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Understanding Blood Tests for Dogs

Dogs needing specialized or emergency veterinary care often require diagnostic tests like blood work. In this article, our Douglasville veterinarians explain the importance of pet blood tests and what they can reveal.

Why & when does a pet need blood testing?

If your dog or cat is brought to our specialty or 24-hour emergency hospital and requires blood work, you might wonder why it's necessary. Blood work is crucial in diagnosing and treating your pet's health conditions. It provides valuable information that helps veterinarians assess the health status and identify underlying health issues. Before specific procedures, such as soft tissue surgery, your pet's blood will be tested to ensure they are healthy enough to undergo the procedure.

At Douglasville Veterinary Hospital diagnostic lab, we conduct a wide range of common and specialized blood tests to evaluate your pet's health and diagnose various illnesses, including different forms of cancer. The importance of blood work and how it assists veterinarians in making decisions about your pet's health and treatment can be challenging. That's why we have provided you with more information regarding why blood tests are crucial.

Why is blood work important for dogs and cats?

Blood work is vital for both dogs and cats because it provides a comprehensive view of their internal health. Blood tests can detect various conditions, such as infections, kidney disease, liver issues, and diabetes. Early detection through blood tests allows for timely intervention and treatment, which can significantly improve your pet's prognosis and quality of life.

What's Involved in Blood Work for Dogs & Cats

It is important to know that not all pet blood tests are the same. You should ask your vet which specific blood tests they are conducting and why they are necessary for your pet. Our veterinary professionals in Douglasville will guide you through your pet's condition, the required diagnostic tests, and what to expect from them.

A CBC (Complete Blood Count) and a serum chemistry panel are widely performed among the most common veterinary blood tests. Each test provides unique but complementary information.

With a CBC, we can measure a patient's white blood cell count, red blood cell count, and platelet count. We can also get some information about the shape and size of red and white blood cells. The size of red blood cells sometimes gives us clues about potential diseases.

For example, larger red blood cells can be seen with bone marrow disease, vitamin deficiency, and other conditions. In comparison, smaller red cells can be found with immune system issues and iron deficiency. Sometimes, though the red cells are normally sized, there are not enough of them, which can point to longstanding illnesses such as cancer, persistent inflammation, or kidney disease.

In addition, many changes in the shape of red cells have been associated with various diseases. While we can rarely base a diagnosis on these changes alone, they can offer clues as to the nature of the underlying disease. 

A chemistry panel, also referred to as a blood chem or chemistry screen, allows us to assess values related to organ function (such as the liver, kidneys, and pancreas), in addition to electrolyte levels and other important enzymes in the bloodstream.

This test is designed to measure specific chemicals and enzymes present in the blood, which can provide important insights into the health and functioning of your pet's organs. Additionally, this test can help us determine your pet's blood sugar level and the levels of essential electrolytes, such as calcium, sodium, and potassium, in the blood. An increase or decrease in these electrolytes can indicate various health problems, affecting your pet's eligibility for anesthesia or their ability to heal post-surgery.

Fortunately, our in-house vet lab has advanced tools and technologies to help us accurately and efficiently diagnose your pet's medical issues. Early assessment and treatment are critical when your pet feels ill or has rapidly changing health.

How long does blood work take at a vet?

The duration for blood work results can vary depending on the complexity of the tests and the vet's facilities. Basic blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry panel, can often be completed within a few hours if the vet has an in-house laboratory. More specialized tests might require sending samples to an external lab, which can take a few days to a week. Always check with your vet for a precise timeline for your dog's tests.

What Blood Work Can Tell Us

Our insights into your pet's health depend on the blood work ordered. For instance, different CBC and chemistry panels can provide us with varying data depending on what we need to measure and what we hope to learn about your pet's well-being.

Explaining the Results of Your Dog's Blood Tests

Understanding the results of your dog's blood tests can be complex, but your vet will help interpret the findings. Here are some common components of a dog's blood test and what they indicate:

  1. Complete Blood Count (CBC): This test measures the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It helps diagnose infections, anemia, and other hematologic conditions.
  2. Blood Chemistry Panel: This assesses the function of organs such as the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It measures levels of enzymes, glucose, and electrolytes, providing insight into metabolic and organ health.
  3. Electrolyte Panel: This test checks the balance of electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride, which are essential for maintaining bodily functions.
  4. Thyroid Function Tests: These tests evaluate thyroid hormone levels, which can affect metabolism, energy levels, and overall health.

How much are blood tests for dogs?

The cost of blood tests for dogs can vary widely depending on the type of test, the vet's location, and whether the sample is analyzed in-house or sent to an external lab.  

Blood Tests for Dogs with Diarrhea

If your dog has persistent diarrhea, blood tests are essential to identify the underlying cause. Diarrhea can result from infections, parasites, dietary issues, or more severe conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or cancer. Blood tests for dogs with diarrhea typically include a CBC to check for infection or anemia and a blood chemistry panel to evaluate organ function and detect any metabolic abnormalities.

Blood Testing for Health Status & Disease

You may have many questions and concerns about whether your pet needs emergency or specialty care. At Douglasville Veterinary Hospital, our team is here to support you from the moment you enter the hospital and throughout your pet's treatment.

It is essential to have current blood work (within a month) if your pet needs anesthesia. Pets with health issues or illnesses may require more frequent blood work tests, depending on the severity of the condition.

We can answer your questions and explain why certain diagnostic tests are necessary. Our team will conduct blood and other diagnostic tests quickly, diagnose the issue, and provide you with treatment options based on the results.

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.

Do you have questions about blood tests or other diagnostic testing for your dog or cat? Contact our Douglasville vets today.

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

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Contact (770) 942-9974