Blood tests for cats are a valuable tool in most veterinary clinics. Today, our Concord vets discuss the importance of blood tests for cats, and what they can tell your vet.
Blood Testing for Your Cat
When your veterinarian recommends blood work for your cat, you might not know exactly what they are looking for. Not knowing why your cat needs a medical procedure done and what the results mean can be very scary for even the most experienced pet owners.
Below are some of the common blood tests done on cats and what they tell the veterinarian.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
A CBC measures and examines a cat's blood cells. It gives the veterinarian a wealth of information. Some of these include:
- Red blood cell (RBC) counts, proportions, and health - RBCs carry oxygen, iron, and other nutrients around the body.
- White blood cell (WBC) counts, proportions, and health - WBCs help fight inflammation, infection, cancer cells, and parasitic intruders.
- Platelet counts and health - Platelets control blood clotting.
A CBC can tell a veterinarian if a cat is anemic, dehydrated, fighting off inflammation or an infection, and whether your cat has internal bleeding.
BUN & Creatinine
Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine are blood chemistries that are routinely measured as part of larger blood panels. If the BUN is high, it can indicate dehydration, kidney dysfunction, or a liver problem.
Creatinine levels are more strictly related to kidney function. High levels indicate that the cat's kidneys are having difficulty clearing the creatinine from the body and kidney disease may be developing.
Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) & Bilirubin
ALT and bilirubin are blood chemistries that are also often present in routine blood panels. They are mostly indicative of liver health, and if they are too high, it usually indicates a dysfunction of the liver.
Glucose, or blood sugar, is mostly tested to determine whether a cat has diabetes mellitus, during which the glucose result will be quite high. Low blood sugar can also give a veterinarian valuable information about a cat's overall health.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FELV) & Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
FELV and FIV are routinely tested for in kittens and periodically throughout adulthood. These viruses are life-threatening and can't be cured once your cat gets infected, so it's important to keep tabs on a cat's status.
T4 is usually monitored in cats as they get older. A high T4 might indicate the development of hyperthyroidism, a commonly diagnosed condition in cats. High thyroid levels can cause a myriad of different signs in cats, including increased appetite, weight loss, eating non-food items or wanting more human food, and increased vomiting.
Electrolyte levels, including potassium, sodium, and chloride, can tell a veterinarian a lot about a cat's health status, including information about hydration levels and organ function, especially the kidneys. Electrolyte imbalances can result in many signs of illness in cats, including heart arrhythmias and muscle weakness.
Why Your Vet Might Suggest Blood Work
There a many reasons your vet might suggest bloodwork for your cat. Here are the most common reasons:
It's your cat's first exam - We recommend blood work at the time of your cat's first exam because it helps us establish baseline health, check for any congenital abnormalities or potential concerns, and help us form an individual wellness plan for your cat.
During semi-annual and annual wellness exams - Cat blood tests are usually recommended for all life stages from kittens to geriatric cats as part of their routine wellness checkups. These are extremely beneficial in our mature patients, as we often see cats' health and happiness return to normal when blood tests catch illness early. Cat bloodwork, along with other bodily fluids like urine, can help identify conditions the examination portion of a physical cannot.
If a cat seems sick - Cat blood tests are suitable for cats that are not displaying any overt signs of illness, disease, or injury, but are acting abnormally.
Before surgery - Cat blood work is used to determine the general health of the liver, kidneys, and other organs, which helps a veterinarian select the safest form of anesthesia. Bloodwork can also help determine the surgical risk level in all cats, especially elderly or injured patients.
What Can Be Learned From Your Cat's Blood Test
The results of feline blood tests are essential to helping veterinarians diagnose and treat medical conditions both within the blood itself, as well as in organs such as the kidney and liver. During a blood test for cats, various chemicals in the bloodstream are analyzed. Some examples are:
- Cat blood tests can indicate a deficiency in albumin levels, which indicates a possible liver issue because albumin is produced in the liver, or intestinal or kidney issues as albumin can be lost if these are diseased.
- Blood tests for cats can detect abnormal hormonal-chemical responses to environmental and internal stimuli, which indicates a potential issue with the patient's endocrine system.
Once we establish a correlation, we can order any subsequent feline bloodwork or procedures necessary in diagnosing and treating the condition. In this way, feline blood tests serve as very valuable tools in a veterinarian's toolkit for helping to detect, identify, diagnose, treat, and ultimately prevent illness or disease.
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.