your pet's health, and elevated chemical values here could indicate liver disease or abnormalities in other organs. This test can also reveal any abnormal electrolyte levels, which can be related to illnesses and conditions such as seizures and gastrointestinal disease.
Blood protein levels are another critical element of your pet's physical health — these levels play a role in the immune system’s function while others help the blood to clot properly. A blood chemistry profile will reveal valuable information about total protein levels, albumin levels and globulin levels.
However, despite the many things we can learn from bloodwork, the results will rarely tell us whether your pet has cancer or if cancer has spread. But CBC and chemistry panels can confirm whether an animal's body is responding to the treatment plan prescribed without complications. If these are not detected, they can cause blood loss and eventual collapse due to weakness or organ failure.
How often should my pet's blood be tested?
Now that you understand some of the most common blood tests and what they can tell us about your pet's health, you're probably wondering how often your pet should have this done as part of their health checkup.
Our furry companions' lifespans are much shorter than ours. That's why we recommend bloodwork for healthy pets annually. For pets approaching their geriatric years, semi-annual tests are typically best. If your pet is undergoing an anesthetic procedure, bloodwork should be current (within a month). Pets that are ill or who have health conditions may need bloodwork more frequently — monthly, weekly, daily or hourly — depending on the health issue and its severity.
Do you have questions about your pet's upcoming exam or diagnostic tests at Greenbrier-Springfield Animal Hospital? Contact us today. We will be happy to address any inquiries or concerns you may have.