If you have a healthy pet and your vet has recommended that they perform a blood test on your dog, you may wonder if it is necessary. Our Sacramento vets talk about the benefits of blood tests for dogs and why your vet may recommend this diagnostic testing at regular intervals.
The Benefit of Routine Blood Tests For Dogs
If you have a seemingly healthy dog then the cost of routine diagnostic testing and blood tests may not make much sense.
But blood tests are a vital part of your dog's overall care and these important diagnostic tests can tell us a lot about your dog's health. For certain procedures such as dental surgery, your dog's blood will need to be tested to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the procedure.
In our diagnostic lab at Elkhorn-Walerga Animal Hospital, we're able to perform a range of common and specialized blood tests to assess your dog's health and to monitor and diagnose illnesses such as various forms of cancer. Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand the value blood tests offer and the role it plays.
What Are The Areas of Focus With Blood Tests For Dogs?
Many dog owners are under the mistaken impression that blood tests include the same tests, everywhere. However, this is untrue. Confirm with your Sacramento vet specifically which tests will be done and why. Our vets will be able to explain your dog's condition, any diagnostic tests that are needed and what we can expect to learn from them in easy-to-understand terms.
Some of the most common veterinary blood tests performed are CBC (Complete Blood Count) and a serum chemistry panel. Each test provides us with different but complementary information.
With a CBC, our Sacramento vets can measure a patient's white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and platelet count. We can also usually obtain some data about the size and/or shape of red and white blood cells.
A chemistry panel allows us to assess values related to the function of organs such as the kidneys and liver, along with electrolyte levels and other critical enzymes that can be measured in the bloodstream. Fortunately, in our in-house vet lab, we have advanced tools and technologies to help accurately diagnose your dog's medical issues. When your dog is feeling unwell or their health condition is rapidly changing, early assessment and treatment are key. With our experienced staff using state-of-the-art equipment, our Sacramento vets are able to assess your dog's health and present treatment options as soon as possible.
What Can Your Dog's Blood Tests Show?
What insights we're able to gain into your dog's health depend on the type of blood tests ordered. For example, we can order a variety of CBC and chemistry panels that can bring us different data depending on what we need to measure and what we are hoping to learn about your dog's health.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Each type of white blood cell has a specific response to any threat faced by the immune system. Your Sacramento vet can use a CBC to analyze the total number of white blood cells, as well as how many of each type of white blood cell is present in your dog’s blood sample. Red blood cells (RBCs) transport oxygen to the body’s numerous tissues. A CBC counts the RBCs in your dog's blood and reveals how well they move oxygen based on the levels of hemoglobin (a protein that carries the oxygen) in your dog’s blood.
Platelets help with blood clotting. If your dog has an insufficient number of platelets, blood may be slow to clot and your dog may bleed abnormally or excessively. A CBC will count how many platelets are in your dog’s blood.
For instance, your Sacramento vet can order a routine CBC, which provides numerical values associated with the counts of cells in the samples obtained by a diagnostic machine. A CBC with pathology review will be sent to a clinical pathologist, who will assess a blood sample under a microscope to confirm the counts the machine provides are correct. He or she can also determine if any abnormal cells are present (damage to cells can indicate leukemia, infections, anemia, poisoning, parasites or other serious health problems).
The reason blood tests are done before surgery is that a CBC can detect low platelet levels. Platelets play a critical role in helping to stop bleeding, so must be at certain levels to avoid your dog losing too much blood. If platelets are low, this may also indicate serious infections (such as tick-borne illnesses) or life-threatening diseases.
Your Dog's Blood Chemistry Profile
Your Sacramento vet can learn much about the compounds in your dog’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, or if your dog is dehydrated or 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 - may play a role in the immune system’s functioning, while others help the blood to clot properly. A blood chemistry profile will reveal valuable information about total protein levels, albumin levels and globulin levels.
However, despite the many things we can learn from blood tests, the results will rarely tell your Sacramento vet whether your dog 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 the treatment plan prescribed without complications, such as anemia or elevated kidney values. If these are not detected, they can cause blood loss and eventually collapse due to weakness, or organ failure.
When Should Your Dog Have Routine Blood Tests?
Now that you understand some of the most common blood tests and what they can tell us about your dog's health, you're probably wondering how often your dog should have this done as part of their health checkup.
Our furry companions' lifespans are much shorter than ours. That's why our Sacramento vets recommend blood tests for healthy dogs annually. For dogs approaching their geriatric years, semi-annual tests are typically best. If your dog is undergoing an anesthetic procedure, blood tests should be current (within a month). Dogs that are ill or who have health conditions may need blood tests more frequently - monthly, weekly, daily or hourly, depending on the health issue and its severity.
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.