Why Dogs Need Bloodwork
Many pet owners don't understand the reason why their dog requires bloodwork or other diagnostic tests. After all, if your pet appears healthy, why pay the extra expense?
But bloodwork tests are a vital part of your pet's overall care and these important diagnostic tests can tell us a lot about your dog's health. For certain procedures such as dental surgery, your pet's blood will need to be tested to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the procedure.
In our diagnostic lab at Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center, we're able to perform a range of common and specialized blood tests to assess your pet's health and to monitor and diagnose illnesses such as various forms of cancer. Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand the value bloodwork offers and the role it plays.
What's Involved in Bloodwork for Dogs
Many pet owners assume all blood tests are created equal, but this is not the case. Make sure to ask your vet what test is being performed and why it's necessary for your pet. Our San Diego vets will be able to explain your pet's condition, any diagnostic tests that are needed, and what we can expect to learn from them in easy-to-understand terms.
Some of the most common veterinary blood tests performed are CBC (Complete Blood Count) and a serum chemistry panel. Each test provides us with different but complementary information.
With a CBC, we can measure a patient's white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and platelet count. We can also usually obtain some data about the size and/or shape of red and white blood cells.
A chemistry panel allows us to assess values related to the function of organs such as the kidneys and liver, along with electrolyte levels and other critical enzymes that can be measured in the bloodstream. Fortunately, in our in-house vet lab, we have advanced tools and technologies to help accurately diagnose your pet's medical issues. When your pet is feeling unwell or their health condition is rapidly changing, early assessment and treatment are key. With our experienced staff using state-of-the-art equipment, we're able to assess your pet's health and present treatment options as soon as possible.
What Bloodwork Can Tell Us
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 are present in your pet's blood sample. Red blood cells (RBCs) transport oxygen to the body’s numerous issues. A CBC counts the RBCs in your pet's blood and reveals how well they move oxygen based on the levels of hemoglobin (a protein that carries the oxygen) in your furry friend’s blood.
Platelets help with blood clotting. If your dog has an insufficient number of platelets, blood may be slow to clot and your dog may bleed abnormally or excessively. A CBC will count how many platelets are in your dog’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 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 pet's bloodstream from a blood chemistry profile, which can tell you how well your dog’s kidneys are functioning.
In addition, we can determine whether there may be abnormalities in renal systems if your dog is dehydrated, or if an object is obstructing these areas.
The liver plays an important role in your dog’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 dog’s physical health. They can play a role in the immune system’s functioning, while also helping the blood 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 cause your dog to collapse due to weakness, or organ failure.
Regular Blood Testing
Now that you understand some of the most common blood tests and what they can tell us about your dog's health, you're probably wondering how often your pet should have this done as part of their health checkup.
Our furry companions' lifespans are much shorter than ours. That's why we recommend veterinary blood tests for healthy pets annually. For dogs approaching their geriatric years, semi-annual tests are typically best.
If your pet is undergoing an anesthetic procedure, bloodwork should be current (within a month). Pets that are ill or who have health conditions may need bloodwork more frequently - monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly, depending on the health issue and its severity.