When your pet has their annual wellness visit, your veterinarian performs a physical exam and administers vaccinations. Although your pet may appear perfectly healthy, we also recommend they have blood testing to monitor and examine their health at a cellular level, evaluating your pet for health issues we cannot detect during a physical exam, and conditions for which they are not yet showing signs. Read our Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic team’s guide to pet blood work results, and learn how to decipher your pet’s important health information.
Your pet’s complete blood count results
A complete blood count (CBC) is a common blood test that measures your pet’s hydration level, detects underlying infections, determines their blood’s clotting ability, and evaluates their immune system’s function. If your pet has a fever, diarrhea, vomiting, appetite loss, pale gums, or is lethargic, a CBC can help pinpoint the cause. A CBC provides information on the following:
- Red blood cell (RBC) count — RBCs are responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues. Low RBC levels indicate anemia, whereas elevated RBC levels may mean your pet is dehydrated.
- White blood cell (WBC) count — WBCs (i.e., leukocytes) are your pet’s defense against infectious organisms such as bacteria and viruses. Blood has several WBC types, each of which performs a different task, but overall, WBCs work together to provide protection. Elevated or low WBC levels can indicate your pet may have an infection.
- Hematocrit — Whole blood is composed of RBCs, WBCs, and platelets. Hematocrit (i.e., packed cell volume [PCV]) is the percentage of RBCs within whole blood. This percentage, paired with the overall RBC count, can indicate your pet is dehydrated or anemic.
- Hemoglobin — Hemoglobin is the RBC component that carries oxygen.
- Reticulocytes — Reticulocytes are immature RBCs that may be released before maturation to combat anemia.
- Platelet count — Platelets are essential for ensuring blood clots normally. Low platelet counts are cause for concern on preanesthetic blood work results. A low platelet count can mean your pet has blood clotting or bone marrow problems that must be addressed before surgery.
Your pet’s blood chemistry panel results
In addition to performing a CBC, your veterinarian may order a blood chemistry panel. Depending on your pet’s condition, your veterinarian can perform various blood chemistry panels, each providing data about specific body systems, such as organ function, electrolyte levels, or thyroid hormones. Your pet’s health status and the specific reason your veterinarian ordered the test determines the blood chemistry panel type being run. A blood chemistry panel provides information on the following:
- Albumin — Albumin is a protein that helps retain fluid in the bloodstream, and assists kidney and liver functioning. High albumin levels indicate dehydration, whereas low levels indicate liver or kidney disease.
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) — ALP is an enzyme produced by the liver. While commonly elevated in growing puppies, ALP may be elevated in older pets who have bile duct or gallbladder problems. Steroid use can also increase a pet’s ALP value.
- Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) — ALT is another liver enzyme, and typically becomes elevated when the liver is compromised because of an injury or infection.
- Amylase — Amylase is an enzyme that can become elevated when a pet has pancreatitis or kidney issues.
- Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) — The liver enzyme AST can become elevated in pets who have liver disease, and can also indicate skeletal or muscle damage.
- Bilirubin — The liver passes bilirubin into the bloodstream, and the gallbladder processes this compound, which becomes a waste product. Elevated bilirubin levels can indicate liver disease.
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) — BUN is a waste product the kidneys typically eliminate. If BUN levels become elevated, a pet likely has kidney dysfunction, but an elevated BUN can also indicate heart disease or shock.
- Calcium — Calcium-level imbalances may mean your pet has a tumor or kidney disorder.
- Cholesterol — Elevated cholesterol levels may indicate your pet has Cushing’s disease—an endocrine disorder.
- Chloride — Low chloride levels can cause excessive vomiting, which can lead to dehydration.
- Creatinine — A waste product excreted in the urine, creatinine can become elevated in pets who have kidney dysfunction. Heavily muscled pets, or pets who have recently eaten a meaty meal, may also have elevated creatinine levels.
- Glucose — Glucose measures your pet’s blood sugar level. An elevated glucose level can indicate diabetes or obesity, whereas a low glucose level can lead to seizures or a coma.
- Phosphorus — Phosphorus is a mineral that supports bone and teeth development. However, high phosphorus concentrations can indicate a bleeding disorder, whereas low levels may indicate a thyroid issue.
- Potassium — Potassium is an electrolyte that aids in nerve function and muscle contractions, and transports nutrients to cells and waste out of them. Elevated potassium levels may indicate kidney failure, whereas low levels may indicate dehydration, diarrhea, or excessive urination.
- Thyroxine — Thyroxine is a hormone that supports muscle health, bone development, and digestion. Cats can develop hyperthyroidism, or elevated thyroxine levels. Dogs are more likely to develop hypothyroidism, or low thyroxine levels.
- Total protein — Elevated protein levels in your pet’s blood can indicate dehydration, whereas low levels can indicate liver disease, lupus, or a severe infection.
Your pet’s normal blood work results indicate they are currently healthy, and these results provide a baseline for future comparison if your furry pal becomes ill, helping your veterinarian diagnose their illness, and prescribe effective treatment.
Your pet’s blood test results provide detailed information about their health. If you need help making sense of your pet’s blood work results, contact our Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic team.