Blood Testing: The Basics
The complete blood cell count – This is a measure of the red blood cells which carry oxygen to the organs, and the white blood cells which are responsible for fighting infection. A CBC will also include information on blood protein and platelets (cells needed for clotting blood). The report will give an estimated count of all the individual cell types in your pet’s blood sample. This will allow your veterinarian to determine information such as:
- Anemia – reduced RBC count
- Increased WBCs – often indicates infection
- Reduced WBCs – can be due to viral infections or stress
- Reduced platelets – can be due to sample handling or an actual reduction for a variety of reasons, very low platelets will place the pet at risk of bleeding, many dogs (greyhounds) will normally have a lower count
- Elevated protein – can indicate dehydration
- Reduced protein – can be due to hemorrhage, lack of production, of loss through the GI tract or kidneys
- Elevated percentage of red blood cells – normal in some breeds such as greyhounds, pet’s living at higher elevations, dehydration
2. Chemistry Panel
The blood chemistry panel will provide information on organ status (liver, kidneys, and pancreas), blood protein, immunoglobulins and electrolytes.
3. Thyroid Level (T4)
The thyroid level is often added to the chemistry panel for both cats and dogs. While cats often have problems with a thyroid level that is too high, dogs are just the opposite and can have very low thyroid hormone production. A few of the more common signs of hypothyroidism are dry skin, thin hair coat, dry coat, lethargy and weight gain. Dogs with low thyroid levels can be treated with thyroid replacement medication which is inexpensive and safe. For more information on hyperthyroid cats see cat section under links below.
4. In-house Viral/infectious organism testing:
These are pre-packaged tests that require the application of blood or urine and positives show various color changes much like a home pregnancy test.
- (dogs) 4DX test: checks for lyme, tick fever (E.canis), anaplasma, and heartworms
- (dogs) Heartworm test: tests only for heartworms
- (cats) FeLV/FIV – Tests for feline leukemia virus and immunodeficiency
- (cats) Feline Combo test – Felv, Fiv, and now heartworms
- (dogs) Parvo Test – tests for parvo virus infections in dogs
A word about diagnostic testing
Diagnostic testing for animals will vary greatly depending on the age, species, sex and medical condition of the pet. Veterinary medicine has evolved to the point that we are able to provide exceptional quality medical, surgical and diagnostic procedures which allow us to provide the most up to date standard of medical care for your pet. Unfortunately, financial concerns often arise when discussing diagnostic testing and this is most common during an emergency when you are least able to prepare for the additional expense. Because of this, I strongly recommend purchasing pet health insurance. At the very least, insurance will provide you with additional assistance during an emergency, and at the most, it will allow you to provide your pet with life saving care. I’ve provided a few links for pet insurance below and I strongly recommend that all pet owners research the insurance plans available.
It is not possible to cover all types of diagnostic tests available to our pets, but I have included information on the most common diagnostic procedures available - the cbc/chem and viral testing