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Understanding Blood Tests for Dogs

Dogs that require specialty or emergency veterinary care often need diagnostic tests such as blood work. In this post, our Baton Rouge veterinarians explain why blood tests are essential for pets and what they can reveal. 

Why Dogs Need Blood Work

If your dog or cat is brought to our specialty or 24-hour emergency hospital and requires blood work, you might wonder why it's necessary. Blood work is crucial in diagnosing and treating your pet's health conditions. It provides valuable information that helps veterinarians assess the health status and identify underlying health issues. Before specific procedures like soft tissue surgery, your pet's blood will be tested to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the procedure.

At Kleinpeter Veterinary Hospital diagnostic lab, we conduct a wide range of common and specialized blood tests to evaluate your pet's health and diagnose various illnesses, including different forms of cancer. The importance of blood work and how it assists veterinarians in making decisions about your pet's health and treatment can be challenging to comprehend. That's why we have provided you with more information regarding 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 veterinary professionals in Baton Rouge 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 widely performed among the most common veterinary blood tests. Each test provides unique 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 get some information about the shape and size of red and white blood cells. The size of red blood cells sometimes gives us clues about potential diseases.

For example, larger red blood cells can be seen with bone marrow disease, vitamin deficiency, and other conditions. In comparison, smaller red cells can be found with immune system issues and iron deficiency. Sometimes, though the red cells are normally sized, there are not enough of them, which can point to longstanding illnesses such as cancer, persistent inflammation, or kidney disease.

In addition, many changes in the shape of red cells have been associated with various diseases. While we can rarely base a diagnosis on these changes alone, they can offer clues as to the nature of the underlying disease. 

A chemistry panel, also referred to as a blood chem or chemistry screen, allows us to assess values related to organ function (such as the liver, kidneys, and pancreas), in addition to electrolyte levels and other important enzymes in the bloodstream.

This test is designed to measure specific chemicals and enzymes present in the blood, which can provide important insights into the health and functioning of your pet's organs. Additionally, this test can help us determine your pet's blood sugar level and the levels of essential electrolytes, such as calcium, sodium, and potassium, in the blood. An increase or decrease in these electrolytes can indicate various health problems, which may affect your pet's eligibility for anesthesia or their ability to heal post-surgery.

Fortunately, our in-house vet lab has advanced tools and technologies that can help us accurately and efficiently diagnose your pet's medical issues. Early assessment and treatment are critical when your pet feels ill, or their health is rapidly changing.

What Blood Work Can Tell Us

The insights we gain into your pet's health depend on the blood work ordered. For instance, different CBC and chemistry panels can provide us with varying data depending on what we need to measure and what we hope to learn about your pet's well-being.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

Threats faced by the immune system can trigger specific responses in white blood cells. The vet can use a CBC to analyze the total number of white blood cells, in addition to how many of each type of white blood cell is present in your pet's blood sample.

A CBC will be important for dogs and cats with pale gums or experiencing fever, weakness, loss of appetite, or vomiting. Blood tests for dogs and cats with diarrhea also fall into this category.

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 (a protein that carries the oxygen) in your furry friend's blood.

Platelets help with blood clotting. If your dog has insufficient platelets, blood may be slow to clot and may bleed abnormally or excessively. A CBC will count 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. One such test is a complete blood count (CBC), which is used to assess a person'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 also detect any abnormal cells present in the sample. Damage to cells can indicate serious health problems such as leukemia, infections, anemia, poisoning, or parasites. 

Blood work is typically done before surgery to detect low platelet levels. Platelets play a crucial role in stopping bleeding, and their levels must be certain to avoid excessive blood loss during surgery. Low platelet levels 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, albumin, and globulin levels.

Despite the many things we can learn from blood work, 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 an oncological treatment plan 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.

How long does blood work take at a vet?

At our in-house diagnostic lab, we can perform numerous tests that are relatively quick and may take minutes. However, some tests take a little longer. Your vet can provide an accurate time frame based on which tests are needed.

How much are blood tests for dogs?

The precise cost of your dog's blood work is based on a few factors, such as which tests are needed, where the hospital is located, and others.

Note that the price of these critical tests covers the special equipment needed to conduct the tests, specially trained staff, and laboratory costs to process them. 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

You may have many questions and concerns if your pet requires emergency or specialty care due to illness or injury. At Kleinpeter Veterinary Hospital, our team is here to support you from the moment you enter the hospital and throughout your pet's treatment.

If your pet needs anesthesia, it is essential to have current blood work (within a month). Pets with health issues or illnesses may require more frequent blood work tests, depending on the severity of the condition.

We can answer any questions you have and explain why certain diagnostic tests are necessary. Our team will conduct blood and other diagnostic tests quickly, diagnose the issue, and provide you with 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 Baton Rouge vets today.

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Kleinpeter Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Baton Rouge companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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