If your dog needs blood tests done, it can be nerve-racking if you aren't sure what your vet is testing for. Our Phoenix emergency vets are here to explain what you need to know.
Why are Blood Tests Necessary for Dogs?
When used during a preventive care appointment on healthy dogs, blood tests can give your vet indications of early signs of illness before outward symptoms become apparent. So that your vet can detect, identify, diagnose and treat the illness.
When we have the opportunity to detect disease early, prevention and treatment can be administered earlier. Healthy pets also need blood tests during routine exams to obtain normal baseline values to compare to later and as your pet ages.
If your dog is showing any concerning symptoms or behaviors, diagnostic blood tests will likely play a huge part in determining the underlying cause of your dog's symptoms.
What Do Blood Tests for Dogs Show?
A complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry panel, including electrolytes and urinalysis, are common tests and can be performed in most veterinary clinics. 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 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 Might My Dog Need a Blood Test?
Countless circumstances can lead to your vet recommending that your dog have blood work done, such as:
- During semi-annual routine exams as preventive care
- At your pet's first vet visit to establish your pet's baseline health
- If your dog is showing odd behaviors or symptoms
- As pre-surgical testing to identify your dog's risk of complications during surgery
- Before starting your dog on any new medications
- During senior exams to look for age-related conditions in the earliest stages
- To help assess your pet's condition during an emergency visit
How Long Does Blood Work Take at the Vet?
Thanks to our in-house lab, our vets can perform a variety of tests and get results quickly. The tests themselves are relatively quick and can take minutes. Some tests may take somewhat longer. Your vet can provide an accurate timeframe.
What Do My Dog's Blood Test Results Indicate?
At Phoenix Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center, 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.
A typical panel of blood work will include a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry (serum test). A CBC is an important test for dogs that have pale gums or are having bouts of 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.
This test is an effective way to assess the health of older dogs and is also effective for general health assessments before anesthesia and monitoring 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.
Does My Dog Need A Blood Test?
At Phoenix Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center our specialty vets recommend blood tests are conducted and lab work done as a proactive measure during an annual routine exam, even if your dog seems perfectly healthy. This is because the sooner we catch health issues, the more effectively we can treat your dog.
Our veterinary team will always advocate for your pet’s health, explain any tests that are needed and why, and take a preventive approach to your dog’s veterinary care.
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.