Lab Work – What’s it for?

As veterinarians, we often wish we could just ask our patients to tell us how they have been feeling. Unfortunately, evaluating pets is much more difficult, which is why blood work is such a valuable diagnostic tool.

Routine blood testing can help pick up early signs of illness, verify organ health prior to anesthetized medical treatments, and aid in the general maintenance of healthy pets.

Lab Work Helps Keep Dogs and Cats Healthy

Regular lab work allows your pet’s doctor to assess symptoms we cannot see or feel just from a physical examination, such as indicators of liver disease, thyroid disease or diabetes. In healthy pets, blood work helps doctors establish a “baseline” for each individual dog or cat. A baseline blood panel determines what is considered “normal” for a particular pet. This is especially important if the pet becomes ill because it helps the doctor to more accurately interpret any trends or changes in blood work results.

Performing blood tests on healthy pets can also detect underlying problems, which your veterinarian may be able to treat before they become a bigger issue. Even slight changes in body chemistry could signal a problem that may be easily managed once we are aware of it.

Can I Tell If My Pet Needs Lab Work?

In between checkups, if you see any changes in your pet’s behavior, like increased thirst or urination, loss of appetite, weight loss or lethargy, it may be a sign that he needs a recheck of his blood work. These could be signs of all sorts of issues, minor or major. So be sure to schedule an appointment if you notice such changes.

What Kinds of Tests Might My Pet Need?

Typical lab work includes a complete blood count (CBC), serum chemistry, and a urinalysis.

A CBC provides information on hydration status, anemia, infection, blood clotting ability, and immune system response. This test is essential for pets that have symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums, or loss of appetite. Prior to surgery, a CBC can detect bleeding disorders or other unseen abnormalities that could cause problems with anesthesia.

A chemistry panel screens for metabolic disease. Liver function, kidney function, protein levels, and glucose levels are assessed as part of a general health profile. A thyroid hormone level should be checked annually in cats and older dogs well.

A urinalysis tests the concentration and pH of a pet’s urine and checks for red blood cells, white blood cells, protein, bacteria, crystals, and casts in the urine.

Lab Tests – Right in our Office

We work with an external laboratory that can provide results within 24 hours for most types of laboratory tests.  We also have an in-house laboratory which lets us run the most critical tests during sick pet visits, so we can receive immediate results for pets with emergency or urgent care needs.

All of our recommendations, of course, depend on the needs of your individual dog or cat. So be sure to contact us with any questions or to schedule your pet’s appointment.