Bloodwork: What does it mean and why does my pet need it?


Dr. Kirsten Lapuyade

Is it really necessary?
Our furry companions cannot tell us when something is wrong. That’s why it is our responsibility to be their voice and to take charge of their medical care. Getting bloodwork when their young establishes what’s normal for your individual pet. As they age, bloodwork is important to ensure your pet is healthy enough to take certain medications and to spot trends in their bloodwork before they may become more serious. In sick or elderly pets, bloodwork helps us monitor their treatment and detect complications sooner. In short, bloodwork is a “snapshot” of your pet’s internal functions.

What is the bloodwork going to show?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions when bloodwork is offered. The term “bloodwork” can refer to many different tests by many different labs. There are different panels of bloodwork which show different values based on your pets age, illness, or clinical signs. Here are just some of the basics:

CBC – Complete Blood Count
This test shows values related to the types of cells in your pet’s blood including red blood cells and white blood cells. A low red blood cell count indicates anemia and a high red blood cell count may indicate dehydration. The white blood cells are divided into many types of cells but are generally indicators of inflammation or infection. If there is a high white blood cell count it may indicate a high level of inflammation, stress, or other disease.

Chemistry – Blood Chemistry Panel
Different values will be evaluated on chemistry panels depending on your pets age and suspected illness. However, in general, a blood chemistry panel can detect liver enzymes, kidney enzymes, blood sugar, electrolytes and thyroid levels. Abnormalities in any of these values may give us a diagnosis such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism or may indicate which further diagnostics need to be pursued.

Who needs bloodwork?
The short answer is, all pets!

Puppies and Kittens
In young animals, bloodwork screens for any congenital problems and ensures your pet is healthy and on the right track. It tells us whether your pet’s liver and kidneys can handle anesthesia for a spay or neuter. It also serves as a baseline for any future bloodwork. For example, if later your pet begins vomiting or acting lethargic and your veterinarian runs bloodwork to find a slight elevation of a liver enzyme, baseline bloodwork shows us if that is a normal elevation in your pet or if we are detecting an early injury to the liver.

When your pet is examined yearly by a veterinarian, your veterinarian is able to pick up on physical changes in your pet. Annual bloodwork can tell things that cannot be seen by the eye or heard with a stethoscope. Bloodwork may show early kidney disease, a chronic inflammation or endocrine disease. Perhaps your adult pet has been getting a little slower lately, drinking more water or occasionally vomiting up their food. Discussing bloodwork with your veterinarian may spark you to recall these events that didn’t seem important but can actually be linked to an early onset of disease only detected by bloodwork.

Geriatric Pets
As our pets age into their elderly years, they are more at risk for chronic conditions and degenerative processes. Although they may not yet be showing outward clinical signs, annual bloodwork can show trends that can help us treat your pets’ conditions before they become difficult to manage or even life threatening.

If you have any questions or concerns, the veterinarians at Animal Care Center and Pet Care Center are happy to discuss bloodwork and screening tests for your individual pets. We encourage you to be your pet’s voice for their health and talk to your veterinarian today about what kind of bloodwork would benefit your pet.