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Blood Tests in Dogs

Blood Tests in Dogs

If your vet has requested blood tests it may leave you wondering whether there is something wrong with your pet. Here, our Deer Park vets share some information about blood tests for dogs to help put your mind at ease.

The Importance of Blood Tests For Dogs

Blood tests are an important part of preventive care for dogs as these can help diagnose any potential illnesses before the first symptoms appear. This allows for the quick diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

Your vet will also perform routine blood tests during annual wellness exams in order to help monitor your pet's health and provide a way to compare future blood test results.

If your dog is displaying symptoms, diagnostic blood tests completed in a dedicated veterinary diagnostic laboratory play an essential role in helping your vet determine the cause of your dog's symptoms. 

What will my dog's blood test reveal?

The most common test performed is a complete blood count (CBC) and a blood chemistry panel which can include electrolytes and urinalysis. The CBC identifies whether there is anemia, inflammation, or infection present. It can also indicate immune system response and blood clotting ability.

The chemistry panel and electrolytes tell your vet whether your pet’s liver, kidneys, and pancreas are working as they should.

These tests are a vital part of monitoring your pet's internal functions and health and provide valuable insight into their health.

When might my vet request blood tests?

Some of the most common situations that may result in your vet requesting blood tests include:

  • Your pet's first vet visit (to establish baseline data and for pre-anesthetic testing before a spaying or neutering procedure)
  • Semi-annual routine exams as preventive care
  • During senior exams look for age-related conditions in the earliest stages
  • As pre-surgical testing to identify your dog's risk of complications during surgery
  • Before starting a new medication from a pet pharmacy
  • If your dog is showing odd behaviors
  • To help assess your pet's condition during an emergency visit

How long does it take to perform blood tests on dogs?

Our in-house pet laboratory allows our veterinary team to swiftly provide a diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible. While certain tests may take longer, most tests only take a few minutes to complete and most of the time is spent just waiting on the results. Your vet will be able to provide you with the specifics of how long you can expect it to take.

What do the results of my dog's blood tests mean?

At Deer Park Animal Hospital, we will offer a full explanation of the results of your pet's blood tests and ensure that you understand what those results mean for your beloved companion.

Typically, your dog's bloodwork will include a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry (serum test). The CBC will be important for dogs that have pale gums or are experiencing vomiting, fever, weakness, or loss of appetite. Blood tests for dogs with diarrhea also fall into this category.

A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other abnormalities that may not be identified otherwise.

What does each of the blood test components mean?

What insights we're able to gain into your pet's health depend on the type of bloodwork ordered. 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 is present in your cat’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 (protein that carries the oxygen) in your kitty’s blood.

Platelets help with blood clotting. If your cat has an insufficient number of platelets, blood may be slow to clot and your cat may bleed abnormally or excessively. A CBC will count how many platelets are in your cat’s blood.

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).

The reason bloodwork is done before vet surgery is that a CBC can detect low platelet levels. Platelets play a critical role in helping to stop bleeding, so must be at certain levels to avoid your pet 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

We can learn much about the compounds in your cat’s bloodstream from a blood chemistry profile, which can tell you how well your cat’s kidneys are functioning.

In addition, we can determine whether there may be abnormalities in renal systems, or if your cat is dehydrated or an object is obstructing these areas.

The liver plays an important role in your cat’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 cat’s physical health - may play a role in the immune system’s functioning, while others help the blood to 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.

Is my dog in need of routine blood work?

At Deer Park Animal Hospital our vets perform veterinary diagnostics such as blood tests as a proactive measure during an annual routine exam, even if your dog seems perfectly healthy. This is because the sooner we catch health issues, the more effectively we can treat your dog through various procedures, recommendations and medications from our veterinary pharmacy.

Our team has the interests of your pet at heart and will offer any information gathered from blood tests and thoroughly explain any next steps that we recommend and the reasons why.

Preparing Your Dog For Blood Tests

Some of the things you can do to help prepare your dog for their routine blood tests at the veterinary laboratory include:

Fasting. Your vet will request that you fast your pet for the 6 hours prior to their scheduled visit. By fasting, your dog's blood will be clear of any fat droplets that occur after they've finished eating.

Keep Them Hydrated. This is especially important if the weather has been hot. Dehydration can have an effect on the results of the blood tests rendering them inaccurate.

Avoid Intense Exercise. Another thing that can alter the results of the blood tests is physical activity. You should avoid allowing your dog to run and jump in the time leading up to their appointment.

Minimize stress. While the vet clinic can make many pets nervous and so this might be difficult it is important to try to keep your pet relaxed. Some of the ways you can help to calm your pet include:

  • Dogs should be kept on a leash at all times. This can help them stay relaxed and help protect all other people and pets at the clinic.
  • Cats should be transported to the appointment in a cat carrier with a blanket from home. These can help your cat feel safe and comfortable.
  • You should speak to your pet quietly and calmly throughout the visit. This can help to help to keep their focus on you which will help them relax.
  • If it is very busy in the waiting area, you can choose to wait outside or in your car until it is your turn.
  • If your pet seems stressed out then it may be ideal to reschedule for another day when your pet is more calm as this stress can have an effect on the results.
If your pet is in need of special blood tests your vet will provide you with specific instructions to follow.

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.

Has your vet scheduled your dog or cat for routine blood work? Contact our Deer Park vets today. We are here to answer any questions you may have.

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