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Understanding Dog Blood Tests & Diagnostic Testing

Understanding Dog Blood Tests & Diagnostic Testing

We understand that it can be challenging to understand why your pet needs blood testing, and what those results mean. Today, our Visalia vets explain blood tests for dogs.

Blood Work for Dogs

When done as part of preventive care, blood tests give us an indication of the earliest signs of illness before any outward symptoms appear. They can help to detect, identify, diagnose or even treat disease or illness.

If your dog is displaying symptoms, diagnostic blood tests play an essential role in helping your vet determine the cause of your dog's symptoms.

What Do Blood Tests for Dogs Show Us?

A complete blood count (CBC) and complete blood chemistry panel, including electrolytes and urinalysis, are common tests. The CBC identifies whether there is anemia, inflammation, or infection present. It can also indicate immune system response and blood clotting ability.

The chemistry panel and electrolytes tell your vet whether your pet’s liver, kidneys, and pancreas are healthy and working as they should.

This important lab work can also detect and help to identify complex issues within a dog’s internal systems. For example, blood tests for dogs can detect whether internal or environmental stimuli are causing hormonal-chemical responses. This tells a veterinarian there may be a potential problem with the dog’s endocrine system.

When Will My Vet Require a Blood Test for My Dog?

There are countless circumstances that can lead to your vet recommending that your dog have blood work done, such as:

  • Your pet's first vet visit (to establish baseline data and for pre-anesthetic testing before a spaying or neutering procedure)
  • Semi-annual routine exams as preventive care
  • During a senior dog's exams to look for age-related conditions in the earliest stages
  • As pre-surgical testing to identify your dog's risk of complications during surgery
  • Before starting a new medication
  • If your dog is showing symptoms or acting abnormally or “off”
  • To help assess your pet's condition during an emergency visit

What Do My Dog's Blood Test results mean?

At Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services, we will always take the time to explain your dog’s blood tests and their results, as treatment and management of health issues are a team effort between our veterinary team and loving pet owners.

Typically, your dog's bloodwork will include a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry (serum test). The CBC will be important for dogs that have pale gums or are experiencing vomiting, fever, weakness, or loss of appetite. Blood tests for dogs with diarrhea also fall into this category.

A CBC can also detect bleeding disorders or other abnormalities that may not be identified otherwise.

A CBC reveals detailed information, including:

  • Hematocrit (HCT): With this test, we can identify the percentage of red blood cells to detect hydration or anemia.
  • Hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (Hb and MCHC): These are pigments of red blood cells that carry oxygen.
  • White blood cell count (WBC): With this test, we measure the body’s immune cells. Certain diseases or infections can cause WBC to increase or decrease.
  • Granulocytes and lymphocytes/monocytes (GRANS and L/M): These are specific types of white blood cells.
  • Eosinophils (EOS): These are a specific type of white blood cells that can indicate health conditions due to allergies or parasites.
  • Platelet count: (PLT): This test measures cells that form blood clots.
  • Reticulocytes (RETICS): High levels of immature red blood cells can point to regenerative anemia.
  • Fibrinogen (FIBR): We can glean important information about blood clotting from this test. High levels can indicate a dog is 30 to 40 days pregnant.

What Blood Chemistries Reveal (Blood Serum Test):

Blood chemistries (blood serum tests) give us insight into a dog’s organ function (liver, kidneys, and pancreas), hormone levels, electrolyte status, and more.

We can assess the health of older dogs, do general health assessments prior to anesthesia, or monitor dogs receiving long-term medications.

These tests also help us evaluate senior dogs’ health and those with symptoms of diseases (such as Addison’s, diabetes, kidney diseases, or others), diarrhea, vomiting, or toxin exposure.

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.

    If you believe your pet has a condition that requires a blood test call your vet. If it's after hours and an emergency contact our Visalia emergency vets at Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services.

    Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

    Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from Visalia and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

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