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Understanding Blood Tests for Dogs

Our veterinarians in Hattiesburg are discussing the significance of blood testing in dogs, which can detect various health issues. If your dog's vet has prescribed blood tests, this article explains everything you need to know.

Why is blood work important for dogs and cats? 

As a pet owner, you might question the need for diagnostic tests such as bloodwork for your furry friend. You might think spending extra money is unnecessary if your pet appears healthy. However, these diagnostic tests are essential for your pet's overall health. These tests provide valuable information about your pet's health and are necessary to ensure that your pet is healthy enough to undergo certain procedures, such as dental surgery, safely.

At The Pet Hospital (Parkway)'s diagnostic lab, we offer a wide range of common and specialized blood tests to monitor your pet's health and diagnose illnesses such as cancer or other diseases. We understand that the importance of bloodwork may not always be clear, but it plays a significant role in ensuring your pet's well-being.

Why and when does a pet need blood testing?

Pet owners often assume that all blood tests are the same, but this is false. Ask your veterinarian about the specific test they are performing and why it is necessary for your pet. Our veterinarians can explain your pet's condition, the necessary diagnostic tests, and what we can expect to learn from them in easy-to-understand terms.

There are two common veterinary blood tests: the Complete Blood Count (CBC) and the serum chemistry panel. Each test provides different 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 usually obtain information about red and white blood cells' size and/or shape.

On the other hand, a chemistry panel allows us to assess values related to the function of organs such as the kidneys and liver, electrolyte levels, and other critical enzymes that can be measured in the bloodstream.

Fortunately, our in-house vet lab has advanced tools and technologies that help us accurately diagnose your pet's medical issues. Early assessment and treatment are crucial when your pet feels unwell, or their health condition is rapidly changing. With our experienced staff and state-of-the-art equipment, we can assess your pet's health and present treatment options as soon as possible.

How long does blood work take at a vet?

Our in-house pet laboratory allows our veterinary team to swiftly diagnose and begin treatment as soon as possible. While certain tests may take longer, most only take a few minutes to complete, and most of the time is spent waiting for the results. Your vet will be able to provide you with the specifics of how long you can expect it to take.

What Do My Dog's Blood Test Results Mean?

At The Pet Hospital (Parkway), 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.

Your dog's bloodwork typically includes a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry (serum test). The CBC is important for dogs with pale gums or who are experiencing vomiting, fever, weakness, or loss of appetite. Blood tests for dogs with diarrhea also fall into this category.

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

White blood cells in your pet's bloodstream respond differently to any threat the immune system may face. A Complete Blood Count (CBC) is a diagnostic test that the vet can use to analyze the total number of white blood cells present in your pet's blood and the number of each type of white blood cell.

Red blood cells (RBCs) carry oxygen to various tissues in the body. A CBC counts the RBCs in your pet's blood and reveals how well they move oxygen based on the hemoglobin levels (a protein that carries the oxygen) in your pet's blood.

Platelets help with blood clotting. If your dog has insufficient platelets, blood may be slow to clot, and your dog may bleed abnormally or excessively. A CBC will count the number of platelets in your dog's blood.

We can order a routine CBC, which provides numerical values associated with the cell counts in the samples obtained by a diagnostic machine. Alternatively, 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. Cell damage can indicate leukemia, infections, anemia, poisoning, parasites, or other serious health problems.

Bloodwork is done before surgery because a CBC can detect low platelet levels. Platelets play a critical role in helping to stop bleeding, so they must be at certain levels to avoid your pet losing too much blood. Low platelets may also indicate serious infections, such as tick-borne illnesses or life-threatening diseases.

Blood Chemistry Profile

A blood chemistry profile can tell us much about the compounds in your pet's bloodstream, including how well your dog’s kidneys function.

In addition, we can determine whether there may be abnormalities in renal systems if your dog is dehydrated or if an object obstructs these areas.

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.

Blood protein levels are another critical element of your dog’s physical health. They can help the immune system function and help the blood clot properly. A blood chemistry profile will reveal valuable information about total protein, albumin, and globulin levels.

However, despite the many things we can learn from bloodwork, the results will rarely tell us whether your pet has cancer or if cancer has spread in their body. However, CBC and chemistry panels can confirm that an animal's body responds to the prescribed treatment plan without complications, such as anemia or elevated kidney values. If these are not detected, they can cause blood loss and eventually cause your dog to collapse due to weakness or organ failure. 

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 do this 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 undergoes an anesthetic procedure, bloodwork should be current (within a month). However, pets that are ill or have health conditions may need bloodwork more frequently, such as monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly, depending on the health issue and its severity. 

How much are blood tests for dogs?

The cost of your dog's blood work can vary based on a few factors, such as which specific tests are required and the location of the hospital you visit.

It's important to note that these tests cover the cost of specialized equipment, trained staff, and laboratory expenses needed to process them.

Our team works diligently to ensure that our prices remain affordable so that we can provide blood and diagnostic testing for as many pets as possible.

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 more questions regarding diagnostic testing for your dog? Contact our Hattiesburg vets who can address your concerns.

New Patients Welcome

The Pet Hospital (Parkway) is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of companion animals in Hattiesburg and Petal. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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