Has your dog's vet recommended some blood tests for your pet? Today, our Concord vets talk about blood tests for dogs to help pet owners understand how they can benefit their pets.
Why Dogs Need Bloodwork
Many pet owners don't understand the reason why their dog, cat, or other pet needs bloodwork or other diagnostic tests. After all, if your pet appears healthy, why pay the extra expense?
But bloodwork tests are a vital part of your pet's overall care and these important diagnostic tests can tell us a lot about your dog's health. For certain procedures such as dental surgery, your pet's blood will need to be tested to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the procedure.
In our diagnostic lab at Four Corners Veterinary 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 such as various forms of cancer. Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand the value bloodwork offers and the role it plays.
What's Involved in Bloodwork for Dogs
Many pet owners assume all blood tests are created equal, but this is not the case. Make sure to ask your vet what test is being performed and why it's necessary for your pet. Our Concord vets will be able to explain your pet's condition, any diagnostic tests that are needed, and what we can expect to learn from them in easy-to-understand terms.
Some of the most common veterinary blood tests performed are CBC (Complete Blood Count) and a serum chemistry panel. Each test provides us with different but complementary information.
With a CBC, we can measure a patient's white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and platelet count. We can also usually obtain some data about the size and/or shape of red and white blood cells.
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, in our in-house vet lab, we have advanced tools and technologies to help accurately diagnose your pet's medical issues. When your pet is feeling unwell or their health condition is rapidly changing, early assessment and treatment are key. With our experienced staff using state-of-the-art equipment, we're able to assess your pet's health and present treatment options as soon as possible.
What Do My Dog's Blood Test Results Mean?
At Four Corners Veterinary Hospital, we will always take the time to explain your dog’s blood tests and their results, as treatment and management of health issues are a team effort between our veterinary team and loving pet owners.
Typically, your dog's bloodwork will include a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry (serum test). The CBC will be important for dogs that have pale gums or are experiencing vomiting, fever, weakness, or loss of appetite. Blood tests for dogs with diarrhea also fall into this category.
A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other abnormalities that may not be identified otherwise.
A CBC reveals detailed information, including:
- Hematocrit (HCT): With this test, we can identify the percentage of red blood cells to detect hydration or anemia.
- Hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (Hb and MCHC): These are pigments of red blood cells that carry oxygen.
- White blood cell count (WBC): With this test, we measure the body’s immune cells. Certain diseases or infections can cause WBC to increase or decrease.
- Granulocytes and lymphocytes/monocytes (GRANS and L/M): These are specific types of white blood cells.
- Eosinophils (EOS): These are a specific type of white blood cells that can indicate health conditions due to allergies or parasites.
- Platelet count: (PLT): This test measures cells that form blood clots.
- Reticulocytes (RETICS): High levels of immature red blood cells can point to regenerative anemia.
- Fibrinogen (FIBR): We can glean important information about blood clotting from this test. High levels can indicate a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant.
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 how many of each type of white blood cell is present in your pet's blood sample. Red blood cells (RBCs) transport oxygen to the body’s numerous issues. 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) in your furry friend’s blood.
Platelets help with blood clotting. If your cat has an insufficient number of platelets, blood may be slow to clot and your cat may bleed abnormally or excessively. A CBC will count how many platelets are in your cat’s blood.
For instance, 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 will be sent to a clinical pathologist, who will assess a blood sample under a microscope to confirm the counts the machine provides are correct. He or she can also determine if any abnormal cells are present (damage to cells can indicate leukemia, infections, anemia, poisoning, parasites, or other serious health problems).
The reason bloodwork is done before surgery is that a CBC can detect low platelet levels. Platelets play a critical role in helping to stop bleeding, so 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.
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 cat’s kidneys are functioning.
In addition, we can determine whether there may be abnormalities in renal systems if your cat is dehydrated, or if an object is obstructing these areas.
The liver plays an important role in your cat’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, gastrointestinal disease, and others.
Blood protein levels are another critical element of your cat’s physical health. They can play a role in the immune system’s functioning, while also helping the blood 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 in their body. However, CBC and chemistry panels can confirm that an animal's body is responding to the treatment plan prescribed without complications, such as anemia or elevated kidney values. If these are not detected, they can cause blood loss and eventually cause your dog to collapse due to weakness, or organ failure.
>Regular Blood Testing
Now that you understand some of the most common blood tests and what they can tell us about your dog'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 veterinary blood tests for healthy pets annually. For dogs 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.
Does My Dog Need Blood Tests & Lab Work?
At Four Corners Veterinary Hospital our vets recommend blood tests are conducted and lab work done as a proactive measure during an annual routine exam, even if your dog seems perfectly healthy. This is because the sooner we catch health issues, the more effectively we can treat your dog.
Our veterinary team will always advocate for your pet’s health, explain any tests that are needed and why, and take a preventive approach to your dog’s veterinary care.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.