Diagnostics: Blood Tests For Dogs

Whether your dog is showing signs of a medical condition or if your vet wants a better insight into their health, they may recommend blood tests for your pet. Today our Doraville vets offer some information about why your pet may need bloodwork and what kind of blood tests your dog may have done. 

Why are blood tests for dogs needed?

Veterinary visits can be costly sometimes, so it can make you question whether or not your dog actually needs blood tests during their routine visits when they seem to be feeling well.

Our vet would like to talk about why blood tests for dogs can be a crucial part of their routine care. Blood tests are also used to tell your vet if your dog is healthy enough to receive anesthesia and undergo surgery.

In our diagnostic lab at WellPet Humane, 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 bloodwork offers and the role it plays. 

What types of blood tests will the vet ask for?

You may be under the impression that the standard blood tests your dog will have done are the same no matter which clinic you go to. However, the tests can vary depending on the clinic itself and what the vet is hoping to see with the tests. Confirm with your 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. 

You may find that some of the most commonly performed blood tests for dogs are CBC (Complete Blood Count) and a serum chemistry panel. These are two different tests with two different sets of information that we gain, but we can use the information together to gain a complete view of your pet's health.

With a CBC, we 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, we're able to assess your dog's health and present treatment options as soon as possible. 

What can blood tests tell us about my dog's health?

The type of blood tests that your dog receives will determine what exactly we are able to learn about their internal functions. 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)

Did you know that there are different types of white blood cells and that each one will respond to threats differently depending on the threat itself? 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 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 kitty’s blood.

In pets with a low platelet count, any bleeding that they experience may be excessive and they may be unable to clot as a pet with a normal platelet count would. A CBC will count how many platelets are 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. 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 bloodwork is done before surgery is that a CBC can detect low platelet levels. Platelets play a critical role in helping to stop bleeding, and so must be at certain levels to avoid your dog from losing too much blood. If platelets are low, this may also indicate serious infections (such as tick-borne illnesses) or life-threatening diseases. 

Blood Chemistry Profile

The blood chemistry panel or blood serum test will tell us more information about the compounds found within your dog's blood which will help us learn more about their kidney function and more.

We may also see issues affecting their renal function including if there are any blockages present.

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.

The proteins found in your dog's blood are also able to help us learn a vast amount about your dog's overall health. Many play a role in the immune system’s functioning, while others help the blood 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 bloodwork, the results will rarely tell us 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 my dog have blood tests done?

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 we recommend bloodwork for healthy dogs annually. For dogs approaching their geriatric years, semi-annual tests are typically best. If your dog is undergoing an anesthetic procedure, bloodwork should be current (within a month). Dogs that are ill or who have health conditions may need bloodwork more frequently - monthly, weekly, etc, 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.

Would you like to learn more about the diagnostic services offered at WellPet Humane? Contact our vets in Doraville today to schedule a consultation.