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Understanding Blood Tests for Dogs

Understanding Blood Tests for Dogs

Has your dog's veterinarian suggested blood tests for your pet? Today, our Torrance veterinarians explore the topic of blood testing for dogs to assist pet owners in comprehending their role in identifying health issues.

Why Dogs Need Bloodwork

Many pet owners don't understand the reason why their dog requires bloodwork or other diagnostic tests. After all, if your pet appears healthy, why pay the extra expense?

But bloodwork tests are a vital part of your pet'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 pet's blood will need to be tested to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the procedure. 

At Harbor Animal Hospital 's diagnostic laboratory, we have the capability to conduct a variety of both standard and specialized blood tests to evaluate your pet's health, as well as to identify and monitor illnesses like different forms of cancer. Understanding the significance and role of bloodwork can, at times, pose challenges.

What's Involved in Bloodwork for Dogs

Many pet owners may assume that all blood tests are identical, but this is not the case. It's important to inquire with your veterinarian about the specific test being conducted and its relevance to your pet. Our veterinarians at Torrance can clarify your pet's condition, the necessary diagnostic tests, and the information these tests will provide in easily comprehensible language.

Two common veterinary blood tests are the Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a serum chemistry panel. Each of these tests offers distinct yet complementary insights.

A CBC quantifies a patient's white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and platelet count. It can also yield data regarding the size and 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 pet's medical issues. When your pet 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, we can assess your pet's health and present treatment options as soon as possible. 

What Bloodwork Can Tell Us 

What insights we're able to gain into your pet's health depends on the type of bloodwork 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 pet's health. 

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

Each type of white blood cell has a specific response to any threat faced by the immune system. The 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 pet's blood sample.

Red blood cells (RBCs) transport oxygen to the body's numerous issues. 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 assist in blood clotting. Insufficient platelet levels in your dog may lead to delayed clotting and abnormal or excessive bleeding. A CBC quantifies the platelet count in your dog's blood.

For instance, we 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. They can also determine if any abnormal cells are present (damage to cells can indicate leukemia, infections, anemia, poisoning, parasites, or other serious health problems). 

Bloodwork is performed before surgery to detect low platelet levels through a CBC. Adequate platelets are vital in preventing excessive blood loss during surgery. Low platelet counts may also signal severe infections, such as tick-borne illnesses or life-threatening diseases.

Blood Chemistry Profile

We can gather substantial information about the compounds in your pet's bloodstream through a blood chemistry profile. This profile can provide insights into your dog's kidney function. Furthermore, it aids in identifying renal system abnormalities, particularly in cases of dehydration or potential obstructions.

The liver plays a vital role in your dog's overall health. Elevated chemical values in this context may indicate liver disease or abnormalities in other organs. Additionally, this test can identify any irregular electrolyte levels, which may be associated with conditions like seizures, gastrointestinal disease, and more.

Blood protein levels are another crucial aspect of your dog's physical well-being. They contribute to the proper functioning of the immune system and blood clotting. A blood chemistry profile reveals key information about total protein levels, albumin levels, and globulin levels.

Nevertheless, it's important to note that bloodwork results seldom provide information about the presence or spread of cancer in your pet's body. However, CBC and chemistry panels can confirm the animal's response to the prescribed treatment plan without complications, such as anemia or elevated kidney values. If left undetected, these issues can lead to blood loss and eventual consequences like weakness and organ failure, potentially resulting in your dog collapsing.

Regular Blood Testing

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 pet should have this done as part of their health checkup.

Our furry companions' lifespans are much shorter than ours. That's why we recommend veterinary blood tests for healthy pets annually. For dogs approaching their geriatric years, semi-annual tests are typically best.

If your pet is undergoing an anesthetic procedure, bloodwork should be current (within a month). Pets that are ill or who have health conditions may need bloodwork more frequently - monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly, depending on the health issue and its severity. 

Do you have more questions regarding diagnostic testing for your dog? Contact our Torrance vets who can address any concerns you might have.

New Patients Welcome

New Patients Welcome

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

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