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Understanding Blood Tests for Dogs

Dogs and cats often require diagnostic blood tests to reveal vital health information when they need emergency or specialty veterinary care. In this post, our veterinarians at South Wilton explain the significance of these tests for pets.

Why and when does a pet need blood testing?

If your dog or cat is taken to our specialty or 24-hour emergency hospital and requires blood work, you may wonder why it's necessary. Blood work is crucial for detecting and treating your pet's health conditions. It provides valuable information that assists veterinarians in assessing your pet's health status and identifying underlying issues. Before performing certain procedures, such as soft tissue surgery, our veterinarians will test your pet's blood to ensure its health is sufficient for the procedure.

At South Wilton Veterinary Group's diagnostic lab, we offer a wide range of common and specialized blood tests to evaluate your pet's health and diagnose various illnesses, including different forms of cancer. Understanding the importance of blood work and how it assists veterinarians in making decisions about your pet's health and treatment can be confusing. That's why we provide more information on why blood tests are crucial.

What's Involved in Blood Work for Dogs & Cats

It is important to know that not all pet blood tests are the same. You should ask your vet which specific blood tests they are conducting and why they are necessary for your pet. Our veterinarian in South Wilton will guide you through your pet's condition, the required diagnostic tests, and what to expect from them.

A CBC (Complete Blood Count) and a serum chemistry panel are two of the most commonly performed veterinary blood tests. Each provides unique but complementary information.

With a CBC, we can measure your pet's white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and platelet count. Veterinarians can also examine the size and shape of both red and white blood cells, which may provide clues to potential diseases. For example, larger red blood cells may indicate bone marrow disease, vitamin deficiency, or other conditions. In comparison, smaller red cells may be a sign of immune system issues or iron deficiency. Low red blood cell counts indicate long-standing illnesses like cancer, persistent inflammation, or kidney disease. Changes in the shape of red cells can offer clues to underlying diseases, though they are not often used in isolation to make a diagnosis.

A chemistry panel, also known as a blood chem or chemistry screen, assesses specific chemicals and enzymes present in the blood. It helps us evaluate organ function (such as the liver, kidneys, and pancreas), electrolyte levels, and other enzymes in the bloodstream. The results can provide important insights into your pet's health and organ functioning, helping us determine their eligibility for anesthesia or ability to heal post-surgery.

Fortunately, our in-house vet lab has advanced tools and technologies that enable us to accurately and efficiently diagnose your pet's medical issues. Early assessment and treatment are critical when your pet is feeling unwell or experiencing rapid changes in their health.

Why is blood work important for dogs and cats?

Insights into your pet's health depend on the blood work ordered. Different CBC and chemistry panels can provide varying data depending on what we need to measure and learn about your pet's well-being.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

The immune system can trigger specific responses in white blood cells when it faces threats. A CBC (complete blood count) analyzes the total number of white blood cells and the number of each type of white blood cell present in your pet's blood sample. A CBC is crucial for dogs and cats with pale gums or experiencing fever, weakness, loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Red blood cells (RBCs) carry oxygen to the body's tissues. 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, and if your dog has insufficient platelets, blood may clot slowly and may bleed abnormally or excessively. A CBC counts how many platelets are in your dog's blood.

Blood work is a common diagnostic test that provides numerical values associated with the counts of cells in the blood. A CBC assesses a pet's overall health. A CBC with pathology review involves sending the sample to a clinical pathologist who assesses it under a microscope to confirm the counts provided by the machine are accurate.

Apart from confirming the counts, the pathologist can detect any abnormal cells present in the sample, indicating serious health problems such as leukemia, infections, anemia, poisoning, or parasites. Blood work is typically done before surgery to detect low platelet levels, which are crucial for stopping bleeding and avoiding excessive blood loss. Low platelet levels may also indicate serious infections, such as tick-borne illnesses or life-threatening diseases.

Blood Chemistry Profile

A blood chemistry profile provides valuable information about the compounds in your pet's bloodstream. It indicates how well your dog's kidneys are functioning and whether there are abnormalities in renal systems, dehydration, or obstructions. Elevated chemical values could indicate liver disease or abnormalities in other organs. This test can also detect abnormal electrolyte levels related to illnesses such as seizures and gastrointestinal disease.

Blood protein levels are crucial for your dog's physical health, affecting the immune system and blood clotting. A blood chemistry profile reveals valuable information about total protein, albumin, and globulin levels.

It's important to note that blood work rarely tells 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 an oncological treatment plan without complications, such as anemia or elevated kidney values, which can cause blood loss and organ failure.

How long does blood work take at a vet?

Our in-house diagnostic lab can perform numerous tests, some taking minutes while others take longer. Your vet can provide an accurate time frame based on the required tests.

How much are blood tests for dogs?

The precise cost of your dog's blood work depends on several factors, such as which tests are needed and the hospital's location. Note that the price of these critical tests covers the special equipment, trained staff, and laboratory costs. We work hard to keep our prices affordable to provide blood and diagnostic testing for as many pets as possible.

Blood Testing for Health Status & Disease

If your pet becomes sick or injured and requires emergency or specialty care, it can be stressful for you as a pet owner. At South Wilton Veterinary Group, we understand this and are here to support you and your pet throughout their treatment.

If your pet needs anesthesia, it's important to have recent blood work done (within a month). Pets with health issues or illnesses may require more frequent blood work tests, depending on the severity of their condition. Our team can answer any questions you have and explain why certain diagnostic tests are necessary, quickly conducting diagnostic tests, including blood work, to diagnose the issue and provide treatment options based on the results.

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.

Do you have questions about blood tests or other diagnostic testing for your dog or cat? Contact our South Wilton vets today.

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