Understanding Blood Tests
We recommend blood test on an annual basis for growing dogs, and a biannual basis for geriatric dogs. Blood tests can seem like a costly expenditure, especially when it appears that your pet is in a healthy and stable condition. However, blood tests are an extremely important tool in identifying health issues before signs and symptoms set in. Blood chemistry tests evaluate a dog’s organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels and more. First and foremost a blood test will be recommended upon the first vet visit to rule out any congenital diseases and to obtain baseline levels for the pet. The veterinarian will also request blood tests on several different occasions such as before starting a dog on certain types of medications, especially ones that are metabolized through the liver or kidneys. This is done to ensure that the dog has the ability to properly metabolize and utilize the medication, if liver or kidney functions are abnormal the medication could make your pet worse. This is important to check not just when starting a new medication, but annually when the dog is on the medication in case of any changes. A blood test will also be required before surgery to ensure the safest dose of anesthesia is used.
Receiving the paperwork after a blood test is done can be rather confusing. Let’s breakdown some of the information that is obtained when reading the results of a canine blood test.
•Albumin(ALB): Reduced levels of this protein maybe an indication of chronic liver, kidney disease, or parasitic infection
•Alanine Aminotranaferase (ALT): Increased levels of this enzyme may be a sign of liver disease
•Alkaline Phosphate (ALKP): Found in liver, bone, kidney, and intestines—elevated levels may indicate organ disease
•Amylase (AMY): The pancreas produces and secretes amylase to aid in digestion—elevated levels may indicate pancreatic and or kidneys disease
•Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN): BUN is produced by the liver and excreted by the kidneys—testing for it helps detect abnormalities in the liver
•Creatinine (CREA): This test reveals kidney function and helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN
•Cholesterol (CHOL): This test is used to supplement diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease and diabetes mellitus
•Eosinophils (EOS): These are a specific type of white blood cells that may indicates allergic or parasitic conditions
•Electrolytes (Na+, K+, Ca2+): These tests are especially important in evaluation of vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and cardiac symptoms
•Glucose (GLU): Blood sugar—elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus and low levels can cause seizures
•Globulin (GLOB): These liver proteins are found in the blood and provide a good indication of liver function
•Hematocrit (HCT): Measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and hydration
•Hemoglobin (Hb and MCHC): Measures oxygen content in the blood
•Platelet Count (PLT): Measures cells that form blood clots
•Reticulocytes (RETICS): These are immature red blood cells, high levels may be an indicator or regenerative anemia
•Total Protein (TP): Aids in diagnosis of many conditions including liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal disease
•Thyroxine Test (T4): T4 fluctuation may indicate thyroid disease or secondary liver, kidney, or metabolic abnormalities
•White Blood Cell Count (WBC): Measures the body’s immune cells—an increase or decrease outside of normal range may indicate certain diseases or infections
Interpretation of blood tests comes second nature to veterinarians and technicians. This list should be used as an informative tool for owners. However, as in the case of all medical tests excepting exist. That is why it is of the upmost importance to go over blood tests with your veterinarian and ask questions when they arise. We are here to support you and your pet every step of the way.
Blog By: Nicole Lathrop