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Blood Tests Oh My!

Blood Analysis - A vital tool for screening out disease.

Even pets that appear happy and healthy can have hidden medical problems that might become serious, even life-threatening, if left undetected. Blood tests are essential for identifying diseases at the earliest most treatable stage possible. Pets can’t tell us when they’re ill - that’s where lab tests like blood analyses come in.

The importance of blood tests

Detection through blood tests helps prevent and treat potentially dangerous illnesses. Sick or senior pets often have more than one disease affecting them, which can complicate their diagnosis and treatment. Blood tests can help pinpoint the underlying problems like kidney or liver disease. Blood tests can ensure your pet is healthy enough to take certain medications. Even in young and healthy pets, lab testing gives us a valuable baseline of what represents good health for your pet. As an important part of your pet’s annual exam, blood tests can spot health trends before they become more serious.

What does a blood test look for?

Standard blood test panels for dogs and cats routinely check for many problems, In house diagnostics are commonly the following:

Complete Blood Cell Count (CBC) provides important information about the types and number of blood cells in your pet’s blood. A low red blood cell count, for example, indicates anemia, while a high white blood cell count can indicate an infection, chronic inflammation or other disease process.

Blood Chemistry Profile is particularly important for evaluating organ function (e.g., liver, kidneys), electrolytes, blood sugar, screening for presence of an endocrine disorder, etc. Any abnormalities will help us decide on further diagnostic tests or treatments.

4Dx tests can detect evidence of tick borne diseases, like Lyme disease. It also checks for heartworm disease, a fatal disease if left untreated. For a more complete picture, we will often combine a blood panel with other tests, such as a urinalysis and fecal examination.

Common Questions we get asked & misconceptions about veterinary blood work procedures

Why does my young dog need annual blood tests?

When basic lab testing is done as part of your pet’s annual exam, the results are recorded. We can then review your pet’s file at each follow up exam and spot any abnormalities or trends sooner, before serious diseases can develop.

My 8-year-old cat is perfectly healthy but her doctor suggested a group of blood tests as part of her annual examination. Why?

Older animals are more at risk for chronic conditions like kidney or liver disease and endocrine problems. Early on, there may not be any outward signs of trouble, so your pet may still seem quite normal, However more frequent testing can help catch potential health problems in the early stages, before they become more difficult to manage or life-threatening.

Some pet owners assume that blood work for their pet means the heartworm test only, or vice versa

Pets sometimes arrive at our hospital fresh from elsewhere informing us that we don’t need to draw their pet’s blood because it was just done a month or two earlier. The faxed-over records indicate a heartworm test every year but nothing more. The heartworm test only lets us know that the pet does not have heartworm disease, and if a multi-test was performed like, a Flex 4 or a 4dx snap test, then we also know their status on tick borne diseases. However these tests don’t inform us about their organ function or blood cell function. These tests are important but they are not comprehensive or complete assessments of your pet’s overall health.

Blood work is all the same, everywhere.

A corollary to #1, this common misconception assumes that comprehensive blood work is the same everywhere. In Miami, for example, complete blood work may be different from that in Minnesota, Montreal, London, Tel Aviv or California. (e.g., here in Rural Pennsylvania, we tend to include with their comprehensive chemistry tests and complete blood count, heartworm and tick disease tests for dogs; feline leukemia, FIV and heartworm antibody tests for cats.)

Evaluating blood work is a procedure that’s acceptably performed every few years.

Consider that your pet’s lifespan is much shorter than ours. Pets approaching their geriatric years are best served by semi-annual blood work. Pets without major concerns shouldn’t go more than a year without it. Any animal undergoing an anesthetic procedure should ideally have current (within a month) blood work, and sick pets may need it monthly, weekly, daily or hourly, depending on their condition and its severity.

In conclusion, evaluation of your pet’s blood can provide immeasurable information. Just like your doctor monitors your blood work, monitoring your pets blood work assures you, you are doing everything possible to keep your pet healthy and safe. Schedule an appointment to get your pet’s routine blood work today!

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