Yearly blood work is an important tool for screening diseases in your pet. We recommend a baseline panel during each wellness visit to keep an eye on changes and trends. Pets are masters at hiding signs of illness, and routine blood work may detect a hidden disease in its early stages when it’s simpler and less costly to treat and manage. We could add years to your pet’s life if we discover a disease process early. Study this guide to decipher your pet’s blood work. 

Complete blood count

A complete blood count (CBC) is a critical component of blood work that measures the number of red blood cells, the type and quantity of white blood cells, and the number of platelets.

  • Red blood cells — We evaluate the number of red blood cells and hemoglobin levels in the blood to determine if your pet is anemic. Hemoglobin is a molecule found inside red blood cells that carries oxygen. The number of red blood cells and the amount of hemoglobin indicate how well your pet’s kidneys, spleen, and bone marrow are functioning. The hematocrit, another key part of the CBC, is a measure of the percentage of red blood cells compared to the total blood volume and can indicate dehydration if the number is high, or anemia if the number is low.
  • White blood cells — These cells are primarily responsible for fighting infections. An increase is seen if an infection is present, while a decrease is usually noticed with viral diseases. The five different types of white blood cells each perform a different function of your pet’s health.
  • Platelets — Platelets are clotting proteins found in the blood that are necessary for bleeding to stop. Low platelet levels are commonly seen with immune disorders or tick-borne illnesses.

Chemistry panel

Chemistry panels can vary, depending on your pet’s health. Some panels include only a liver or kidney profile, while others provide information on the body’s electrolytes. 

  • Liver enzymes
    • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) — Elevations may indicate liver damage, bone injury, Cushing’s disease, cancer, or normal growth in a young dog. 
    • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) — Toxins, drugs, and liver or kidney issues can raise this value, but will not show the cause.
    • Total bilirubin (TBIL) — This measure of bile pigment can increase with liver disease, poisoning, or anemia.
    • Albumin — This protein is usually shown in depleted levels, indicating a liver issue. A decrease is commonly seen with fever, burns, swelling, and infections.
  • Kidney enzymes
    • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) — This kidney enzyme doesn’t always correlate with kidney damage. An increase can also mean dehydration, intestinal bleeding, or excessive protein intake. A decrease in value is often seen in a pet that is not eating or has been fasted before surgery.
    • Creatinine (CRE) — The kidneys are responsible for filtering out this chemical, and an increase is linked to kidney damage or dehydration. 
  • Electrolytes

    • Chloride (Cl) — Chloride levels tend to be low with an acute vomiting case, while an increase is seen with dehydration.
    • Potassium (K) — Potassium is lost from the body with vomiting and diarrhea. An increase can indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration, and life-threatening urinary blockages.
    • Sodium (Na) — Sodium is shed with vomiting and diarrhea, and a decrease is commonly seen with kidney disease and Addison’s disease.

  • Additional measurements
    • Glucose (GLU) — This measure of your pet’s blood sugar can increase mildly with stress, while a large increase can indicate diabetes. Low blood sugar, commonly seen in tiny puppies with poor appetites, can lead to seizures.
    • Total protein (TP) – Increases in this value can be seen with dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea. Chronic infections, lupus, and liver disease can decrease total protein.
    • Calcium (Ca) — Tumors, hormone imbalances, and kidney disease can affect this value.

Blood work, whether performed annually or when a pet is sick, provides a wealth of information. Routine blood tests help us recognize disease signs sooner, and are considered vital in preventive medicine.

Is it time to schedule your pet’s annual visit to check her health? Give our office a call to set up an appointment.