Your vet may recommend blood work for a number of reasons, they may not always indicate a serious concern but can be useful for diagnosing various conditions. Today our Thornton vets talk about the purpose of blood tests for dogs and what they can help show us about your pet's health.
Why might blood tests be needed for your dog?
Paying for blood tests may seem unnecessary if your pet is happy and healthy. But they can be a vital part of your pet's overall healthcare.
Your vet will use these blood tests to help show us all the different areas that your pet may need some extra help in or even give us a heads-up if they are developing a condition. If you are expecting your pet to undergo any dental or surgical procedures then your vet will likely request bloodwork to ensure that your pet will be safe under anesthetic.
In our diagnostic lab at Caring Hands 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 are the different types of blood tests?
While you may think that the standard blood tests are the same at each animal hospital, this is not the case. You can ask your vet which blood tests your dog will be having done and what they are looking for.
Two of the most commonly performed blood tests are a blood serum chemistry panel and a CBC or complete blood count. Although these are two different blood tests, they each provide different information that can be used together to diagnose your pet or get an overall look at their health.
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.
Efficient testing and diagnosis are key for dogs that are not feeling 100%, the sooner we can get them treated, the sooner they will feel better.
What is this bloodwork able to show us?
The information that we get back will depend entirely on the type of blood test that was performed. 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 how many of each type of white blood cell are present in your dog’s blood sample. Red blood cells (RBCs) transport oxygen to the body’s numerous tissues. 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 kitty’s blood.
If your pet happens to bleed excessively then they may be experiencing an insufficient number of platelets. Your vet will use their CBC to get a look at the number of platelets that your dog has.
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).
Performing the CBC before surgery to gain insight into platelet levels is crucial. Platelets play a critical role in helping to stop bleeding, and so must be at certain levels to avoid your pet from 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
The blood chemistry profile is able to share important information about compounds within your dog's bloodstream. This can provide great insight into the function of your dog's kidneys.
In addition, we can determine if there are abnormalities in your pet's renal system, if your pet is dehydrated or if an object is obstructing these areas.
The liver plays an important role in your dog’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 dog’s physical health. Many play a role in the immune system’s functioning, while others help 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 collapse due to weakness, or organ failure.
Should these blood tests be performed often?
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, etc, depending on the health issue and its severity.
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.